Writing Your Résumé? Here’s What to Cut and What to Keep

You only get one chance to make a first impression, and that’s as true for résumés as it is for in-person meetings. When candidates submit their résumés to BVOH Finance & Accounting Search, we know within minutes whether we can help them. A well-organized, polished résumé distinguishes you from other candidates when reaching out to recruiters and potential employers. Here’s how to ensure yours stands out:

1. Make Sure Your Résumé Is Current And Accurate.

The first thing we look for is where the candidate currently works. We want a brief, informative summary of which company they’re with, their title, and their responsibilities. That helps us determine whether the person is placeable and whether we should continue reading. We expect honest descriptions of the person’s work history. People sometimes feel compelled to use flowery language or artificially augment their importance within an organization. But those untruths will come out as we delve deeper into the search process, and they could hurt the relationship with us and with potential employers.

2. Be Specific.

Specificity is essential when applying for accounting and finance jobs. We scan for technical pronouncements and certifications that indicate a person’s qualifications, so make these easy to find. If you have a CPA or MBA, put it next to your name at the top of the page. As you move into the experience and education sections, include details about the roles you’ve held and any special training that differentiates you from other candidates.

3. Address Any Red Flags.

The ideal work history shows a balance between commitment and progression. While we like to see that candidates have stayed with companies for a significant length of time, we’re concerned when they’ve remained in the same position for several years. It’s important that they show growth and increased capabilities. However, someone who jumps from job to job raises warning signs as well. If we’re going to place you with one of our clients, we need to trust that you’re not a flight risk. Bear this in mind when reviewing your résumé. Are there any gaps or erratic patterns that might make a recruiter pause? If so, address these in the bullet points beneath the listing. The explanations needn’t be long-winded; simple clarifications will suffice. You can discuss specifics during the interview.

4. Pare Down Old Jobs As You Gain Experience.

Not all jobs are relevant, especially as you progress in your career. Revise your résumé periodically and edit down descriptions from jobs you held several years ago. Recruiters do not want to sift through a four-page résumé; we’re looking at the most recent roles you’ve held. Nobody cares what you did at your first job 15 years ago. Remember, your résumé conveys more than what’s written on paper. Someone who submits four pages of details about old jobs may not appear concise in their business communications or respectful of other people’s time.

5. Maintain Clean Cosmetics.

Many people treat cosmetics as an afterthought, but these details often make the difference between landing an interview and being ignored. Consistency in font usage and verb tense conveys attention to detail, which is a necessity among financial professionals. If you use bullet points in the first two sections of your résumé but switch to paragraphs halfway through, you risk appearing unprofessional due to easily fixable mistakes. Most importantly, check your spelling. We’ve had clients turn down candidates after finding a single spelling error in their résumés. Invest in software that will proofread your document, or ask a friend to review it for you. There’s no excuse for those types of mistakes.

6. Limit Personal Details.

Candidates often include extracurricular interests or hobbies to personalize their applications. This works well when done strategically. Stating that you were the captain of a college athletic team makes sense because that position demonstrates leadership skills, time management abilities, and a strong work ethic. But sharing that Lord of the Rings is your favorite work of fiction will not inspire employers to rush out and hire you (and yes, we have seen people do this). Likewise, be careful about including politics in your résumé. If you state that you were president of a particular political group on campus, you run the risk of alienating a hiring manager who holds differing beliefs. Stick to activities that enhance your case for the particular job you want.

7. Keep Your Executive Summary Concise.

A well-written executive summary brings together the different elements of your résumé. But keep it brief. You don’t need to spend half a page outlining your core skill set. Provide an engaging overview, then let your experience speak for itself.

8. Cut The Objectives Section.

Objectives are useful when you first graduate from college, because you’re looking for your first job and need to spell out your interests. But once you’ve gained experience and your career trajectory takes shape, employers will know your objective by reading your work history.

9. Highlight Experience Before Education.

Recent graduates often lead with their educational backgrounds because they don’t have much experience to include. While where you went to college matters (particularly if it was a top school), your job performance and experience matters more.  Prioritize the experience section as soon as you have professional achievements to showcase.

10. Clean Up Your Social Media Profiles.

Even if you’re emailing a PDF of your résumé to a recruiter or potential employer, you still need a strong LinkedIn presence. Make sure your profile picture looks professional — a cropped picture of you and your boyfriend on the beach will turn off the hiring managers you hope to target. Evaluate your presence on other social media platforms as well. Consider making your Facebook profile private, and conduct due diligence on your Instagram account. Weekend party photos don’t give the best impression to potential employers. Recruiters receive a high volume of résumés, and we know within seconds whether the candidate is someone we’d like to pursue. Inconsistent fonts, sloppy formatting, and inexplicably spotty work histories are all grounds for disregarding submissions. A candidate might be talented and engaging, but none of that matters if those qualities don’t come through in the presentation. You should also be mindful of whether you’re the right fit for a job before you apply. We often receive résumés from people who have none of the required skills or experience associated with a given listing. That’s a waste of our time and theirs, since they could be putting that effort into a more relevant job lead. Before responding to a recruiter’s posting, revise your résumé using the tips above to give yourself the best chance of getting noticed — and getting the job.

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