How to Write a Good Resume

Here is a large list of ideas for you to keep in mind when preparing that masterpiece also known as your resume!

– Write brief phrases. No need for full sentences

– Treat your first written copy as a first draft. You will likely be revising it and editing it, before it is finalized

– Begin it by summarizing your key skills

– Always include your Name at the very top, and your address, phone number, and email (if necessary) after that. You do not need to type the word “resume” on it

– Be consistent in your resume design-  All dates appear on the right hand side

– Omit unnecessary information, outdated information, and information that may be used to screen you out. The resumes purpose is to shed light on your qualifications for the job.

– Small numbers from 1 to 9 should be spelt out (Ex: “one”, “seven”, “nine”, etc).  Numbers 10 and up can be displayed in their numerical form. (Ex: “12”, “42”, “32000”, etc)

–  Proofread your final resume. Have a someone else look at it as well. They will be able to help you find spelling and grammatical errors.

– Avoid using italics or -dashes-. It confuses the scanning machines.

– Do not use coloured paper, bordered paper, or odd-sized paper. Make your resume look professional in appearance

– Do not include your picture with the resume

– Leave out personal data, marital status, number of children, and statements like “in great health”.

– Devote more space to your recent job positions, and less to your older jobs. Employers want to see the most recent and relevant details of your work history.

– List your job dates as years, rather than by month. Do not leave unexplained gaps between work periods. Provide a brief explanation for them. (Ex: Family responsibilities, left for college, etc…)  

– You should not include grade point averages, or honors awards unless you have recently graduated

– List educational background (College, University, etc.)

– Always include a cover letter explaining why you submitted the resume.

 

5 Bad Attitudes In Job Interviews, And How To Avoid Them

#5. Negative

People like to be surrounded by positive people. You may hate your existing job or your boss, but whining is not appropriate at all in interviews. Also, complaints kill conversations. Don’t do it.

#4. Repetitive

Some people repeat themselves without knowing it. What you can do is to videotape the 2-3 minute sales pitch of yourself and see how you do. If you have the tendency to repeat, it will show.

If the interviewer doesn’t seem to get what you said, move on. Either the conversation gets boring and he zooms out, or it’s not interesting enough to get a noticeable response. Repeat what you just said will double the damage.

#3. Unenthusiastic

Real story:

Me: Why are you interested in our firm?

Candidate: Well, I saw a posting on the career board and you know, why not give it a try.

If you show this level of enthusiasm, you might as well not show up.

You don’t need to remember the name of the CEO and the year the firm was established, but at least research on basic information e.g. the spelling and proper pronunciation of the company’s name, brief history, field of specialty and its competitors. No excuse not to do it in this age of the Internet.

Also, think hard on how you can fit into the firm and the industry in general. For example, if you are interviewing for an accounting position in a hospital, in additional to demonstrating your ability as an accountant, it is very helpful to show an interest (better yet,  a passion) in working in the healthcare industry.

#2. Not Trustworthy / Dishonest

I always ask my readers to give their experience a positive spin, or to reframe the experience to better reflect what the company is looking for.

Note that while repackaging or even some exaggeration is fine, an out-right lie is not. Ethics and integrity is the core of accountancy. On a practical note, it is difficult to keep lying as the conversation builds on after several rounds of interviews.

#1. Brash, Arrogant and Downright Stupid

Imagine an accountant holding a can of Pepsi when pitching for business at Coca Cola. No one would be stupid enough to do anything close to that right?. You will be surprised.

When I worked at Morgan Stanley, I once interviewed a senior in college who brought along a Goldman Sachs bag to show off. I remember he had good grades and presented himself quite well, but nothing could have changed my first (and very bad) impression of him.

The Bottom Line

  1. Be Likable. Think of the most popular professionals you met in the current job. What are they like? Why are they well liked?
  2. Be Confident. Be well prepared with a unique story, then present in a way that is both friendly and professional.

