So, you’ve put in your obligatory two to five years at your first (or maybe first two) job(s) and you are ready to move on. Now it’s time to turn your first resume (you know, the one where you listed all your academic achievements [dean’s list, 5 times!], extra-curricular activities [frat party chair, anyone?], and college work experience [that summer working as a camp counselor was AWESOME!]), into something a legitimate employer will not toss into the circular file. So how do you go about this? We’ve listed what we believe are the three top mistakes to avoid, so you can be on your way to landing your dream job.

  1. Lengthy Resumes. You’ve heard of the KISS philosophy. When resume writing, substitute “short” for “simple” and you are already one step ahead of the crowd. If you’ve only been out in the professional workplace for two to five years, your resume should definitely NOT exceed one page. We know you loved your foreign exchange experience in Brazil, but this should not merit an entire paragraph on your resume—one line under “Education” will do. The only exception to this rule is if your job requires specific knowledge of or travel to Brazil. Cut superfluous college jobs at this point, as well as extensive dissertations on any college projects you used to fill your rookie resume.
  2. Listing “Education” First. You may have gone to Harvard, but unless you’ve left the workforce to get your MBA and are just re-entering the workforce, list your education below your experience. List work experience first, followed by your education, followed by any special skills (think specific accounting software or fluency in a second language). It might be a different way of thinking, but employers at this point are primarily looking at your professional experience. Remove your GPA as well, unless you had a 4.0, in which case you may still want to highlight this accomplishment.
  3. Lengthy “Summary of Skills” Starter. You’ll find differing schools of thought on this point. Some resume writers love a comprehensive listing of your strengths (strong analytical thinker, proven team leader, etc.), but as professionals who review resumes for a living, we don’t even look at this section, and will always recommend cutting this before sending to an employer. As we stated above, hiring managers are primarily concerned with your work experience. Of course they want their new Financial Analyst to be a strong analytical thinker, but highlight this strength in the accomplishments you list under your current position (e.g. “decreased costs by 20% through business metrics analysis and recommendations.”) Accomplishments will be sure to be noticed here and will add a conciseness and brevity to your resume hiring managers truly appreciate; you would too after filtering through a 1” stack of resumes!

Avoiding these mistakes are only a part of what makes a successful job search, but following these tips should get you off to a great start. For those of you outside the two to five year window, keep an eye out in the coming weeks for resume tips specific to the more seasoned finance and accounting professional.

Have a resume question? We’d love to hear from you. You may even get a whole post dedicated to you!

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