There's a huge demand out there for people with a good head for numbers, particularly when it comes to accounting and financial analysis. In addition to traditional roles with accounting firms and the finance department, team members with strong accounting skills and financial analysis skills are eagerly welcomed into many other departments. On paper, I started my career as a financial analyst: in reality, it was almost twenty years before I actually worked for the finance department. The VP of marketing kidnapped me on my first day, which led to roles in marketing, credit management, process improvement, sourcing, and information technology before they finally brought me back to accounting. There never seemed to be enough numbers people available in those other areas.
The tough part about standing out for an accounting job is... everyone looks the same. Many outsiders don't understand the difference between a good accountant and a questionable "accountant" who is fudging their resume a bit. Everyone presents the same bullet list of accounting skills and computer systems (SAP, ORACLE, SQL, EXCEL, Access) and the hiring manager is left confused. Making life even harder - some of the best finance people I've ever met don't have accounting or business degrees, which puts them at a disadvantage in the hiring process. Despite the fact they have excellent financial analysis skills and are great at problem solving and communication.
The good news is it isn't very hard to make your accounting resume skills stand out. Instead of presenting a bullet list of buzzwords, craft a couple of well thought out narratives about how you will make the organization better. Most of your competition won't invest the effort in putting this level of polish (especially for junior roles) and this kind of positioning will make your resume stand out.
Establishing Credibility for Accounting and Finance Skills
Ever hear the saying: "It's not what you said that is important, it is how the audience feels about what you said that matters?"
It's super relevant here. Remember, at least part of your hiring committee won't understand anything about the details of finance and accounting. I have a great boss but he pretty much wants me to boil it down to: "yes, this is a good deal" or "no, ask for this". He doesn't care about the nuances of activity based costing (except when his numbers drop) or financial modeling skills. He does understand, quite clearly:
- When we run out of money
- When we miss sales plan because a promotion didn't work
- When the CFO complains our records are incorrect
- When we don't get the reporting published on time
- When the Excel spreadsheet is obviously wrong
- When we can't get information from the new IT system
- When his sales and operations team can't understand the pricing
- When we can tell his boss we made more money
So we need to translate all of our experience, all those technical accounting skills, into terms your typical hiring manager understands. Even if they are an accountant. Especially if they are an accountant. The good news about working for a finance manager is they will have a good grasp of accounting skills and financial analyst skills. However, they will also be managing up to their boss - who at a some point will be a non-financial manager. So having team members who can translate their work outside of finance is extremely useful.
Here are some great ways to show your value as an accountant or financial analyst. Go ahead and keep the bullet list on the resume. But work a few of these ideas into your job accomplishments. Better yet, consider replacing the bullet list of accounting skills with a shorter list focusing on these specific areas of expertise.
1. Show Cost Savings
You could talk about the cost savings you have created for your previous companies. You do not have to talk about the accounting gymnastics you did to make it happen. It is better if you show that you know how to save money and keep the ledger as clean as possible. People reading the resume will be impressed, and you never have to explain your accounting resume skills with technical jargon. This could include what you did with SAP, bookkeeping, financial analysis, and reporting.
2. Show Trust
You must show that you were trusted with projects during your time with the company. Most people who read the resumes know you have the skills needed to be an accountant, but they want to know that your employers believed in your integrity, analysis skills, and compliance to their standards. A CPA should be the most trusted person in an office, and you could show that you were trusted based on your attention to detail and other things.
3. Show Awards And Commendations
Your awards and commendations speak to your honesty, management accounting skills, analystical skills, and your financial modeling skills. You must list these as a separate line on your resume so they are easy to read, and they send a clear message to anyone who is reading the document. If they do not believe in your accounting skills after reading these awards, they do not know you very well.
4. Show Complex Projects You Worked On
Complex projects will impress a CPA who interviews you because they know the many hurdles you had to get through just to complete the project. You can outline the basic idea of the project so that you are not going into too much detail, and you will find that you could explain your bookkeeping and analytical skills. The types of jobs you have done show the interviewer that you have a broad range of experience, and that is much better for you than just writing down what you claim to know.
5. Show Clients You Worked With
You have to calculate breakeven for your clients, and they must get the best possible service from you. You can explain on your resume who you have worked with, and you must use names that will mean something to a hiring manager in America today. Accounting resume skills often have to do with the things that you have tried, and that shows the interviewer that you are willing to take risks and work on something that might be a little bit outside your comfort zone.
6. Show The Courses You Taught
You might have taught courses through your employer or at the community center in your area. If you can show your new employer that you know how to show someone else how to handle compliance or calculate breakeven. You look much more worthy of a management position, and you will be happy to show the employer that you could teach them something in the interview. You might be brought in to direct education, and you will find that you could teach everything from internal auditing to financial modeling skills when you get there.
7. Talk About Systems You Created
The 10 key things that you point out on your resume must include systems that you created for accounting. Accounting systems help companies save money, and these systems put people all on the same page. You just need to remember that you can share anything you had a hand in. You can talk about how you came up with an idea for how the system would be used in the office or how it would be deployed. You are using the resume as a way to explain that you know how much attention to detail matters.
8. Talk About Streamlining You Did
You could begin streamlining in Excel the second you get to a new job, or you could explain how you used analytical skills to make the business better. Your business improves a lot when it has been streamlined as much as possible, and new employers will like the fact that you are willing to streamline systems so that you can save money. You are explaining to them how you did this in a smaller setting, and it shows that you have the power of analysis in all settings.
9. Talk About Promotions You Got
The promotions that you got were likely as a direct result of skills that you exhibited on the job. You should show what jobs you went to and why. You can explain how the company wanted you to take on a new roll, and the title of the job might well explain why you got the promotion in the first place. There is no reason for you to give a big explanation of what you had going on when you could use a few words to tell the same story.
10. Show The Areas Of Interest You Have
Your honesty, business intelligence, and financial reporting skills are only a small part of your resume. You should explain to a hiring manager the things that you want to do, and they might have a place for that allows you to explore the things that you love most. You must ask the people that you are interviewing if they can accommodate the things that you love, and you could show them on the resume.
If you want to work in Finance and Accounting, you're going to need to have the table stakes. Skills such as Management accounting, SAP, Excel, internal auditing, and other skills should be on your resume. But be sure to focus your resume on the value you added by having those skills rather then sharing a laundry list of every seminar you attended, book you read, or software package you tried. Stories outsell bullet lists.
Bring it up a level. You are showing someone that they have chosen a person who is diligent and knows the field. You are showing your potential employers that you have developed all the skills of financial analysis, financial reporting, and business intelligence. You are weaving a story for the interviewer to read, and it is all contained in your resume. You must remember that you will have the best result in every interview. You must plan your resume accordingly so that it tells stories instead of throwing out accounting skills and financial analysis expertise you might or might not have.
Done properly, this will vastly improve your chances of landing a job that uses your accounting skills and financial analysis skills. It can also open up additional opportunities for you as people outside of accounting see the impact your finance skills can have on their success.
Want more examples of how to set yourself apart on your resume? Check out our guides on career strategy: