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

October 18, 2011

Don’t Get Discarded: Six Techniques for a More Attractive Resume

As discussed previously, a resume serves as a candidate’s chief form of personal advertisement to recruiters and potential employers. A compilation of one’s past experience, achievements, and qualifications, the resume provides a tangible and quantifiable indication of how one will perform in a given position.

Due to the high volume of resumes received for an opening, it is unlikely that an employer or recruiter has the time or need to review your resume completely. Resumes are typically scanned for key information, such as education, the number of years spent in the industry, professional certification (i.e., CPA, MBA, FRM), and technical skills. Other valuable components are unfortunately often widely ignored. For this reason, creating a concise, intriguing resume is imperative in your search for an accounting or finance position.

Although an effective resume alone cannot guarantee a job, it will absolutely increase your chances of obtaining an interview and, hopefully, acquiring the position of your choice. Below are six improvements which, if implemented diligently, can help to prevent your resume from being overlooked by employers and recruiters:

1. Eliminate unnecessary material.
Since initial resume examination may last just a few seconds, certain information should be removed to draw attention to more important details. Most professionals agree that including an objective or similar statement is superfluous. For instance, a candidate who states, “I am seeking a challenging senior-level accounting role in which I can grow expand my knowledge of the industry” does not provide the reader with any new information if the resume has been submitted for an Accounting Manager position. Irrelevant past work experience also unnecessarily crowds a resume; a waitress or cashier position you held ten years ago will not help you obtain the systems audit role you seek today.

2. Invite the reader with a meaningful headline.
Unlike an objective, a headline is short, substantial summary that tells the employer or recruiter who you are, rather than what you are looking for. Positioned below the applicant’s name and contact information, the headline should be used to captivate the reader and offer an incentive to review the supporting credentials in the body of the resume. Consider the following effective example: “Bilingual CFA with 10 Years of International Manufacturing Experience.” Such a headline adequately communicates several positive, specific attributes of the candidate in just a few words. Do not embellish the headline with flowery, empty words, like “experienced,” “motivated,” “dynamic” or “detail-oriented.” These are given qualities of any viable candidate and their mention on a resume is hardly impactful in differentiating the applicant from others.

3. Customize to create a theme.
No two resume submissions should be exactly alike; one must customize accordingly for each individual job application. Apply this concept, in particular, to the descriptions of past work experience and corresponding accomplishments in order to present a unified theme relevant to the open position. Fully examine and understand the job responsibilities and requirements to determine the strengths sought by the employer. Does the role primarily entail the creation or analysis of financial models? If so, the body of your resume should highlight personal achievements within this realm with supporting quantifiable figures. Is this employer looking for someone with strong leadership capability? Tell the reader what improvements previous teams have made under your supervision.

4. Include technical terms.
Be sure to use applicable industry or position terms in your resume as appropriate. Doing so will not only reveal your competency in the field, but increase your chances of further review. Frequently, employers, recruiters or electronic tools search for words that are required for the position to more efficiently reduce the number of applicants. If you’re proficient in Hyperion and familiarity with the program is a requirement for the position, include the name of the software in the document, preferably within a list of other technical capabilities. Similarly, if the job position involves participation in mergers and acquisitions and you have experience in doing so, you should certainly incorporate that skill wherever possible.

5. Quantify your accomplishments.
You can enhance your credibility as a successful employee in past jobs by including financial or other numerical figures in the body of your resume. Examples include statements such as “Cut the organization’s expenses by $10,000 per quarter” and “Managed and tracked the division’s $5M budget.” Such measurable results clearly define an active, rather than passive, role in previous positions and are especially relevant in the fields of accounting and finance. Also, note that you don’t necessarily have to have led a given accomplishment in order to include it on your resume. Even if you lack significant managerial experience or have held entry-level positions, you can certainly cite your contributions to past teams’ successes without taking full credit.

6. Have someone else review before submission.
While this final suggestion might sound obvious, the detrimental effect of a sloppy document with misspellings or grammatical errors cannot be stressed enough. Typos and formatting incongruence convey a sense of carelessness and incompetence – two traits that employers and recruiters are definitely not looking for in today’s competitive job market. Utilize resume-creation software to ensure an aesthetically pleasing and modern look. Stay away from distracting typefaces and use bullet points to simplify organization. When you’re satisfied with the finished product, have another set of eyes check for possible mistakes and offer feedback.

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