You can easily beat 95% of the candidates with these tips alone. Good luck!

Tips on cover letter, resume and interviews for accountants and finance professionals

Tell me about yourself.

Walk me through your resume.

These are two most common questions we get from any job interviews. In fact, they are asking for the same thing your story in a nutshell.

The Best Interview Question You Can Ever Ask For

I’d be thrilled to get this question. Why?

  • It offers a great opportunity to create the greatest and most memorable first impression. This is your #1 priority in any job interviews.
  • The question is open-ended which means you can guide the interviewer to ask a follow-up question that works to your advantage.

General Rules

  1. Short Answer Please

Provide an interesting and informative answer in 2-3 minutes.

Anything more than 3 minutes is too much for the interviewer (remember, he/she barely knows you). Anything shorter than 30 seconds does not get to the details.

  1. Develop Your Unique Story

The answer is best presented in your story using this framework:

  1. The beginning
  2. The spark
  3. The development
  4. Why you are here today
  5. Aspiration

We will go through each step below.

Your Story

  1. The Beginning

This is the introduction where you give a general idea of who you are. Everyone knows how to do this, but few do it well enough to give a good first impression.

The Wrong Way:

Keep talking forever about your life and get interrupted by the interviewer because it either gets too long or too boring. You end up not talking about the important points, and you lose control over what the interviewer is going to ask you in the next question.

The Right Way:

Make a short and factual  introduction of the essentials, in 2-3 sentences only:

  • Where you are from, where you went to school, and your major/concentration at school
  • Major and relevant experience before current job (optional, only if you don’t have enough to say)
  • Current job or situation

You will talk about the whys in the next step of the framework.

  1. The Spark

This is the place to state why you are interested in accounting. Most people get into the industry because it is somewhat prestigious and make decent money, parents thought it’s a stable job, they are good at numbers (or not  good with people)

Whatever the reason might be, it is likely not to be that interesting and hundreds of candidates before you said exactly the same thing.

  1. The Development

This section talks about how your spark is developed into a career choice in accounting. If you are an accounting student, talk about why you chose the specific school/accounting program and what you have learned.

If you have some experience (internships, volunteer work, jobs in accounting, jobs outside of accounting), then go through them in chronological order, highlighting what you have learned in each stage of your career.

Creating a Cover Letter

You’ve just spent several hours preparing your resume. Now you think to yourself, Do I need a cover letter? It’s a fair question. Most people don’t really understand the function of a cover letter or why they might need one. After all, doesn’t your resume contain all the information a job recruiter would need to know in order to qualify you for an interview?

To gain an insight into the real importance of a cover letter, job recruiters were randomly asked to give their opinion on the importance of cover letters. While all agreed that a cover letter is important, about two-thirds said that they would read a resume anyway even if it arrived without a cover letter. The other third placed more importance on cover letters. They said that in some cases, but not all, they might discard a resume that was missing a cover letter. Interestingly, less than 5 percent said they would never read a resume if it did not contain a cover letter.

What A Cover Letter Will Never Do

A cover letter will never get you a job that you are not qualified for. Job recruiters are busy people and some of the busiest may have to work through several hundred resumes per day. When it comes to filling a position, the first two things they look for are education and experience. If these don’t make the grade, in all probability they will not even look at your cover letter.

What Does a Cover Letter Do?

Think of applying for a job as going through a series of gates. The first set of gates is education and experience. These are grouped together because in most cases a recruiter will substitute one for the other. That is, if a job candidate lacks the prerequisites in education, experience is often accepted as a good substitute. Likewise, a better education can be used to make up for a lack of experience.

