Proper resume layout & formatting

A resume is to a job seeker, what a calculator is to an accountant – a tool that quickly facilitates the communication of information, providing an accurate and measurable account of data. In today’s competitive market, it is critical for your resume to stand out and make an impact on hiring executives. However, not by way of glitter explosions, scented stationery or cosmic font colors of the solar system. It happens more often than you can imagine!

Whether you are looking to accelerate your career in accounting and/or finance, or simply updating your resume for future reference, the tips that follow offer a strategic approach to leveraging your experience and avoiding classic resume faux pas.

The layout and format is important. Avoid borders and creative fonts that distract from the actual content. Select a traditional font that is easy to read, such as Times New Roman, 9 to 12 point size, and preferably black type against a white paper. Increasing the font size of your name and the companies you have worked for will create enough creative movement, yet maintains professionalism.

You have 15-20 seconds to shine. Hiring Managers will skim your resume quickly, and in order to get their attention quickly and ensure that your resume is evaluated on a higher level, highlight your key accomplishments and most relevant skills within the top half of your resume. Summary statements are often peppered with clichés such as; motivated, hard-working, and enthusiastic, etc., so it is essential to keep this section on target and concise. Limit the use of paragraph-style writing by using bullet points, which are visually effective and easy to read. A lengthy narrative is not necessary, unless of course you are pitching a potential best-selling novel.

List your experience in reverse chronological format. Hiring Managers prefer the chronological format resume, listing your present or most recent job first, working backwards. List the complete name of the company, the industry, size and whether they are public or privately held. Thereafter, list the title of the position you held and your accomplishments. Lapses in employment bring immediate attention and are often cause for concern. If this is the case, re-arrange your employment history to reflect work relevancy instead.

Customize your resume to each position. In addition to your cover letter, your summary statement should align with the job to which you are applying. Immediately state the position to which you are applying and avoid generic buzzwords – tailor your resume to reflect your experience for the position accordingly.

Quantify your accomplishments. This is by far and large the most critical element on your resume. By demonstrating the value you can bring to a company, your resume becomes significantly more appealing to hiring managers. Identify appropriate metrics and instead of listing responsibilities, include professional achievements that are value-added and specific to each role. Highlight numbers, include percentage increases, and quantify how you have reduced expenses. Identify the challenges you encountered, list the action-oriented steps you took to leverage your skills, and quantify results you achieved. For example:

  • Streamlined processes related to month-end that reduced the close from 6 days to 4 1/2 days.
  • Review of activity on a recent acquisition resulted in the recording of an additional $1.5M in deferred revenue that was previously not on the opening balance sheet.
  • Directed successful corporate financial strategy through economic recession creating stabilization and growth opportunities by reducing working capital days by nine, enhancing visibility of customer balances, avoiding covenant default through negotiating amendments to credit facility, reducing corporate costs by $700,000 or 10%, and implementing rolling three month flash forecast.
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