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Curriculum Vitae & the Bonus Minefield

Bonus and salary reviews can be a bit of a minefield. Post review complaints are usually voiced in terms of “feeling” a review was “unfair”. Closer examination may reveal that the individual met performance objectives; the company met its budgetary targets; and yet employee “feels” the review was not satisfactory compared to what they should have received. In contrast, the reviewer may “feel” that they have gone to lengths to produce a “fair” review and is subsequently perplexed by an unhappy employee. How then can each side successfully navigate through this minefield and achieve a review that is “right first time”? I suggest that a solution might be based on a well written and regularly updated CV in conjunction with company set targets. (I’m not suggesting for one minute that you present a CV at your review!)

Before further explanation, it’s worth qualifying that this suggestion is likely to apply mainly to those who are in a position to influence commercial outcomes. For those who aren’t in that position, similar principles might apply but would be based on attaining prescribed process based targets. Consequently there is less room for negotiation for the latter than for the former.  

The relevance of a CV to bonus reviews is easily demonstrated. In writing your CV, take the view that your application is a Capital Expenditure proposal. You want a salary package of £x and in return for this investment the company expect a return of £y from your business activities. This, hopefully, will be a multiple of your salary. The evidence is contained in achievements you have accomplished in your current and previous roles. Here is the crux of the matter; the achievements must include metrics and actual values. These are the tangible and measurable evidence of your influence. For the purposes of a salary or bonus review these can be transferred to a spreadsheet rather than taking a CV to a review.  This should also contain brief commentary on issues addressed, the resolutions provided and the end result expressed in £x. Totalled up, these represent the return on investment that you represent. In preparing for a salary/bonus review it might also be helpful to consider two ratios. Salary £x compared to your results £y; and the bonus of £z compared to your results of £y. These might be considered alongside the company’s prescribed targets and discussed in order to arrive at a fair and equitable review.

The potential issue which arises in a review is that the company set measures may not be flexible enough to acknowledge the full extent of your contributions, and therefore an equitable review may not be possible. Supplying the metrics from your CV to the reviewer for discussion can help in a few ways. It provides factual information that can help with fine tuning to achieve a “right first time” review. It can provide the means by which to judge the equanimity of a review and your merits to an employer. It may also help in negotiating a bonus or salary uplift over and above the original increase. Facts rather than feelings will always be considered more favourably. This then is how a metric based CV is relevant to, and can help navigate successfully through the bonus minefield.


As an addendum, clarification on achievements may be useful. Typical questions that arise from this approach to CV writing include:-
  • In working as part of a team how does one express that achievement?
The answer is that if you were part of a large team, then the final quantified metric is virtually meaningless. However if you were part of a small team of four, then arguably 25% of the metric is down to you. So you state the total metric but mention that you were part of that team of four.
  • How do I know an achievement is mine?
Simply ask yourself; if I hadn’t been present at the time would the achievement have come about? If the answer is no, then it’s very probably yours.
Achievements are stories of an issue, a solution and a quantifiable result. If you follow each story to its logical conclusion there will nearly always be a quantifiable fiscal impact on the business. Often these are expressed in terms of:  cost savings, improved margins, improved working capital and cashflow, increased sales, rebates, avoidance of losses, increase in output to name but a few areas.

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