The Resume: Tips for Preparing Your One-Page Advertisement
Whether you are applying for an internship, entry-level position or an on-campus interview with the firm that everyone wants to work for, the first official step is always the same: submission of your resume. It is not the resume that will get the job offer, but it is your “one-page advertisement” that convinces those in recruitment that you are worthy of an interview. Here are some basic tips for college accounting students preparing their resume:
- The resume must be perfect. Even the smallest of errors on your resume could mean the difference between getting the interview call versus the rejection letter. Recruiters and campus firm relationship partners have been known to decline interviews with students due to minor typographical errors on the resume. Do not rely exclusively on spelling and grammar check to identify all mistakes, as it will not find the “to’ instead of “two” mistake. Though the person in charge of reviewing resumes will spend a matter of seconds reviewing your resume, they are trained to look for typographical errors. Make sure that your resume is carefully read by several people before sharing it. You will not find your own errors, and different people with different writing styles will find different mistakes as they review.
- Work with career services and take their advice. You do not want to be the fanciest resume in the stack, but want to be the resume that in a period of 15 to 20 seconds can answer all of the questions the reviewer has to verify your qualifications. At most schools, career service offices work with firms that recruit on campus to know exactly what firms want to see and how it should be presented on the resume. What firms want to see can often change, and the templates that career service centers work from encompass exactly what the firms want. Students do not always believe it, but the career services staff know what is best and have what is needed to help you. Take their advice on format and other tips such as proper use of key words, bullets, length and how your GPA should be included.
- Highlight your experiences. Accounting firms are not only looking for accounting experience. If you are interviewing on campus, the firms know what courses you are taking, and they know from your grades whether or not you have the technical skills to work for them. When a firm wants to get to know you, they are trying to see if you have the soft skills and personality traits to be successful within their organization. It is not accounting experience that answers these questions — but what else you have done. Your experience on the resume needs to show that you have strong interpersonal skills and have been successfully trusted by others. Experience working in food service (waiting tables) as well as cashier experience is looked at very favorably. In addition to prior work experience, different roles as a volunteer can also highlight these skills.
- Share your education plans. If you are going to be entering a five-year program at your school, potential employers need to know. Many colleges and universities require that you apply for separate admission to 150-hour programs between the third and fourth year of study. If applying for jobs prior to being admitted to a 150-hour program, your resume cannot state “MBA class of 2022.” Work with career services to present your five-year plans consistent with what campus recruiters expect. Oftentimes, the “objective” section of the resume is where your five-year plan is articulated, so ensure that it is listed clearly and honestly.
We all have certain tasks that we put off until the night before and complete at the last minute. The resume is one document that should not be done at the last minute. It should take an several hours to prepare and review. Plan ahead and work with career services on your campus as well as your mentors to have your resume done before you need it, not once you are asked for it.
Mitchell A. Franklin
Mitchell Franklin, CPA, Ph.D., is program director and assistant professor of accounting at the Madden School of Business at LeMoyne College. He is a member of the NJCPA Content Advisory Board.