Dear Sam: I have been trying for the longest time to land a job in the accounting field. However, since graduation, I haven't been able to land anything permanent. I was looking for an entry-level position, but I am not sure how to properly highlight my positive skills and to "conceal" the things that may raise a red flag to prospective employers. For instance, I graduated in 2010, and for almost the whole year of 2011, I could not find work. I have been working through temp agencies, which has led to spaces of unemployment between assignments. It may look as if I am unstable, or a job hopper. That isn't true. Most accounting positions want you to have two-plus years of accounting experience...how can I get the experience if they won’t hire me? – Trisha
Dear Trisha: From looking at your résumé, you can easily fix appearing like a job hopper. There is no need to present months of employment, Trisha; omit the months and only use years. When you do that, you will have experience showing in 2008-2009, 2010, 2011-2012, and 2012. This closes all apparent gaps and presents a much more palatable image. Hiring managers do not expect to see months on your résumé, so this will not be seen as a covert omission! You really have great experience—four accounting-related roles, a degree, and solid skills—but you are not differentiating on your résumé. Here are some tips to create a stronger image on paper.
Open your résumé with a summary showcasing the positions you have held. Your résumé currently opens with an “Objective” stating, “Seeking an entry-level position in an accounting environment utilizing the ability to apply principles of accounting, journalize business transactions, and prepare tax documents.”
When I read that statement, I think you are stating the obvious. In that sentence, you are not conveying anything about your candidacy that will separate you from the crowd.
Why not open your résumé with something like this: “Possess hands-on accounting experience, holding roles including AR Clerk and Accounting Assistant, coupled with accounting internships in corporate and nonprofit environments.”
Do you see how that is stronger and would make someone think you are experienced enough to not only perform in an entry-level role, but perhaps even qualify for those roles requiring a couple of years of experience?
Additionally, to not reinforce the entry-level look and feel, do not lead with an education section. Unfortunately, when you are applying for positions which expect a degree, your education suddenly is not a differentiating qualification. I know that is hard to hear—you worked hard getting that diploma, after all—but if most of your competitors also have a degree, then taking up most of the top third of page one of your résumé stating that you have something everyone else also has, perhaps isn’t the best use of space.
Within your experience section, be sure you are thinking about not only what you did every day—your responsibilities—but also perhaps what you were exposed to that was different. Did you contribute to process improvement? Did you increase efficiencies? Did you receive any letters of recommendation with great excerpts you could place directly on your résumé? All of these items can and should be included, whenever possible, to further differentiate your candidacy.
I am presenting an example of a well-constructed résumé for you to review Trisha (view on www.ladybug-design.com/blog). You will see the résumé opens with a qualifications summary which quickly and effectively positions and differentiates the candidate. With a core skills list and fully developed experience section, the résumé structure and design proved key in opening doors and overcoming any potential disqualifiers. You have a strong background, Trisha, and I am certain that when presented in a more modern, strategic way, you will come out on top for a great accounting role.