As we settle into 2019, thought it would be a great time to share some Resume Tips to help you achieve your career goals. Here’s how to make your Resume POP!!
If your New Year’s resolution sounds something like “New Year – New Career” then this is for you.
I’m not a formally-educated resume writer, but what I am is an expert resume reviewer after 11+ years as an Accounting & Finance Recruiter. I see a lot of resumes and by the nature of my business, I have to make a quick determination of when to read on and when to reject. They say recruiters have a short attention span, and I’ll have to agree with that statement.
These days, it’s likely your resume will have to pass the ATS review before a “real” person even sees it. So, it’s more important than ever to highlight your skills and experience effectively, or you will never be viewed at all.
Here are my Resume Suggestions to help you progress from an unknown applicant to the short list of qualified candidates to contact for an interview.
Catch Attention Quickly
- The first 1/4 of page one must quickly and accurately highlight your areas of expertise, your career desires, and what makes you unique compared to every other candidate that has applied for the open job.
- Use key words that match the job duties early and often (super important if a computer is the first look).
- Summarize your experience concisely, add a little sizzle to show why you stand out from the rest, and make sure it’s apparent what type of role you desire.
- If you add a section with key highlights of experience (which I like if done right), make sure to use bullets and only add items that make you stand out. Ask yourself “What are my key areas of expertise and what do I bring to the table that is beyond what a typical candidate in my category has to offer?” Proficiency with Microsoft Excel isn’t going to cut it. Everyone could say that. A better way to state it is “Excel Power User including VLookups, Pivot Tables, and Macros”. Now you have my attention.
- Do not fill your first page with blocks of writing. Trust me, no one is going to read it all, they’ll just skip down to your experience and education.
- I don’t have a lot to say about this except use it!
- You need to have enough white space and separation between sections, so it’s easy to glance at your resume and catch the key points you want the reviewer to know about you. Most recruiters are reviewing many, many resumes each day; so make it easy for them.
- Unless you are applying for a government position (totally different format expected), make sure to use bullets to highlight your accomplishments and duties. This makes it a lot easier to quickly understand what you bring to the table and will keep our interest, so we will keep reading.
- The first 3 bullets count, that’s where your top focus areas, accomplishments, and skills should reside. If the first 3 bullets aren’t related to the job at hand, we aren’t going to think you are a match.
Spelling & Grammar
- I can’t overemphasize the importance of correct spelling and grammar. One typo could kill your chances of moving forward to an interview.
- Always have someone with fresh eyes review your resume. By human nature, will fill in the blanks when reading. So, when you put your thoughts to paper, you will often miss the little things that could be obvious to others.
Highlight Quantifiable Accomplishments
- My favorite resumes have a small accomplishments section followed by the experience section for each job. If you’ve had a lot of success in a role, truly narrow down to a few that have the highest impact. This is your differentiator. Every now and then your strengths may be just what the company needs to solve an issue or round out the team. Then you just became a top candidate.
- Highlighting key accomplishments helps you stand out as someone with the drive and passion to go the extra mile. It shows your commitment to achieving results. Clock-punchers don’t think this way.
- Quantify results if at all possible. “Increased cash flow by $500,000 as a result of audit and correction of vendor payment terms” is more impactful than “Proven ability to increase cash flow with tight control of vendor payment terms”.
- Many resumes are written with a template. It makes it easy to organize, but when you submit your resume through a job board or ATS, it most likely will not appear as you expect. Submit your resume as a clean Word Doc or PDF to avoid this. Also, templates make it more difficult to modify your resume as you gain additional expertise and experience.
- Unless you are applying for a job with a creative or customer-facing sales focus, don’t add too many images or a bunch of color, and please skip a picture of yourself. I’m all for a little flash, but it’s distracting and is often a formatting nightmare.
- Unless you have a tenured and focused job history or you are seeking a consulting role, please use a chronological format. Functional resumes stir up a lot of questions such as the length and level of your experience; in which jobs you actually used those skills, systems, and knowledge; and how recent and applicable each item is today. Strong SAP or accounting leadership that happened 10+ years ago will not have the same value as the focus areas in your most current role(s). In general, it just puts up a red flag, and now someone has to dig into each area to determine when and what you’ve done. So, if the recruiter is running fast and furious, they may just skip you altogether.
Time Line to Include
- In general, you want to go back at least 3 jobs and 10 years if you have that much experience.
- If you have been at this a while, don’t go back to the beginning of your career. Month-end close experience in the 80’s really isn’t going to help you land the job today. If there is a good reason to include experience from the 20th century, and sometimes there is, summarize it quickly at the end of your experience sections. An example is if you started your career in Big 4. You definitely don’t want that to fall off, but you can state it as previous experience and keep it short and simple.
