While there are different styles of resumes, there is a specific layout that has proven to be the most effective from what I’ve observed as a professional recruiter with a decade of experience focused on finance and accounting professionals. But before I dive into the details, let’s touch on a few key points.
First, when recruiters and hiring managers receive resumes, they don’t read them. They decide whether or not they are worth reading. Therefore, your resume must be inviting. How do you accomplish this? By making all the relevant information very visually accessible and on-target with the job description. The reader should be able to tell whether or not you meet the basic qualifications with a 10-second scan.
Second, recruiters and hiring managers don’t want to have to get you on the phone to explain gaps in your resume or to provide context on an employer or role. Your resume should answer all the key questions a Hiring Manager might have.
Third, your resume must be as concise as possible. With that said, there is no rule that you need to keep your resume to 1 page. Neither is there a rule that you have to fill an entire page. 1 and 1/2 pages or 2 and 1/2 pages is fine so long as the information is necessary and the format is clean. As a general guideline as to what is appropriate based on your years of experience, I would advise 1 page for professionals with less than 5 years of experience, 2 pages for 5-15 years, and 3 pages for anything more than that. For more seasoned executives, I recommend a 1-page executive summary or bio to supplement a more detailed resume.
Lastly, it is worth taking the extra time to format your resume so it is aesthetically pleasing, especially at the executive level. What does it say about you that you have taken the time to consider the perspective of the reader, and that you take pride in how you present yourself professionally? It goes a long way in making your resume stand out amongst the crowd.
With the above ideas in mind, these are the sections I recommend:
The header should include your name on the first line with your email address, phone number and city in which you live on the second line. There is no need to include your address, as the reader is just looking to make sure you live in the same city as the job. If you decide to put a link to your Linked In profile, make sure that it mirrors your resume.
TARGET JOB TITLE
I recommend putting the job title of the job to which you are applying front, bold, center and at the top of your resume. It should also be in the largest font, even bigger than your name, so that it gets the reader’s attention. For example, FINANCE DIRECTOR or TARGET JOB TITLE: FINANCE DIRECTOR. It doesn’t matter if that’s not your current job title. You are simply telling the reader “I am pursuing this kind of role”. Take time to make sure your Target Job Title matches the title of every job to which you apply.
The summary section should be 3-4 sentences long and very concisely describe (1) who you are professionally, (2) what you can bring to the table, and (3) what kind of opportunity you are looking for. The first line should list your education/credentials, years of experience, and general skill set. The second and third lines should include your technical expertise and personality/character traits. The last line should list the type of role and/or companies you are targeting.
CPA with an MBA and 8 years of progressive corporate accounting and finance experience, including 3 years as a Big 4 auditor followed by 5 years of FP&A experience at a midsize privately held manufacturer. Expertise in M&A due diligence and execution, operational and financial KPI development and discipline, process improvement, and cashflow optimization. Known amongst peers as an enthusiastic and reliable team player with a tireless work ethic and strong technical knowledge. Seeking FP&A Director opportunities with midsize private equity owned companies in the St. Louis area where I can make a positive impact on both the bottom line and company culture.
AREAS OF PROFESSIONAL VALUE & EXPERTISE
In this section, you are listing where your expertise lies in one to three word phrases in a very visually accessible way. It is worth taking the time to make these reflect the key words on the job description to which you are applying (to the extent that it is accurate).
I recommend embedding a 2×3 or 3×3 table, or using bullet points. Examples of key words include Month-End Close, Cashflow Optimization, M&A Integrations, Budgets & Forecasts, Internal Controls, GAAP, Financial Statement Analysis, Team Building, Leadership, Financial Planning & Analysis, etc.
This is obviously the most important section of your resume because it will be scrutinized by hiring managers to determine whether or not they want to bring you in for an interview. It needs to be detailed, specific and articulate when describing your employer, your role and responsibilities, specific projects you have worked on, and your achievements. The dates of both your employment and job titles need to be clear so make sure to include the month you started and ended, not just the year.
