“Resumes remain a key tool in the job search and hiring processes,” says Brett Good, senior district president of Accountemps. In today’s competitive market, landing the best accounting jobs requires careful effort every step of the way, from making that initial contact to shining in the second interview. And the resume is among the most critical of these steps.
“While job seekers must maintain a strong online footprint,” Good continues, “the resume is often the first thing a hiring manager will review from a job seeker.” Here are some of his tips, and a few from other experts, on what is most important to include on yours:
Use the right key words
“Use applicable keywords from the job ad,” says Good. “For example, if the ad lists expertise with Excel and QuickBooks as a requirement and you have this experience, mention this on your resume.”
Certified resume writer Kelly Donovan agrees. “Include common keywords for the accounting field that are relevant for you, like GAAP, general ledger and audit. The best place to identify relevant keywords is in job postings for positions that interest you.”
Highlight your (actual) accomplishments
It’s more about what you really did at your previous accounting jobs than what you were supposed to do. “Focus on accomplishments, not responsibilities,” Good advises. “A hiring manager doesn’t want to know every single detail about your past responsibilities, but rather how you benefited your previous employer.”
Beyond merely listing what you did, Good says quantifying these achievements will make that much stronger an impression. Answering the following questions with your resume can help you here: “How much money did you save your previous employer? How many people did you manage? How large of a budget did you oversee? How much time did you save by implementing a new process?”
Donovan takes the notion of focusing on your accomplishments one step further and suggests calling attention to what you did that was outside, or over and above, the duties your previous employers expected of you. “Emphasize contributions you made to your companies that went beyond just balancing the books,” she says. “Did you identify an opportunity for cost savings that saved a lot of money? Or did you improve the accounting systems? Include the details, and you’ll differentiate yourself from other applicants.”
Mind your P’s and Q’s
Remember that accounting jobs with Moneyjobs are all about specifics. “It goes without saying, your resume should be free of errors,” Good states. “Accountants need to be detail-oriented, so the last thing you want is a typo to derail your job search.”
Open strong and come out swinging
Linda Tancs, president of Get S.M.A.R.T. Consulting, feels the most critical portion of your resume — whether applying for accounting jobs or otherwise — is the very beginning.
“The most important information on any resume should appear ‘above the fold’ (i.e., at the top third of the page), where a compelling summary of achievement and most recent work experience reside,” she explains.
“In the financial sector in particular, activities engaged in should be paired with quantifiable results (dollar value of cost savings, for instance),” she continues, echoing Good’s advice to put your achievements into numbers wherever possible. “The summary section should include a headline that highlights the professional’s level of experience and professional designations/certifications.” One popular certification to note here, if it applies, is the CPA.
“The headline should be followed with a short list of key functions, such as Complex Audits/Accounting/Process Improvement. The resume should also include upfront the number of years’ experience as a top-of-peer group professional and avoid use of words and phrases that do not distinguish the candidate’s abilities from others,” Tancs concludes.