Resume Mistakes Accounting Candidates Make, Pt. II

Mistakes happen – but they shouldn’t happen on your resume. Avoid these common errors to keep your file off the cutting room floor.

If you only had sixty seconds or less to convince an employer to hire you for a hot accounting job, what would you say? Which skills or experiences would you focus on? How would you craft your elevator pitch, if you knew your prospects of earning an interview hinged on it?

Well, we have some news for you: every time you submit a resume for an accounting or finance job, you really only do have all of sixty seconds to make the right impression and merit consideration for the position. According to most studies, hiring managers spend anywhere from thirty seconds to a minute per resume — which still works out to countless hours of poring through summaries, work histories, and qualifications, when you factor in the sheer volume of candidates they’re faced with.

And just as saying the wrong thing during your elevator pitch can wreck your chances, so can a blunder on your resume. In our last blog on resume mistakes, we looked at some of the big mistakes accounting candidates make on their resumes. But there are more — unfortunately. If you’re an accounting or finance professional on the job hunt, you want to ensure that you don’t eliminate yourself from contention with a mistake. Here are a few additional mistakes to watch for.

Including too many trite phrases
“Great communication skills.” “Outstanding team player.” “Hard worker.” “Quick learner.” “Results oriented.” If any of these shop-soiled phrases appear in your summary or under your skills section, stop reading this, fire up your resume, and strike them out right now. Nothing makes a hiring manager’s or recruiter’s eyes glaze over like a CV that’s littered with tired cliches they’ve read a millions times on hundreds of others.

Maybe you really are a great communicator (because you’ve been actively honing your public speaking and writing skills). Maybe you are incredibly self-motivated and proactive about your accounting career. But so is everyone else — at least, according to their resumes. Either prove it or lose it: name an experience or provide a metric that can back up your claims, or stick to the facts and leave out the treacle.

Either prove it or lose it: name an experience or provide a metric that can back up your claims, or stick to the facts and leave out the treacle.

Not knowing your audience

No, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every single time you apply for an accounting job — no one expects you to write, from scratch, an entirely new resume for each position. But one size does not fit all. Different companies have different cultures. Different jobs have different requirements. At the very least, your cover letter should be tailored to the company and position you’re applying to; it demonstrates that you’ve taken the initiative to learn about the company. For example, ditch “to whom it may concern” and find out the name of the hiring manager. Then explain why you think you would be a good fit for the job — not any job, but this particular job and this particular company.

Much the same goes for your resume. Too many candidates use a single generic CV for every job they apply to. Instead, you should tweak your resume so that it emphasizes the parts of your skill set or background that will most interest the employer. Review the requirements listed in the accounting job posting, and make sure that you’ve placed front and center the skills and experience that the employer is looking for in a hire.

For example, if the accounting job you’ve applied to specifically requires a certain level of proficiency with Microsoft Excel, the section on your spreadsheet wizardry should be clearly visible, on the first page — not buried at the end of the second. If they’re looking for leadership skills, foreground the appropriate experiences. Don’t force your reader to poke around your resume for qualifications.

But a potential employer will be most concerned with not what you were supposed to being doing, but what you actually did — how you performed in the role and how you fulfilled those responsibilities.

Describing your responsibilities instead of your results

There’s a difference between responsibilities and results, one that’s often lost on candidates and glossed over on their resumes. Don’t think of your resume as an inventory of the different roles and titles you’ve held previously, or the responsibilities you were assigned by your employers. See it, rather, as an opportunity to recount your individual accomplishments and achievements.

To borrow a sporting analogy: when an athlete is inducted into the hall of fame in their particular sport, people don’t harp about what position they played, e.g., how, as a goaltender, they were responsible for keeping the ball or puck out of the net. Rather, the talk is all about what kind of results they achieved at that position and how successful they were throughout their career.

Apply the same logic to your resume. It’s all fine and good to talk about the duties you were formally tasked with at your previous accounting jobs. But a potential employer will be most concerned with not what you were supposed to being doing, but what you actually did — how you performed in the role and how you fulfilled those responsibilities. In what ways did you exceed expectations, e.g., lowered reporting errors for your division? A hiring manager reading your resume wants to know how you added value to your previous role, in order to determine whether you can add value to their organization.

Your resume is your first point of contact with a potential employer. If you were called in for an interview, you’d probably spend some time picking out the right outfit, rehearsing the right questions to ask, and so on. Preparing your resume warrants the same level of attentiveness and consideration, even though it represents only the initial and earliest stage of the hiring process. A great beginning, however, can point to a great end.

What are the worst resume you’ve seen (or committed)? What innocent errors or gaffes should candidates look out for? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Let us know what you think! At Clarity Recruitment, we’re always interested in hearing from accounting and finance professionals like yourselves, who are ready for new, exciting opportunities that can take their careers to the next level. And be sure to follow us on Twitter (@clarityrecruits) and connect with us on Facebook for more great tips and advice!