With all of the accounting industry layoffs during the pandemic, your accounting resume is up against tremendous competition. Not only are there more job seekers than usual, many of them are highly qualified. When you’re seeing so many articles about furloughs and firings, it might be tempting to do everything possible to get your name on top, like building the entire resume in a spreadsheet format, for example. Or gift wrapping it in financial statements.
Don’t do it! You want attention, but it has to be the right kind. Save your efforts for crafting a resume that’s professional and stands out because you and your skills do.
The strategy for writing and presenting your accounting resume is a little different during the pandemic job rush. It requires the willingness to go deep and figure out what you really want, what you have to offer, and what employers are looking for right now.
We spoke with TopResume’s career expert Amanda Augustine to get the scoop on what you need to do to ensure your accounting resume stands out for all the right reasons. Here are some of her suggestions.
Reevaluate your resume with your current job goals in mind
What might have been a great job for you before the pandemic may no longer reflect your needs. Think about where you are right now. Do you need time to study for your CPA exam? Do you need to move closer to aging parents? Do you need a flexible schedule so you can help your children with virtual school? Of course, you feel some urgency about finding a job quickly, and you might even need to take on some short-term work to tide you over (hello, tax season prep, or gig accounting work), but don’t ignore or forget what you ultimately need to be OK.
Make it clear that you’re comfortable with a virtual office
It’s likely that many of the positions you’re considering require you to work in a virtual setting. In that case, make it clear that you know how to do it well and have experience working in a cloud-based, paperless, accounting environment. Many people struggle with maintaining focus when they don’t have the structure of an office setting. If you’re self-disciplined, tech-savvy, and self-motivated, emphasize this in your resume. If you have a dedicated office space in your home with fast, reliable internet and dual monitors, that’s worth mentioning as well.
Tailor your resume for each job
This is worth the additional time. Look at the job requirements and use your resume to speak to each of those points. For example, if the job requires tax prep experience for nonprofits or small businesses, highlight your experience in those areas. If some of the jobs on your resume have been contract roles, note that. Do the work for the reader – connect the dots and eliminate the guesswork.
5 basic resume strategies that still apply
During the pandemic, the basics still hold true for writing a stellar accounting resume. Keep these five strategies top of mind, combine them with your new job-hunting-in-a-pandemic mindset, and you’ll be well-positioned to find a role that’s right for this unprecedented time in your career.
- Create a career narrative. Your resume should be easy and enjoyable to read – more like a story, less like a transcript of your education and work history. It should be easy to imagine you as part of the office. For that reason, include only those details that help the hiring manager visualize you in the role. Leave out details that don’t build this image, like the side job you picked up right after college.
- Strike a visual balance. Imagine what it’s like as an HR manager sorting through hundreds of resumes. Does that sound fun to you? After the first twenty or so, probably not, especially when you consider just how ugly some resumes can be. Make your resume easy on the eyes with a clean, consistent layout. It should be easy to scan your resume in 10 seconds or less. Don’t get fancy, and don’t make them have to search for the information they need.
- Demonstrate your value. In the midst of your highly readable narrative, drop-in key bullet points and examples that give proof of what you’ve accomplished and what you can be expected to deliver going forward. As much as possible, be specific and quantify your achievements. If you’re accustomed to preparing a high volume of tax returns every season – share that quantity in your resume. When two similar resumes are compared side by side, big numbers will stand out and likely put yours on top.
- Optimize with the “resume bots” in mind. There’s another reason to stick with a clean, consistent layout. Your resume has to get through the recruitment software before it ever lands on someone’s desk. An ATS (applicant tracking system) only lets through about 25 percent of the applications. These ATS-friendly resumes have clearly marked headers, key terms from the job listing, standard fonts, and no images.
- Play up your soft skills. Adaptability and flexibility; communication; critical thinking and problem-solving; collaboration and teamwork; and time management. These soft skills are more valuable now than ever. Employers need a team that can move and pivots with them. Include examples when you demonstrated creativity in order to solve a problem, learn a skill, rally your team members, or meet a goal that benefited the company. Let them know that you’re proficient in tools like Slack and Zoom that can help bring remote teams together and develop client relationships. Firms are looking for a culture fit, so do your homework, know who you’re applying to, and tailor your resume accordingly.
Everyone’s in this together, even those who are hiring
The good news is that you’re not in this alone. Everyone’s experiencing new challenges right now, and that goes for the accounting industry as well. Showing that you’re sensitive to their situation by being understanding if they don’t get back to you right away or the technology fails during your job interview can go a long way toward making a firm want you on their team.
A recent study by TopResume found that most employers (87 percent) do not consider being unemployed or having an employment gap lasting more than three months to be a red flag. So try to relax, write a stellar resume that lets you shine as the awesome person you are, and stay positive. This time won’t last forever, but as long as it does, you can position yourself to thrive in the job market and perhaps discover something new about yourself along the way.
Want to see how your accounting resume stacks up?