resume writing for finance/accounting professionals

I have made a couple of earlier posts on resume writing generally, but this post is specifically directed at finance and accounting professionals. The first rule is to use lots of numbers – it looks good; it says: Finance/Accounting.

Formatting

Particularly for accounting/compliance focused professionals, you cannot be too conservative with how you format your resume. Definitely only use black and white. Use two fonts at most, and certainly no fancy borders, wordart etc. On balance I think it is better not to include a photo. Plain and conservative is the rule.

Employer information

Make sure you put all of your responsibilities and achievements under each relevant employer. It doesn’t hurt at all to let the reader know what industry your employer is operating in, whether they are listed or private, multinational or domestic etc, and to give some idea of the size of the company in terms of turnover and staff (numbers!). Employers want to know what kind of reporting and compliance environment you have been operating in.

Responsibilities

Certainly indicate the size of the P&L or BS that you are responsible for (whichever looks better!). Let the reader know if you have managed or supervised any staff. Take the opportunity to make it clear if you have been handed any additional responsibilities due to good performance. Use numbers.

Achievements

I can’t stress enough how important it is that you include this section and do a good job on it. This is what will differentiate you from the rest. Make sure that you have a number of achievements on your resume for each position, and be very specific. Use numbers. You reduced the closing time by 2 days. You shaved 3% off costs in a business with a  $500m cost base saving 15 million dollars. Numbers…you get the idea.

Reasons for Leaving

Employers see a lot of downside when a key finance person leaves. If you have had a few jobs in quick succession, but have reasons that will reflect well on you then don’t hesitate to include a reason for leaving section after each job explaining why. Keep it short and clean, and make sure that it could not possibly be a reason for leaving the job you are applying for!

Systems

Include under each employer what systems you used. If you have particularly strong skills in a certain ERP or in Excel, then that is probably worth including at the top of your resume as well. Spell out exactly what modules you can use, or the level of your Excel experience.

Qualifications

No reason not to include your membership number for any accounting qualifications you have and your year of graduation/qualification. It makes people feel better….numbers!

Personal Stuff

Keep it very short if you include it at all. You are not being hired because you love playing the trombone and doing improvisational theatre. Having personal information on your resume says that you have trouble separating your work and your personal life, which is a big red flag to employers.

writing resumes

For most people their resume is their primary branding tool. Therefore you should certainly approach resume writing carefully. But it is not that complicated….and as long as you don’t completely stuff it up, people will make an effort to read through it and extract the relevant info. 

DO

1. Organise your resume with a backwards chronology and include all responsibilities, skills and achievements UNDER THE APPROPRIATE POSITION/EMPLOYER. Listing your skills and experience at the top of the resume, disconnected from the environment where you picked up those skills is not helpful. Then it is just an assertion, and the resume reader has now way to evaluate those assertions.

2. Put in plenty of detail about your achievements, preferably with numbers so that there is some kind of objective, quantified assessment of what you achieved.

3. Make your professional brand clear in your resume. The reader should be able to see that the job you are applying for is the next logical step in your career narrative. Rewrite your resume for the specific job you are applying for if necessary.

4. Do include the keywords from the job description. It could be that an HR person who does not understand your resume will be screening it, and they will screen by looking for keywords.

DON’T

1. Use excessive formatting, colour, borders, multiple fonts, strange layouts. Make everything clean, simple and black, unless you are applying for a creative role.

2. Put in a lot of personal information. A couple of words about your hobbies and interests is enough. A lot of personal stuff says high maintenance

3. Make your resume too long or too short.  A front page with a career summary, then a page per 3-5 years of experience is appropriate.

resume writing mistakes

There are a couple of trends in resume writing which are popular but not necessarily appropriate.

One of those trends  is putting a list of your skills at the top of your resume;  like you are putting meta-tags on a web-page. As a recruiter I never looked at those skills because is they are  an unverifiable self assessment by the job-seeker. What a recruiter wants to know is what you did and achieved at particular employers. Recruiters have a mental ranking and categorisation of employers which they use to evaluate those responsibilities and achievements.

 The other trend is to use a one-page resume. I completely agree that it is useful to have a quick career summary on the first page of your resume that users can scan quickly, but if they are interested in reading more, you need to have the details on later pages for them to delve into. This is particularly important if you are submitting resumes that will be screened by individuals that don’t necessarily understand your area of expertise (like HR generalists). They will just be looking for key words in your resume that match the job description and if you are missing a key word then you could get filtered out before the resume reaches the real decision maker.  You need to cover all the key words in your resume that might be in the job description.

Put the one page summary first. Keep the formatting clean, simple and consistent. As a rough guide you should have at least one page for every 3-5 years of work experience. Make sure you include plenty of contextual information about your employer and business unit, and give plenty of information not just about your responsibilities, but also about what you acheived…what impact you had. As long as you do this, your resume will be great.