Best Practices for Financial and Accounting Resumes

by Leslie Toth

Finance and Accounting

With financial jobs being one of the 15 fastest growing professions according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), this is the perfect time to dust off that resume and make sure it’s updated for 2015. Below are my best practices for optimizing your financial resume to reach your next career goal.


More and more companies are making use of electronic systems to screen resumes – Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Even small companies these days can take advantage of ATS systems, meaning that keywords are a key factor in securing a review by the hiring manager. One great source for keywords is to analyze the job posting and repeat some of the words / phrases in your resume and cover letter (assuming you have these skills). The internet is another great source of information. You can explore keyword generators that are available online, or speak with recruiters who specialize in the financial field. They should be able to provide solid keyword suggestions.

Update Your Resume Often

An outdated resume could mean the difference between an acceptable job and the right job that leads to a fulfilling career. Keep your resume updated with your most recent skills and experience by leaving out your work history older than 10-12 years. This can date your resume and may give the impression that your resume is outdated or filled with useless words to fill up space. However, if this older experience is directly related to your industry or the position for which you are applying, and is within a few years, it can be included based on relevancy.

Back to Basics

Don’t get so caught up in the glitz of technology or a web of keywords that you overlook the basics. Contact and education information should be complete and accurate. Speaking of accuracy, given the nature of finance and accounting work, it is absolutely critical that your resume and cover letter be accurate and error-free. This directly demonstrates your attention to detail.

Facts and Figures

In the finance and accounting industry, numbers are the spoken language. Use them to your advantage! Highlight your past achievements in numerical terms: ROI (Return on Investment), percentage increase, dollars saved, etc. Quantifying your accomplishments is a powerful way to grab the attention your resume deserves, and in a language that finance and accounting professionals can easily understand.

Avoid Gaps

Try to explain and provide truthful accounts of any employment gaps. It is OK to include volunteer work or temporary jobs to fill in time periods where you did not have consistent employment. If the reader has to question what you may have been doing during an employment gap on your resume, they will most likely put it down and move onto the next resume.

Eliminate Fluff

Fluff has no place on a resume. It takes up space and hiring managers notice it. With as many resumes as they see in a day, when they see a resume loaded with hobbies and associations and light on experience and accomplishments they move on quickly. It would be better to concisely summarize your work experience onto a 1 page resume instead of trying to expand it to 2 pages with little substance.

Use Appropriate Job Titles

The use of performance appropriate job titles along with clearly descriptive responsibilities sections is another best practice that many fail to use when creating a resume. However, job titles should not be highlighted to draw attention to a specific skill set, but can also be used to show industry knowledge or expertise.

Professional Headings / Structure / Layout

Stay away from trendy headings in your resume. Remember to keep it simple and professional with the use of headings that are self-explanatory. Similar to a well written book with chapter titles, your headings should deliver as promised. Regarding layout, be sure to use a format that is appropriate for your industry. If you are in a conservative role, don’t use a flashy font / format for your resume. It will turn the reader off. Be sure the format is easy to read and flows well with the message you are trying to convey.

Highlight Qualifications

Your skills and experience should match your key qualifications. If you plan to include a summary of your qualifications (and I recommend that all job seekers do), make sure your job titles, duties, and responsibilities clearly justify the skill sets you include in your resume. This section works best when included at the top of the resume before the professional experience section.

Implementing these resume best practices are necessary for getting your foot in the door. By using proper resume formatting, font, styling, specific dates, keywords, job titles, and highlighting your career goals you will stand out from the crowd and receive more calls from potential employers. With all the tools in place today, there is no reason to use a generic resume.

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