Writing an effective resume can be an inescapable challenge for finance and accounting jobs. Armed with a few accounting resume tips, you can be emboldened to proceed — and know what to do as a follow-up.
Wait. Follow-up? After all the hoopla of getting your application materials sent to a hiring manager, your work isn’t over. According to a new Accountemps survey, human resources managers expect job seekers to check on their status after they’ve submitted a resume. Most (64 percent) said they prefer to be contacted by email within a week or two.
View an infographic of the report’s findings.
Before you follow up on your application, of course, you’ll need to create and send your resume. Check out these five accounting resume tips that can get you to the interview and, eventually, to your new workplace:
1. Go with a functional layout
Many employers expect to see a chronological resume, as this style emphasizes work experience. However, it's not necessarily the best presentation. Consider experimenting with a hybrid layout by combining a functional format with chronological. This layout starts with a detailed list of your specific skill sets, followed by a reverse chronological listing of your work experience.
The objective statement has traditionally been the first section on a resume. However, for new accounting grads, career goals are often broad and subject to change. Good resume tips in this case include replacing the objective with a summary: a short paragraph detailing your most impressive skills and accomplishments. Customize this summary for each position by researching what the organization is looking for in a candidate and then focusing on those qualities.
2. Emphasize your experience
Work experience is one of the most important attributes for anyone looking for a job, but if you're just entering the workforce, you may feel you have little to add to this section of your resume. Your work experience section is not limited to traditional accounting jobs. Include any paid or unpaid internships, temporary or contract jobs, and volunteer work related to finance and accounting.
In your education section, be sure to include any extracurricular activities that involved relevant accounting skills, such as fundraising, budget-keeping or event planning.
3. Mine for more skills
The more specific your list of skills, the better. Many organizations use filters based on keywords relevant to the job description.
A lack of professional experience doesn't mean a lack of skills. New accounting grads can successfully develop standout resumes by noting their accomplishments and abilities gleaned from professional experience gained from part-time jobs or internships, coursework, extracurricular activities and volunteer work.
Be aware that it’s not all about technical expertise, because accounting and finance professionals need both hard and soft skills for success. Make sure to include several soft skills as well, such as communication, critical thinking skills and dependability.
4. Check your verbs
Many accounting resumes and cover letters fail to stand out because of weak verbs. One of the most vital suggestions to help you stand out is to use a variety of strong active verbs. You didn't just "contribute" or "provide," you "designed" or "spearheaded."
Start each sentence with an active verb. For example, "duties included managing sales accounts and budget" becomes "supervised sales accounts" and "analyzed and balanced budget." The result should be a list of concise, punchy phrases beginning with strong, creative verbs.
And don’t forget to proofread (and have others proofread) for mistakes, spelling errors and typos.
5. Press send, and keep going
After you’ve submitted your resume, take a break, but just a short one. Within two weeks, send your follow-up email or call to reiterate your interest in the position. Keep your message clear, concise and calm, as you express what you admire about the company and the value you would add. Don’t be pushy, but don’t get discouraged, either.
Keep up the accounting job search while you wait for a response, taking the time to customize your resume to each employer in order to strengthen your chance of getting noticed.
Consider working with Robert Half, a proven leader in helping candidates like you find rewarding accounting career opportunities.
Editor's note: This post was recently updated with new information.