Can your accounting resume give you an advantage when you apply for a job this year and the year ahead? Only if it’s perfect.
An old saying about resumes abounds in recruiting and human resources circles: There are only two times when people are perfect. Once is when they are born, and the other is when they write their resume.
Even at a time in an economic cycle where unemployment rates for college-educated accountants are near all-time lows, it is still a competitive market for job seekers. And the accounting resume? It’s often the first impression you make on a hiring manager.
Perfect your resume this year
When you write your accounting resume or work to get it updated, pay special attention to these six tips:
1. Be honest about the skills you possess, the scope of your prior role and any quantifiable information you share. At the top of the page, highlight your skills and experience in an executive summary to convey your most impressive accomplishments. Present your career accomplishments and focus on what you achieved in each of your roles. In the education section, if you’ve been working in accounting for several years, you don’t need as much emphasis as if you were newly graduated.
3. Ask someone you trust to review, edit and check the document for spelling errors or typos. Everyone needs an editor as an assistant. You wouldn’t want to send out any resume blunders, such as one that describes yourself as “familiar with all faucets of accounting,” as if you were an accountant by day and plumber by night. Or listing “account retaliation” as one of your job duties, instead of reconciliation. It also helps to print out your resume for closer review, take a break and return with a fresh set of eyes.
4. Look for terminology that might be understood within the firm where you worked but has no meaning to an outsider who reads your resume. Watch for jargon and acronyms, too, and if the skills you used at your previous position aren’t transferrable to the one you’re applying for, don’t give them space on your resume.
5. Make sure your skills match what’s in the job description. Most job postings for accountants include technical, software and interpersonal requirements. As you scrutinize your resume, ask yourself how well it matches the elements of the job description and if it conveys the match clearly and early in the document.
If you're wondering what hiring managers consider red flags in resumes, read Things That Make You Go Hmmm.
6. Identify some keywords that the employer might be looking for, and try to use them in context, if they honestly describe your abilities. This resume tip will help resume-filtering software find you when they’re scanning resumes. Most small and midsize organizations do not use automated screening tools, but larger firms often use them to narrow the pool of resumes to be reviewed.
What about the length of the resume?
Applicants for specific accounting and finance roles often want to know what they should put in their resume and if they should stick to the one-page sample they often see. The content and length of the document will depend on how the resume will be submitted and the situation in which it will be used.
For example, if you are responding to a job posting and know little else about the company and process, it’s usually best to assume that the resume will be used initially to determine whether you will be contacted, perhaps phone screened and then invited in for a meeting. In that instance, craft your accounting resume to be tightly aligned with the requirements listed in the posting. Remember, in this instance, you are simply trying to elicit a response and call back.
Once you do get invited for an interview, or if you bypass a submittal process because you were referred to the hiring manager, it is completely acceptable to bring an expanded resume that better highlights your technical and interpersonal skills. Then you can simply offer it as a version that expounds on your professional capabilities.
How can a resume get noticed?
With the ease in which job seekers can send resumes electronically in response to a job posting, hiring managers are often inundated with responses. Ironically enough, though, a majority of the resumes received are often cited as not being applicable nor a good match to the role being posted.
Hence, a thoughtful and well-crafted accounting resume stands out in the crowd.
Not only should you have a “go-to” resume in a pinch, but you should also tailor your accounting resume to better match what the employer is asking for in the job description. Take the time to make it perfect.
Which resume format is best for you? There are definite pros and cons to weigh for the three different resume formats: chronological, functional and hybrid. If you plan to use a resume template (you can search for examples online), take extra care to make sure you’ve completely turned it into your own professional resume.
What's your next step?
While you're getting your resume perfected and ready to send, check out the accounting job openings in these cities — or try another city and see what you find!
Brett Good is senior district president for Robert Half. He is responsible for overseeing operations for the company’s Accountemps, OfficeTeam, Robert Half Finance & Accounting, Robert Half Management Resources, Salaried Professional Services, and Robert Half Healthcare Practice divisions throughout Southern California and Arizona regions.
Good joined Robert Half in 1999 and has more than two decades of experience in staffing service management and consulting, specializing in core process re-engineering, financial turnarounds and business re-organization. He holds a master’s degree in finance from St. Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif., and a bachelor’s degree in International Business and Marketing from San Francisco State University.
See his Business Etiquette Rules on YouTube.