Aug 14 2009

Foot in the Door: The Finance Resume

Landing a finance job means having a resume that will get you through to the competitive interview rounds. And while there's no official design or format that will help you score that dream private equity gig, some resumes can increase your chances of being called for an interview.

Create Multiple Resumes
With so much competition in finance, it's important to further tailor your resume to the job search. To do this, experts recommend that job seekers use different versions of their resumes so potential employers can better make connections. For example, if you're applying for a risk management or accounting position, highlight specifically related experience, says Andrew Reina, practice director at Ajilon Finance Solutions, a New York-based recruiting firm. For a global firm, including relevant international experience is key. "This helps to differentiate one MBA CPA versus another," says Reina.

Skip the Objective
Stating what kind of work you want to do, can limit your options for other opportunities and waste valuable space. Employers are less concerned with the kind of work you want to do, rather it's more important to show how your background can be valuable to a certain firm, says Edward Bradstreet, founder of Bohan & Bradstreet, a Guilford, Conn.-based search firm serving the management and executive level. "The first thing they want to know is that you can meet (company) needs," says Bradstreet. Instead he recommends job seekers include several sentences summarizing accomplishments and work experience on the top.

Focus on the Details
Make sure the resume doesn't have too much wasted space, says Reina. For example, if it's one and a half pages long, try to shorten it to one page or add more details to make it two pages. "Otherwise it may look like they don't understand project management," he says. Also, make sure the length of bullet points does not vary greatly between lines. For example if your first sentence is 15 words, and the next sentence is four words, it could create an unnecessary distraction for the hiring manager. Additionally, a Courier font may give the resume a dated look, says Barbara Safani, career expert and author of "Happy About My Resume."

Emphasize Technical Skills
Moving your technical knowledge before the chronological job history can help you standout from the crowd. "With a lot of folks going through consolidations, the technical piece is becoming more important," says Reina who recommends that job seekers include any relevant technical knowledge alongside other skills in a core competencies section. Don't assume that potential employers will realize you have certifications just by reading your job title; and be sure to include them on your resume, adds Safani.

Include Short-Term Consulting Projects
Since some finance professionals are experiencing layoffs and spending more time between full-time jobs, Andrea Persico, president of Orion Recruiting, a Chicago-based financial services recruiting firm, recommends that her clients include consulting engagements or other relevant work experience to bridge gaps in full-time employment. "You don't want to look like you haven't been doing anything for the past year." While it's important to show how you have been using time away from the workforce, Persico, adds that when reading your resume employers should be aware that these are just short-term projects and not full-time opportunities.

Optimize for Keyword Search
Many resumes at large firms are electronically scanned nowadays, so having the correct keywords is essential to getting your resume past the initial screening process, says Safani. Stay away from company-specific jargon or acronyms, instead use keywords that are applicable to an industry-wide audience. Additionally, Safani recommends job seekers include both acronyms commonly used in the finance world as well as written out terms. "The resume may be searched by a human eye and an electronic eye. So, for example, you should have M&A and mergers and acquisitions," she says.

Bullet Point Accomplishments
Instead of listing your job requirements under each company heading, it's important to pinpoint your achievements on the job and explain where you were able to get results in your role. Don't be vague -- use specific language showing how you provided savings or earnings at your previous company, says Bradstreet. "You want to use action-oriented words and then you can support the statement with concrete examples."

Focus on the Recent Past
Most employers only want to read about the last seven or eight years of your work history. "They don't care what class you attended in the seventies," says Bradstreet who says it's easy to get caught up and list accomplishments that are no longer relevant. Instead, quickly list some of your previous experience in chronological order and save space to delve into your most recent undertakings.


With so many requirements and needs, there's no such thing as the perfect resume. But experts say it's worth the effort to figure out which details should go on the page and suggest always keeping an updated resume on hand. "At any stage in the game -- if you don't have a great resume -- that's a hindrance," says Safani.

-- Alina Dizik

Email Alina about this article here. Please make sure to include the title of the article in the email subject line.

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