Resume Knockouts: How to Make Sure Your Resume is a Winner
When it comes to resume writing, everyone has an opinion. But, here you are, faced with the daunting task of writing your finance resume. Think of your resume as your ticket to interviews-to introduce your qualifications and open doors. In today's highly competitive job market, employers and search firms are not settling for the average candidate. Therefore, your resume should present you as the most qualified candidate. If you're not sure where to start, the following points from employers and recruiters will provide the guidance you need to make sure your resume makes the cut.
Generic objectives and introductions are meaningless. Employers and recruiters will spend no more than 15-30 seconds to take a glance at your resume. Therefore, if your resume begins with a general objective such as "Seeking a position where I may use my financial, analytical and communication skills...," you have lost your opportunity to make an impact.
Instead, skip the vague objectives and write a targeted Career Profile that focuses on your signature skills, areas of expertise, certifications and specific achievements you have acquired in your finance career that are relevant to your next career move. Forget the tired phrases such as "hard worker," "team player" or "excellent communication skills.
A "one-size fits all" resume won't work. If you are searching for different types of positions that require different skill sets, even though they may be within the broad finance field, develop two versions of your resume. Craft targeted employer-focused resumes that show that you are a match for the specific positions. Begin each resume with a focused profile or summary introduction that quickly summarizes your finance, treasury or related background. Then present the experience and quantifiable accomplishments that illustrate your expertise and support your target position(s) in your employment history. Remember to include your industry certifications and licenses such as CTP, CCM, CPA, CFA and NASD Series. Below illustrates an introductory paragraph for an individual seeking a treasury position:
DOMESTIC & GLOBAL TREASURY OPERATIONS
Corporate treasury management professional with expertise in all areas of treasury operations in multinational corporations. Hands-on finance manager with key strengths in strategic and financial planning, tactical execution and leadership of technology initiatives that enhance operations, customer service and bottom-line performance. Demonstrated record of developing and executing financial and operational controls that improve P&L, and competitively position firm.
You may follow your profile section with an area of expertise related to your profession, which may include: Cash Management ~ Investments ~ Debt Management ~ Foreign Exchange ~ Financing ~ Auditing and Compliance ~ Operating & Working Capital ~ Budget Development & Management ~ Merger & Acquisitions Negotiations ~ Cash Flow Modeling & Management ~ P&L Management Financial Analysis & Reporting ~ Taxes ~ Payroll, and other finance functions.
Bland, outdated formats will fall flat. Visual appearance is important. Create your Microsoft Word resume so that it is reader-friendly and professional-stick with basic fonts such as Times, Tahoma, Arial, Palatino, Garamond or Book Antiqua in a legible point size (10 or 11 typically for the content and headings, and 14 or 16 point for your name). Avoid the undergraduate style with employment dates prominently on the left side of your page, taking up excessive space. Use clear headings and bullets to accentuate each accomplishment rather than a long row of bullets that extends from top to bottom of each page for all content-or nothing will stand out. Stay away from flamboyant designs, the telltale Microsoft Word or other resume templates commonly used by job seekers, colors (black only) or fancy graphics-which are inappropriate for finance resumes. Use bold lines sparingly. Avoid the hard-to-decipher italic typeface.
Too little or too much information isn't effective. Resume length will vary based on your experience and level. Lengthy, rambling resumes won't be read. Resumes presenting two or three lines of per position are no likely to communicate enough key information. The general rule of thumb is to include 10-15 years of relevant experience and minimize your early, entry level positions in finance to a few lines at most-eliminate altogether if those positions are not finance-related.
If you are a seasoned professional or executive with 15+ years of experience, you are likely to need two pages-even three is acceptable in the finance field-but only if you have relevant accomplishments from your earlier career that is related to your new goal. As a recent graduate or professional with one or two positions, a one-page resume will suffice.
Typos, poor grammar and spelling errors may be cause for instant rejection. Keep in mind that the grammar and spell check feature on your word processing program isn't foolproof. So, proofread, proofread and proofread again-or have someone else review it for you. Errors make a statement about your attention to detail and could cost you the interview.
Duty-oriented resumes won't impress. Resumes that read like a job descriptions are viewed by recruiters and employers as "obituaries." To attract and keep their attention show them what you can do. Concentrate on your success stories-the goals you have achieved and contributions you have made to employers-and quantify wherever applicable. Use the Challenge-Context-Action-Results formula to help you identify and highlight your relevant successes on your resume.
Include noteworthy awards. Choose the right format for your background and goal. A chronological format will work best for those who have had a progressive employment history with increasingly responsible positions and are aiming for a similar position or the next step in their career path. The modified chronological or hybrid style resume will be more appropriate for those who experience has been varied or have held diverse positions in different industries. In addition, such a format will be particular helpful if you want to emphasize accomplishments from positions prior to your present. To create a hybrid style format, include a profile or introduction section at the beginning of your resume that focuses on the relevant skills and expertise for your target position, followed by a section highlighting the best of your prior, more relevant accomplishments along with the name of the employer. Then, your employment section can be developed in chronology-without repeating the selected achievements highlighted.
Partial or missing contact information may prevent you from being contacted. Your full contact information should be listed on both your resume (all pages) and cover letter in the same point size as the rest of your documents. Faxed documents are typically reduced. If you use a small point size, it may not be legible when faxed. Make sure to include your personal-not office-email address. It could risk your position, and employers will view it as misuse of company property.
Misleading information can be dangerous. Employers may verify educational credentials and will conduct background and reference checks-particularly for finance positions. Choose your words carefully to avoid possible confusion. For example, if you had an active role on the negotiations team, say so. However, if your role was as an observer, don't indicate that you negotiated or participated in the M&A negotiations process. Regarding education, if you are 3 credits shy of a degree or your certification is underway, don't indicate completion. Instead list it as follows: MBA in progress, anticipated graduation in May 2005. If your finance-related certifications/licenses and memberships have expired, don't list them.
Inaccurate or no dates will be a red flag. Missing dates or employment gaps that stretch for a few years could send your resume to the circular file. If you have employment gaps, use starting and ending years only. Don't draw attention to the gaps by listing months. You can use the cover letter to explain any gaps in your employment history. To close the gap on your resume, you can also list on your resume the years related to getting another degree, a sabbatical or volunteer work if you were raising a family. Don't include personal information. Personal information or photos do not belong on finance resumes for U.S. employers. Do not include your age, marital status, race, hobbies, political affiliation or anything else that could be controversial on your resume. However, if you are creating a CV for application to a non-U.S. employer overseas, then including personal data will be expected by some countries.
No relevant experience is a liability. Employers and recruiters today are flooded with resumes of candidates who lack the required qualifications for the positions. Today's competitive employment market can bring hundreds of applicants per opening. Since finance positions often require specific certifications and experience, you have to be a close fit to warrant a call for an interview-especially with companies that use applicant tracking systems and keyword search resumes to identify those that match their needs. A popular notion is to send your resume because you have "nothing to lose" or that they may have another opening for which you may be appropriate. However, if you don't meet the requirements, it's usually better to look elsewhere.