Can your accounting resume give you an advantage when you apply for a job this year? 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. One is when they are born, and the other is when they write their resume.
Even at a time in an economic cycle when unemployment rates for accounting and finance professionals are near all-time lows, it is still a competitive market for job seekers. Senior managers in a recent Robert Half survey said they typically receive 40 resumes for every open position, and they spend 12 minutes per resume looking for candidates to interview.
Trying to find the right temporary accounting talent for your open role? We can help with that. Learn how.
So what does all this mean for your accounting resume? It’s often the first impression you can make on a hiring manager that you have what companies want, and you want to make that 12 minutes count.
Perfect your accounting resume
When you write your accounting resume or work to get it updated, pay special attention to these seven tips:
1. Be honest about 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.
2. Shy away from hyperbole, colloquialisms and attempts at humor. They may not translate. A resume written with an objective at the top like this — “I need a job, pleeeeease” — may get an E for effort, but nothing else. Humor is subjective, and it’s best not to take any chances on coming across as unprofessional or immature.
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.
If you're wondering what hiring managers consider red flags in resumes, read Things That Make You Go Hmmm.
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.
6. Showcase your soft skills. Provide examples of how you’ve effectively used skills such as communicating, maintaining a positive attitude to achieve your goals or being organized. Have you interpreted complex data and analyses for stakeholders or upper management? Led team-building events or collaborated with coworkers? Written for a company newsletter, prepared a report for the bank loan committee or crafted an email to share information about financial products with a client? That’s using hard and soft skills — the technical with the team.
7. 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 temporary 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. In a recent Accountemps survey, almost half (46 percent) of senior managers said they prefer a one-page resume for staff-level candidates, and nearly an equal number (47 percent) said two pages is an ideal length. For executive roles, half of managers (50 percent) cited two pages as acceptable, while 21 percent were most receptive to one page.
View a slideshow of the job search survey results for 2018.
Here's a way to think about the content and length of your resume: How will the document be submitted, and what's 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 offer an expanded resume that better highlights your technical and interpersonal skills, and 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.
— Brett Good
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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.
Editor's note: This post was recently updated with new survey information.