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Accountants use highly specialized skills and knowledge every day, so it's important that their resumes represent these abilities as accurately as possible. A resume is typically the first glimpse a hiring manager gets of a potential employee, and most only receive a few seconds of attention before managers make a decision about a candidate. At its best, a resume helps distinguish you from other applicants while simultaneously creating an overall picture of you as employee.
Resume writing isn't exactly an artform, but it is a vital part of the job hunting process, and your chances of landing an interview hinge on presenting a strong document. This guide explores how to write a resume for an accounting job, from the initial outline to the finishing touches. You'll also find plenty of resume writing tips, including formatting and style approaches, common typographical mistakes to avoid, and strategies to beat modern resume-reading software programs.
HOW TO WRITE AN ACCOUNTING RESUME
- Do Your Research: Before you begin writing a resume, you should research potential employers and explore what they're looking for in both applicants and different job positions. What skills and qualifications are they seeking, and what qualities do they seem to desire in potential employees? Researching different organizations helps you better tailor your resume to fit varying job descriptions and determine whether you'll be a good fit for the company culture.
- Write Down Your Key Points: Like many forms of writing, a resume typically begins as an outline, which enables you to organize all the key points you want to include. Outlining your resume serves as a useful preliminary step, as it gives you an overall sense of your professional presentation and the impression you're likely to make on potential employers. As you go over your outline, try to identify any professional weaknesses and consider how to minimize your presentation of these areas.
- Format Your Resume: After completing your outline, expand your resume by filling in complete sentences and adding headings, such as education and work experience. Outside of the written content, make sure to spend some time tweaking the formatting so that your resume is easy to read. A well-formatted resume should feature a clean design that makes it easy for readers to locate information quickly, with no extraneous graphics or unconventional fonts.
Types of Resumes
A resume functions as a formal representation of your work experience, so it's important to identify a format that best presents your career history and skills. Depending on your level of experience and the type of accounting position you're seeking, you may be inclined to choose one of three common resume formats. The following list details these resume styles, along with their strengths and weaknesses.
- Reverse Chronological
This most common resume format lists your work history from newest to oldest. While it's ideal for showcasing the progression of your career, it may not be ideal if you have any significant gaps in your employment history. The reverse chronological format works well for applicants of all experience levels.
This format dispenses with chronology and lists your job experience and skills in terms of their relevance to the position at hand. While this format works well for calling out your specific attributes, it may not be effective if you lack substantial, relevant job experience or skills.
The combination format blends parts of the reverse chronological and functional formats. Typically, this resume style begins with a section highlighting your skills and then moves into a section listing work experience. Seasoned accountants who want to call attention to both skills and experience often favor this format.
Required vs. Preferred Qualifications
Many job openings list both required and preferred qualifications that employers seek in potential hires, and holding these qualifications can have a serious impact on your chances of landing the job. Required qualifications, as their name implies, are necessary to even be considered for a position, so if you lack any of these skills or experience, it's likely not worth your time to apply. Required qualifications often include years of work experience or experience in a certain industry. Possessing preferred qualifications makes you a more desirable candidate but is still no guarantee of being hired. Organizations typically consider an array of factors outside of traditional skills or experience, such as your personality and your ability to work with others. Holding several unique qualifications may set you apart from the competition, but don't rule out a job just because you lack some of the preferred qualifications listed.
WHAT SHOULD I INCLUDE ON AN ACCOUNTING RESUME?
Education and Training
Awards, Accomplishments, Affiliations
What Should I Put on My Resume If I Don't Have Any Accounting Experience?
If you're a recent college graduate, you may worry that your resume lacks relevant professional experience and credentials. Luckily, there are plenty of resume writing strategies for candidates who hold limited accounting experience. Your best bet is to focus on your education, skills, licenses, and qualifications, rather than your work history. List these qualifications first on your resume, and try to be as specific as possible about the skills and knowledge you possess.
In your work experience section, you'll list previous jobs that don't relate explicitly to accounting. However, by reframing your past work experiences in the context of your desired job, you can draw connections and demonstrate transferable skills. Nearly any type of job requires skills that can be applied to accounting, such as communication, teamwork, and attention to detail. By identifying the most relevant skills from your previous work experience, you can create a resume that demonstrates your preparedness for an accounting job, even if most of your experience isn't entirely related to the field. If you have volunteer experience that relates at all to accounting, be sure to include it, as this serves as another alternative to traditional job experience.
WHAT IS A RESUME-READING ROBOT?
What Is ATS?
Today, companies of all sizes use technology to help them sift through resumes and identify qualified candidates. Known as applicant tracking systems (ATS), these programs search for keywords within the text of resumes, enabling recruiters to quickly narrow down large candidate pools. To give your resume the best chance of being seen by a hiring manager, it's useful to know how these programs work and what you can do to beat them. Below, you'll find some useful tips to help you get through the ATS screening process and land an interview.
Tips for Outsmarting an ATS
- Simple Headers: Use precise, straightforward headers like "professional experience," "education," and "skills." These terms make it easy for an ATS to find the information it's looking for.
- Clean Format: Use a clean, simple resume layout that doesn't include unique fonts or unnecessary images, which a computer program at best won't notice, and at worst won't be able to read.
- Keywords/Phrases: Often, an ATS scans resumes to locate professional phrases that indicate certain types of experience, such as "leading a team" or "profit and loss," so be sure to include these types of phrases.
- Industry-Specific Jargon: Using accounting-specific language also serves a similar purpose, making it more likely that an ATS will pull your resume based on keywords and phrases the employer has programmed it to find.
RESUME WRITING TIPS FOR ACCOUNTANTS
- Tailor Your Resume: Make sure your resume matches the qualifications each company is looking for, and don't be afraid to change how you present your information to better fit an organization's preferences.
- Save Your Resume Under a Professional Name: Professionalism should run throughout the entirety of your resume, down to the file name under which you save it. Try using this format: "FirstLast_specialty_resume.doc"
- Make it Easy to Read: A resume should be as clean and reader-friendly as possible, so avoid unnecessary embellishments like colors or unusual font choices, which only distract from your writing.
- Include a Cover Letter: A cover letter introduces both your resume and your professional self. This gives you a chance to say a little more about why you're interested in a particular position and why you deserve consideration.
- Keep it to One Page: A concise resume is easier to read and forces you to find the most economical ways to present your most relevant experience.
Common Mistakes Accountants Make on Their Resumes
- Typos: Always be sure to triple check your resume for typos and other formatting errors, as these make you look sloppy and unprofessional. Try asking a trusted friend or colleague to read over your resume as well.
- Including Personal Information: If you live far from the company's offices, it may not be a good idea to include your home address, as some organizations prefer employees who don't have to make a serious commute.
- Including Salary Information: Don't include salary information from your previous jobs unless specifically instructed to do so. Listing this information can give off a sense of unprofessionalism or entitlement and can affect your salary negotiations later on in the hiring process.
- Using Nicknames: Be sure to use your full name on your resume, even if you typically go by a nickname. Your resume needs to carry an air of professionalism.
- Using an Unprofessional Email Address: Your email address should ideally be some variation of your name. If you typically use a more casual email, create a new one specifically for job applications.
- First Person Pronouns: Avoid first-person pronouns when writing your resume, as this goes against conventional formatting standards. Resumes use a unique sentence construction that describes your duties without the first-person pronouns.
- Unprofessional Voicemail: Be sure your included phone number connects to a professional-sounding voicemail that includes your full name. If your current voicemail is too casual, re-record it before sending out your resume.
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