September 20, 2023

How to Create a Standout Finance and Accounting Resume

Julie Scates

On average, approximately 118 people apply to any given job, according to Forbes. 22% will be given an interview, and those who interviewed have a 36.89% chance of receiving a job offer.

Before calculating the amount of applications you must submit to have a good chance of securing your desired position, take a step back and think about characteristics that will improve the likelihood of being asked to interviews. Some helpful areas to consider include, having a contact at the company, getting a referral, and having a resume that meets recruiters’ qualifications. 

There are countless resume-help programs available, but what are fast ways that you can create a standout resume that acts as your ticket to the interviewing process? 

The Wall Street Journal created a Six-Second Test for job seekers to use to verify if their resume is application ready. J2T expands upon each point of this test as it relates to the accounting and finance world. 

Shorten the professional statement

It has long been a common practice for job seekers to include an overview paragraph at the top of their resume that highlights their skills, experience, career goals, and other information pertinent to the job they are applying to. Based on the statistics above, if a recruiter is in charge of hiring for a certain position, and they receive nearly 120 resumes, that equates to 120 opening paragraphs to read through. The most recent recommendation is to open a resume with one to two lines stating the applicant’s profession, followed by several concrete skills that relate to the posting, 

Here's an example of previously preferred opening statements: Senior Risk Management professional with experience in managing large-scale programs and helping organizations to identify, assess and mitigate internal and external risks. Diversified, progressive, international experience in recommending strategic and tactical initiatives to achieve objectives. Excellent presentation, organizational, and time management skills. Proficient in influencing senior management through the development of strong working relationships in fast-paced, highly matrix, and dynamic environments. 

A concise and preferred example: Solutions-driven Senior Risk Management professional seeking to grow into a Senior Manager role focused on risk management and operations. 

  - Internal and External Risk Mitigation

   - International Experience

   - Presentation and Organization Skills

   - C-suite Collaboration

   - Able to Manage Large-Scale Programs

   - Strategy Implementation 

   - Creates and Maintains Relationships

   - Excels in Dynamism 

The above examples display essentially the same information, with the second example appearing in the newly preferred format of an overview sentence with supporting bullets that match key points in the job description. The second version is easier to refer to, takes up less space, and is easily understood by the reader.  

Don't be a jack of all trades

When building your resume, it may be enticing to fill each line with the entirety of your work history, especially for those with years or decades of experience. This temptation can be counterproductive, as on a resume, more does not always equal better. A key practice to implement when applying for jobs is to curate your resume to every job application. This allows you to insert or delete information to make your resume the best representation of how you would perform in any given role. 

Recruiters are looking to match your knowledge, skills, and abilities to a particular job opening. In order to get a first interview, you must make it past the initial resume review, so aim to keep your resume to the point. Oversharing can also lead a recruiter to believe you are overqualified for the role. Most companies have a set salary range, and your lengthy resume may communicate that your preferred compensation wuld likely be outside of the pay range for the position. 

Resume length is another common question. The general guideline is for a resume to not exceed one page. This is recommended for early-stage professionals however, if you have years of experience, and find that one page is not enough to include experience that is relevant to the job you are applying for, it is acceptable for resumes to be two pages. Formatting becomes even more important the longer the resume becomes, so make sure despite the length, that your resume can be easily read. 

As an example, if you are applying for a position in finance, and you find that your work experience, education, and other pertinent information exceeds one page, be sure to highlight key skills toward the top. If you have experience in reading and understanding financial documents, financial statement analysis, decision-making skills, organizational budget preparation, or other skills that are top of mind in the financial industry, lead with that information. 

Use numbers whenever possible

It is easy to use language such as, “Mission-focused,” or “Self-starter.” While this language and similar attributes are positive qualities, the language surrounding them can be somewhat ambiguous. Interviewers generally take a deep-dive into soft skills during the initial interview, so leading with numbers on a resume may be a more productive way to display your achievements and sills. For example, include figures such as, “Reduced turnover by __%,” “Worked for a 250-person company, maintaining relationships with a portfolio of 50 companies,” Reduced inventory costs by __%,” etc. Using numbers helps tell you story in a quantifiable and understandable way. 

Prioritize your LinkedIn profile

If you do not already have a LinkedIn profile, now is the time to start one! For help with starting your profile, read J2T’s article on, “How to Create a Standout LinkedIn Profile.” LinkedIn acts as an online resume, that can be as in-depth as you like. There are countless tools to create a rich profile, which is helpful to recruiters, and may even help you get a job. Recruiters scour LinkedIn for qualified candidates, and by ensuring yours is up to date, you give yourself the best chance of being discovered online. 

Best practices for your LinkedIn profile:

1. Consistently switch your key words

2. Every few weeks go into your account’s key words and change the content to match your current search needs. This works with the algorithm to help you appear in searches.

3. Stay active

4. It is not good enough to make a profile and then never use the site again. Be sure to consistently make connections with coworkers and other professionals in your industry, and create/repost postings often. 

5. Avoid using the “Open to Work” banner 

6. There are more indirect ways to signal to recruiters that you are open to work rather than using the banner. This can be done via privacy settings. The banner can signify a career break, which will not always work in your favor. 

Resist using ChatGPT

If you are unfamiliar with ChatGPT, it is an AI chatbot that has become a popular tool for building and modifying resumes and cover letters (among a multitude of other things). It sounds appealing, as it is as simple as saying, “Hey ChatGPT, make me a resume for a financial analyst position at _____ company.” and in about 30 seconds, your resume is created. So why is this seemingly dreamy technology a no-go? Recruiters can spot ChatGPT resumes right away, and school sites have even improved their turn-in technology to ensure students do not use this technology. If you are looking for a starting point, this AI can be helpful, but only as a point to build and customize. 

The job market is tight, and if you seek a way to make yourself stand out, follow the steps above! Make sure your resume is concise, is personalized to the job description, is quantifiable, reflects your LinkedIn profile, and is created by you.