The official blog of Abacus Group — a place to share our knowledge and thoughts on trends in recruiting

October 07, 2011

Boosting Your Marketability: How Will You Stand Out to Recruiters and Employers?

Differentiating yourself from other candidates in the search for an accounting or finance position can be incredibly challenging. Most likely, you’re competing with professionals who have strong credentials exactly like yours: a relevant bachelor’s degree and/or MBA from a well-known university; previous experience in a top accounting or financial firm; CPA or CFA; proficiency in various financial software programs. It’s also probable that you, like your rivals, are quite articulate, have held past positions within the industry and are very passionate about your field. If your qualifications are nearly the same as everyone else’s, though, how can you possibly have any control over whether or not you are hired?

It may be useful to think of your job search as running a business in which you’re selling a product. Your individual skill set is the product being sold, your resume serves as an advertisement and your future employers are your target customers. In order to sell your product or – in the case of a job search – get hired for the position of your choice, you need to differentiate it by developing and exploiting a competitive advantage. Keeping this analogy in mind, consider the following strategies for elevating yourself above your competition in the areas of your experience, resume and interview:

Skills: Garner Unique Educational Experience
Selling a product or service requires regular development and innovation. Likewise, to remain a marketable candidate in the job market, one should undergo continuous education to keep up with the competition. Earning CLE credits isn’t the only way to continue your education beyond an MBA or CPA. There are a number of other finance and accounting-related educational tools that you can take advantage of to stand out to employers. Joining a professional association, for instance, is an easy way to learn more about your field of interest with the added benefit of networking exposure. Attaining a leadership position in such an organization serves as a unique achievement for one’s resume. Enrolling in a technical class is another way to stand out. If your time and budget allow, consider learning new software to give yourself a competitive edge.

Resume: Emphasize Relevant Past Accomplishments
The focus of your resume should extend beyond your responsibilities in past positions; it should highlight what you’ve excelled in or initiatives that you improved in your job functions. A resume is your primary form of advertising, so it should stress what you can do for your prospective customer, the employer. A great technique for showcasing achievements is to quantify results from a past job. Stating, for example, that you “exceeded sales objectives by 10% while managing a team of eight employees” provides a measurable indication of your success and easily catches the eye of the reader. In addition to calling attention to your strongest attributes, make sure that your resume material is tailored to the job position. If you include an objective or summary of skills at the top of your resume, customize it to meet the needs of the firm for which you’re applying.

Interview: Conduct Research to Prepare Questions
Through diligent preparation, you can convey to the hiring manager that working in and contributing to his or her organization is your foremost priority. Research the firm as much as possible before your interview in order to familiarize yourself with the company’s objectives and its products or services. In addition, be aware of any recent news, issues or trends that are specific to either the organization itself or the industry. Such preparation will be useful not only in answering the interviewer’s questions, but also for asking a handful of your own. Asking questions about both the position for which you’re applying and the organization as a whole will help to reinforce your credibility and emphasize your sincere interest. Interviews must be treated as a dialogue in which both you and the interviewer are asking each other questions. In addition to showcasing your knowledge of the firm through asking intelligent questions, a two-way question and answer conversation will help you better assess how well you will fit into the organization.

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