Once the job candidate makes it through the first set of gates, it’s the other, more subtle qualifications that begin to weigh in on his or her chances of securing a job offer. It’s not uncommon for a typical recruiter to locate only 20 or 30 qualified candidates out of 500 resumes. If you make it to that small selective group, your chances of being called in for an interview increase substantially. But this is the time when your cover letter really matters if you want to make it through the next set of gates. Since recruiters are busy people and their time is limited, they may select only 5 to 10 candidates out of the original 20 to 30 for the actual interview. You can be certain that employers will do everything possible to make sure that the 5 to 10 candidates they do call in for an interview are the very best qualified out of that initial group.

The Function of a Good Cover Letter

You can think of your resume as a sort of generic overview of your job qualifications. A good resume should list all the technical details of your employment and educational history without delving too far into the more human, personal side of the equation. The cover letter, on the other hand, is you talking personally, one-on-one, to the recruiter. It is the precursor to the interview and should amplify the human side of your qualifications. It should answer two basic questions:

  1. who you are and
  2.  why you think you will be an asset to their company.

The cover letter should leave the recruiter with the feeling, this is someone I want to meet in person to further discuss your interest in working for the company. You could also think of the cover letter as a sort of tie-breaker. When it finally comes down to the handful of resumes that have more-or-less the same technical qualifications, it will be the cover letter that determines who will get the interview and who will be passed over. Stated simply, it’s the function of the cover letter to get you an interview.

Parts of a Good Cover Letter

A good cover letter should answer the following questions:

  • Which job or type of job you are applying for
  • How you found out about the job
  • Why your qualifications make you a good fit for the job
  • Why you believe you will be an asset to their company

Keep in mind that your cover letter does not work in a vacuum. In all likelihood, the recruiter is only reading your cover letter because he or she liked your resume. Use your cover letter to embellish and highlight points you made about yourself in your resume that may have been hastily read or overlooked. Remember, recruiters often just scan a resume for certain technical details the first time through. Use your cover letter to entice them to want to read your resume through one more time, slowly and carefully this time.

Resume FAQs

How many pages should a resume be?

One page is ideal but no more than two pages.

 Do longer resumes command more attention?

No. In fact, they often get overlooked. Recruiters are busy people and they don’t have time to peruse through long and detailed resumes.

 How far back (many years) should I go with previous employers?

This is a tough one to answer because there is no magic number that works for everyone. If you have worked at so many jobs that it takes more than 2 pages to list them, then drop the oldest ones off the bottom. On the other hand, if you had the same job for 30 years, then it is difficult to ignore employment you may have had before the current job. If you feel there were valuable skills learned in earlier jobs that were not apparent in more recent jobs, then consider avoiding the years question entirely and use a functional resume instead. This will place the focus on your acquired skills rather than the length of your employment. If you insist on using a chronological resume, then just shorten it to one page and leave everything off that won’t fit on the page. Keep in mind that employers place more weight on the more recently acquired skills so jobs held over 10 or 15 years ago aren’t going to become a major factor in the hiring decision unless those particular skills are very hard to find in the current job market.

 Should I print the word Resume at the top?

No. This appears on some foreign resumes but never on resumes in the US and Canada.

 Should I give my current work phone number?

Only if your boss already knows you are leaving the company. There are no guarantees of privacy within the walls of a company or when using company property.

 Should I give my home email address?

Yes. But make sure it is still active by testing it regularly.

Should I give my work email address?

Only if your boss already knows you are leaving the company. There are no guarantees of privacy within the walls of a company or when using company property.

 Should I give my personal web site address?

This is probably not a good idea unless it is specifically related to the job. And you never know, your potential employer may see something there that offends him or her even if you think it is harmless.

 Should I list references on my resume?

No. Place them on a separate piece of paper with your name and address on the top. Submit only when requested.

 Should I give the name of my present employer if I don’t want them to call him?

This is a tough call. You may not have much choice in the matter. If you leave it out, they will probably think you are hiding something. Most employers will respect your wishes if you indicate to them that you don’t want them to call your current employer. You should decide this on a case-by-case basis.

 Should I write on my resume not to call my current employer?

No. Transmit this information verbally or by email.

