Get the Job Oct 22 2009

Foot in the Door: The Perfect Accounting Resume

By alina dizik

Putting together a stellar accounting resume can help you break through the wall of recruiters and land an initial interview. In accounting, where careers often have similar starts and trajectories, qualified candidates can seem the same to recruiters and hiring managers. But with a standout accounting resume, you can get ahead of the pack.

Below are a few tips to help you craft that perfect accounting resume. Also, check out an example of the perfect accounting resume, before and after.

The Basics
Similar to best practices for resumes in other analytical fields, start out with a brief description of your qualifications, then proceed through your work history.

Always include any licenses or certifications along with appropriate degrees, suggests Nina Guthrie director of recruiting at Grant Thornton. "We would like to see a Master's degree with a bachelor's in accounting or finance," says Guthrie about accounting candidates.

Once you've mastered the format, resist the urge to simply provide details of your previous accounting experience; it must all convey a larger theme to help you stand out. If you're a turnaround expert or can deal with tricky accounting issues that no one else can, convey that in your resume recommends Laura Smith-Proulx, a Denver-based resume expert who works with executive clients in the accounting industry.

Demonstrate How Skills Apply
A resume that establishes the various areas that you've been able to put your skills to use really stands out, says Evan Roth, executive director at ResumeEdge, who works with accounting industry clients. "Demonstrate how you have applied your accounting experience in areas like general ledger, accruals, GAAP, SOX compliance, M&A, audit, FASB knowledge, etc," says Roth.

List High-Value Experience
Resume experts say that highlighting greatly sought-out experience will help you stand out in an industry where many candidates can start out with similar job duties. "Be careful not to include too much detail about low-impact and low-value responsibilities," explains Roth. "Hiring managers want to know what distinguishes you from other candidates in high-impact areas."

Cite Specific Metrics
Use key data and facts to describe achievements in your job description. Hiring managers are turned off when an accounting resume is vague. "Give dollar figures, give percentages, talk about specific and metrics -- all this carries more weight in a field like accounting," says Smith-Proulx. This will also help demonstrate your technical knowledge.

Incorporate Industry Terms
To get past the electronic gatekeepers that have become so prevalent in the job search world it's important to have keywords that match the position you're searching for. If you're not sure which to use, scour job descriptions for commonly used terms, recommends Smith-Proulx. But stick only to widely used industry terms; some of the descriptions used within your company won't mean anything to recruiters.

Create a Position-Specific Job History
With so many different areas of accounting, make sure that each job descriptor can speak to the experience required for the specific position that you're currently vying for. Guthrie says resumes that highlight the background relevant to each firm will help the applicant get the interview at the firm of her choice. "Be sure that you articulate specific examples of your experience," says Guthrie. "Stating that you audit public companies is not enough."

Demonstrate Meeting Economic Challenges
With recent changes in the economy, your resume needs to convey to hiring managers how you've remained "efficient in an environment in which you may not have had all hands on deck," says John Baldassarre, president of Tryon Search Group, a Charlotte, N.C.-based recruiting firm. For example, add in a key point about how you've been able to handle a reduced workforce, he adds.

Highlight Leadership Skills
If you're applying for a high-level position such as controller or CFO, include details that help demonstrate your ability to help run the company. For example, show how you've been able to organize an initiative across several different departments. "What they are looking for is someone who has taken the reigns at a whole organization," says Smith-Proulx.


Having an outstanding resume requires keeping the details in mind while conveying the larger themes necessary to advance your career. Many hiring managers in the accounting industry are interested in how you've gone beyond your technical accounting expertise to develop leadership skills. That said, limit your resume to two pages and keep it easy to understand, says Grant Thornton's Guthrie. With so many applicants, hiring managers need to be able to scan the resume for relevant information.

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

Related Content:
-- The Perfect Finance Resume

-- The Perfect Finance Cover Letter

-- Explaining Employment Gaps in Your Resume and on Interviews

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