Securing a Company Secretarial role

by Mark Chambers on 18 October 2016

Did you have a chance to read Kick-starting your Company Secretarial Career?  This time, it is Securing a Company Secretarial role and in drafting, I have combined my experience both as working as a Company Secretary and my current day-to-day exposure as a Company Secretarial Recruiter.

Identify your skills

Regardless of whether you’re actively looking for a role or not, it is a good idea to compare your own experience to-date with the experience required in the various job descriptions out there. This will give you a feel for the sort of knowledge required for your next-step position and it’ll enable you to identify gaps in your skills set.

This is particularly worth bearing in mind in the Company Secretarial arena because the broadness of the term ‘secretariat’ can mean that work matters that cannot be neatly categorised end up being carried out by the Cosec function. An example of this is insurance and pensions work, which do not necessarily form part of the principal Company Secretarial knowledge set. As such, your aim should be to try to prioritise those core skills’ that open up your career path.

Take the time to consider the type of work that your managers are doing and what you need to do to get to that level. In my own experience, it was getting on the committees and getting involved in the minute-taking that was pivotal in making the jump to Assistant Company Secretary level.

Generalist or Specialist?

It is important to be aware of how your CV will be viewed by potential recruiters/employers. Of course, the more experience you have in a sector, the more likely you’ll be the go-to person for similar roles. For instance, if you’ve only worked in financial services environments, especially within some of the larger banks – often with niche Company Secretarial functions, your CV may not be at the top of the pile for other non-financial services roles. Similarly, to progress down the professional services route for too long can mean that you may need to make more of a sideways move if you want to get into an in-house environment.

Of course, the benefits of being a specialist from an early stage can be very attractive as you may find it is easier to transition into similar firms because you have picked up all the key transferable elements enabling you to maintain that upward career progression. 

Therefore, it is important to recognise that these different organisation types do develop quite distinct skills sets.

Drafting an effective Company Secretarial CV

I have confined this purely to the Company Secretarial sphere, which will apply alongside good general CV drafting.

Confirm your commitment to the profession

If you’re in the early stages of your career and you’ve signed up to the ICSA, it is worth pointing this out on your CV, perhaps even with your ICSA number for confirmation. This step to sign up for membership and ‘putting your money where your mouth is’ to put it bluntly, should confirm your commitment to the profession.

This is especially the case if you also hold the GDL or LPC qualification because companies will want to be comfortable that you’re not hedging your bets and ultimately holding out for a legal training contract.

It is also worth stating how far along you are with the studies, and how many modules there are remaining, as this may have implications for the employer, such as the extent of financial support or time-off required.

On a related note, it is important to mention whether you have got GradICSA/ACIS/FCIS to provide a bit of extra weight to your application and make sure your membership as per the ICSA directory of members is up-to-date. Also, it’s good to establish the eligibility criteria for each of these, because being able to add say ACIS after your name can provide a real boost to your CV and is required for some roles. 

Mention the Company Secretarial software packages with which you’re familiar 

Some clients can be quite choosy regarding what software experience candidates have in regards to the filings at the Registrar of Companies. As such, if the job description specifically asks for a certain package, and you have that experience, you should definitely put it down. Even if you have not gained the experience but have any relevant certificates, again do mention it. I have worked on a number of roles where the interview feedback has centered around the extent of Blueprint experience more so than the actual technical skills!

State the legislation with which you are familiar

It can be useful to set out the legislation that you have a good knowledge of. Again, job descriptions will often specify this, such as the Companies Act 2006, The Listing Rules, The UK Corporate Governance Code, The Disclosure and Transparency Rules.

Tell us why you’re looking to move and where you want to go next

This one is fairly self-explanatory but certainly from a recruiter’s perspective it enables us to quickly identify suitability for a number of live vacancies, which may make all the difference in getting there ahead of the competition. When deciding on the type of environment you're looking to move to, these can broadly be split into: in-house (listed/non-listed), professional services, not-for-profit and banking/financial services.

Be specific in your experience – but don’t list everything!

Don’t fall into the trap of assuming the employer/recruiter can mind-read and will be able to figure out your experience based on broad phrases such as ‘subsidiary management experience’ or ‘statutory compliance responsibilities’ or ‘board support duties’. For instance, for roles with a heavy subsidiary management side, do try to give more of a flavour and list some of the specific tasks you’ve carried out such as director appointments, filing of accounts/annual returns, share allotments, changes of registered address, capital reductions. Job descriptions can go into quite a lot of detail, so try to mirror it in your CV to avoid any uncertainty. Regarding minute-taking, employers will often want to know whether this involved amendment of paper board/shareholder template minutes, as opposed to the physical minute-taking in meetings, so again, do be clear on this. 

It also important to differentiate between your strongest skills and most in-depth experience and those areas you are less competent at. So, set out your key experience and knowledge on the front page of your CV to make it easy for the reviewer.

As usual, I’m keen to hear your thoughts too, so please comment and in the meantime, do connect with me, join the G2 Legal Company Secretary Group and get in touch if you’d like to discuss Company Secretarial!

https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8246819

https://twitter.com/MarkChambersG2

 

About the author

Mark is an ACIS qualified Chartered Secretary and places Company Secretaries into professional services and in-house roles. Mark is a member of the ICSA and previously worked in-house as a Company Secretary in FTSE 100/250 listed companies.