 Should I include volunteer work?

Yes. Emphasize skills that you learned doing volunteer work that will help you in your employment. For instance, running a church function can bring to light skills in organizing, meeting deadlines, working within a budget, people skills, advertising, etc., all valuable skills in the commercial sector.

Should I include any personal information such as hobbies and other interests?

Only if your hobbies and other interests are job related. For instance, if you grow competition roses and have the awards to prove it, an employer might be impressed with your organizational skills, attention to detail, and your ability to meet deadlines.

 Can I use fancy type or pictures on my resume?

Not a good idea unless you are applying for a job as a creative designer. Employers are focused on two things, education and experience. Anything that detracts from your basic message is going to be viewed as a negative.

Creating the Perfect Resume

At some point in his or her lives, virtually everyone who is looking for work will need to create a resume. The importance of a good resume cannot be overstated because it is often the only link between you and that good job you are seeking.

It is often said that first impressions last, but a resume is often the only way an employer can determine whether or not he may even want to ever meet you for that first impression. You definitely don’t want that resume that you worked so hard to prepare ending up in the round file (trash can). Here are some helpful hints that will help you achieve the perfect resume to land that dream job you have been seeking.

Introduction:

The first three things employers look for in a resume: Clarity, clarity, & clarity.

Other things they look for:

(1) Neatness (no coffee stains or crumpled edges)

(2) Formatting (follows industry standard norms)

(3) Missing information (i.e. unexplained gaps in employment history)

(4) Questionable claims (e.g. do you really speak fluent Swahili?)

(5) Length (1 page is best but no longer than 2 pages)

(6) Generous blank areas for making notes

(7) Spelling and grammatical errors

Three Basic Styles:

(1) Chronological: (most common)

  1. Emphasizes employment experience
  2. Documents growth in responsibility over time
  3. Best used when pursuing growth on a stable career path

(2) Functional: (less common)

  1. Emphasizes achievements
  2. Focuses on establishment of usable skill sets
  3. Best used when pursuing jobs outside of current career path

(3) Combination or Hybrid: (rare)

  1. Not recommended for most people
  2. Often lacks clarity
  3. May confuse employer

Decide which type of resume best meets your needs and career goals. Keep in mind that most employers are more familiar with the chronological type and prefer it to the functional type. It is best to use the functional resume only when you are changing careers or when a chronological resume would not adequately portray your accumulated experience.

Basic Parts of a Chronological Resume

Contact Information

  1. Your Full Name: Make sure you list your name here exactly as you wish it to appear on your Federal Tax Return. Often, if you are hired, the HR department will use this information to set up your file, and once established, it could be difficult to change.
  2. Address: Make sure it is up to date. You’d be surprised how many people lose out on desirable jobs because they can’t be located at the address listed on the resume.
  3. Phone Number: Don’t forget the area code.
  4. Email Address: Make sure it works before you list it.

 Objective:

  1. No longer recommended for most resumes as they tend to all read the same.
  2. Employers tend to skip over this part.
  3. Tends to be somewhat limiting.
  4. Consider using a summary instead.
  5. May be appropriate for recent graduates and some entry-level jobs.

 Summary:

  1. This is the most important part of the resume because it will either motivate the reader to either continue reading or place your resume in the round file.
  2. One or two sentences maximum.
  3. Focus on who you are, what you do, and where you are going.
  4. Keep it simple and right to the point.
  5. A well-written summary can open up opportunities that you had not anticipated.

 Experience

  1. List your current or last-held job first.
  2. Then list previously held jobs, arranged reverse chronologically.
  3. Go back at least 15 years.
  4. List the Dates of Employment, Employer’s name, City and State, and Position Held. If you held more than one position at this employer treat it as a separate listing.
  5. List your duties and achievements. Leave out items that are common skills and expected for the position held. For example, a receptionist should not say Excellent phone skills because this is expected for that position.