- If you are entry-level or fairly new to the profession, add your education before your experience and make sure to highlight any internships, special projects while in school, or applicable volunteer experience. This will help you stand out when you don’t have a lot of job history to add just yet.
Target Your Submittal to the Job
- Take a look at the main job duties for the open job and make sure your resume features those key skills and experience. I’m not saying to embellish your job history, I mean tweak your existing resume to accurately and clearly show why you are a fit for the job. If it’s on your resume, make sure have the knowledge and experience to back it up.
- If you find that you don’t have the qualifications for the job, don’t apply. This if for two reasons. First, your submittal wastes someone else’s time and isn’t likely to get you an interview. Second, when a job that is a great fit opens up at that company, you will now be considered an existing applicant with no activity, instead of a new and fresh candidate. So apply wisely.
- This is where you can easily reorder your bullets to highlight your experience that matches the role. For example, if high-volume bank reconciliations are your 4th bullet on your recent job experience and the advertisement emphasizes bank recs, then move it to one of your top 3 bullets.
- Tailor your introduction to catch attention with key words that match the job description.
Systems and Industries
- Many companies prefer candidates with the same accounting systems, ERPs, and reporting tools; so, if you have the experience, make sure they know it. Add a section that lists the systems you’ve used, in order of your expertise; and include the systems and tools you used in each job experience description. If you have implementation experience, you definitely want to highlight it.
- Industry experience is also something that will get you to the top of the resume pile, so make sure to emphasize your industry experience if it’s a match for the role.
Length of Resume
- The length of your resume should reflect the length of your career. The resume is meant to summarize what you bring to the table and to start a conversation to dig further into your talent and experience.
- If you are just starting out, please keep your resume to one page. It’s enough, trust me.
- If you have more experience to highlight, I think it is fine and most appropriate to create a 2-page resume. A lot of people try to squish it all into a page and leave no white space. Don’t do it. It’s perfectly acceptable to have a 2-page resume as long as it is impactful.
- Others truly have a lot of expertise and experience, which makes it hard to narrow down. If that’s you, maybe you can add a 3rd page, but please stop there. Once you get the interview, you can embellish.
- For those with extensive experience, another approach is to create an additional document that digs into the details of your experience more thoroughly. So, after you’ve caught the recruiter’s attention, you can easily share more details in an organized manner. I personally love this approach.
- Do cover letters even matter in this age of automation? The answer is yes and maybe… There are three outcomes: Your cover letter helps your resume get to the review stage, your cover letter ruins the chances of your resume being reviewed, or no one ever reads your cover letter.
- If you are submitting your cover letter through a system versus via email, it may never make it to a live person. This is true, but it’s not a reason to exclude it from your application. Just as many cover letters will be read, and it is a personalized first impression of you. It can really give you a leg up on the competition, as cover letters seem to be fading into the past.
- A well-written and targeted cover letter really catches my attention. It instantly shows me that you are serious about the job I’ve posted; highlights your communication skills; and gives me an understanding of why you may be a good fit for the job, both from a skills and personality perspective. A poorly-written or generic cover letter will not help your cause, so if you’re not going to tailor your cover letter for each submittal, don’t send it.
- Many cover letters I receive have incorrect salutations and job titles, and inapplicable experience highlights. I believe one reason this happens so often is that people usually create an account in a job board when they are ready to apply for a job, and then it becomes a default for all future job submissions. So be sure to know what’s in your account and how the application process works with each job board or aggregator you use to apply to jobs. Same goes with resumes. I often end up with an outdated resume without the candidate’s knowledge due to this issue.
- Please don’t send a cover letter addressed to Dear Sir. You are essentially alienating half of the population. I get a lot of Dear Sir letters.
- You want your resume to be a true representation of who you are and what you bring to the table.
- Make sure that you can explain each item on your resume in enough detail to convince your audience of your experience and enable them to understand the process/systems you used for the task at hand. Be especially aware of what is listed on your resume if you have a resume professionally written for you. Those resumes are effective, pretty, and always have the key words where you need them; but I’ve seen many a candidate run into trouble when it’s time to discuss their resume in detail.
- The most important reason to show the real YOU is that it will help you to land the right job, so you thrive in your new role. Accurately depicting your skills, work style, and career desires will substantially increase your odds of finding the best fit for you. You aren’t for everyone, that’s ok, everyone’s not for you either. Your focus should be a match for both parties. When you find it, you know it, and then work doesn’t feel so much like work anymore. It becomes more of a series of exciting accomplishments as you continue to build a successful career.
I hope these tips help you to land your Dream Job this year!!
If you would like me to review your Accounting or Finance-Focused Resume, please feel free to reach out to me.
Barbara Field, President
BRAVA Talent Solutions