When describing your employers, don’t assume that the reader will be familiar with them. Be as detailed as possible because there is certain critical information about your professional experience that can only be communicated and understood by describing the companies you’ve worked for. In the first line, list the company name and location. Underneath that, describe the company in detail, including industry, what they do or make, location of headquarters, ownership type (publicly traded, family owned, private equity owned, etc), top-line revenue, employee headcount, and operational footprint (regional, national, multinational, or global).
PetPlay LLC St. Louis, Missouri
Family owned manufacturer of highly durable pet toys headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. 260 employees, top-line revenue of $140m/year, three manufacturing and distribution facilities in the United States, one manufacturing facility in Mexico, and an international distribution center in Germany. Customers in 15 countries throughout North America and Europe.
Think of how much information can be gleaned from the description of PetPlay LLC if the reader also knows, for example, that you are the Controller of the entire company or the Cost Accounting Manager.
Now that you have painted a clear picture of your employer, move on to your role or roles. Make sure to list the starting and ending date you were in each role, including the month and not just the year. I recommend having 2 sections. One for Responsibilities and another for Highlights/Achivements because hiring managers really do want to know what you have accomplished (this may be the only time in your life when you should brag).
CONTROLLER May 2018 to Present
- Report to the CFO
- Manage accounting staff of 9
- Lead the month-end close process for the parent company and it’s 4 subsidiaries.
- Own the monthly financial reporting package, including variance analysis for the P&L, Balance Sheet, and Cashflow Statements, in accordance with GAAP
- Oversee Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Fixed Assets, Inventory, and Standard Cost Accounting
- Internal controls compliance and maintanence
- Point of contact for CPA firm, both audit and tax
- Company-wide payroll processing and accounting
- Accounting Team Lead for the successful implementation of Microsoft Great Plains (general ledger system), leading to cost savings from the elination of 2 accounting clerks.
- Decreased monthly close from 10 days to 3 within the first 6 months on the job, resulting in faster decision making for Senior Management.
- Lead the post-acquisition integration of 2 companies
- Achieved a clean audit for the first time in company history
- Reduced AR Aging Report from an average of 66 days outstanding to less than 30 through positive relationship building and an early payment incentive program without reducing sales margins, which increased average operating cash by over $1m.
Notice how the highlights section lets the reader know that the candidate is engaged and takes pride in their work. The candidate knows the areas they need to focus on in order to drive efficiencies and, ultimately, profits to the bottom line.
EDUCATION & CREDENTIALS
If you attended a prestigeous university and/or are early on in your career, it may make sense to put this section at the top of your resume above the Professional Experience section so it catches the reader’s eye right away.
This section is very straightforward. List the university, degree type (in order of highest to lowest level of degree), and make sure to include your graduation dates.
Next, list any professional certifications. CPA, CFA, CMA, PMA, CISA, Series 6, series 7, etc.
List these in bullet points and next to each one list your proficiency. You can either rank yourself on a 1-10 scale or describe your level of proficiency as expert, intermediate, or beginner.
HOBBIES & PERSONAL INTERESTS (OPTIONAL)
This is a great opportunity to give the reader a peek into who you are outside of work. Sports, musical instrument, hobbies, arts, travel, etc.
In closing, don’t overthink it. Just follow the guidelines of this article and express confidence in your professional abilities, and the result will be more interviews and more job offers.
ABOUT THE CSP GROUP
The CSP Group is a boutique recruitment firm focused solely on finance and accounting professionals. Our focus has allowed us to successfully develop a network with the express purpose of matching leading companies with top talent.
Our firm places transparency and honesty at the forefront of our process, taking every opportunity to do what is right, build trust and further enhance the customer service experience. We are fast. We are accurate. We are a value-added partner with the nuanced and dynamic market knowledge to keep your business competitive and growing.
The CSP Group conducts contingency and retained searches around the country, with operations in St. Louis, San Diego and Denver.
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