4 Tips to Keep Your Résumé Out of the Reject Pile

by Monette Anderson | Oct 24, 2016

It’s recruiting season! Firms are receiving thousands of résumés, a hundred of which might have come from your school career fair alone. No pressure, right? Are you wondering how you can make your résumé stand out in a sea of applicants? Career Builder did too, so they asked over 2,000 hiring and human resource managers from different industries and company sizes to name weak résumé phrases. The results? These clichés are the fastest way to send your résumé into the reject pile:

  • Team player
  • Hard worker
  • Results-driven
  • Strong leader

Recruiters want you to show them what you accomplished at your past positions, as it’s their best indication of your future performance with their firm. You’ll get much further if you can demonstrate how you’ve implemented these skills, rather than just claiming to have them. The best replacement terms for the above included:

  • Team Player = Influenced, negotiated, resolved, or volunteered
  • Hard Worker = Achieved, launched, or improved
  • Results-Driven = Won, created, increased, or decreased
  • Strong Leader = Managed, trained, or mentored

To showcase the power of language, I pulled the following bullet point from an accounting resume:

  • Helped with a paperless filing system for my firm.

Not that exciting right? But watch how with a little bit of effort this point can be reworked to showcase four different soft skills.

To Show Teamwork

  • Worked on a task force of 5 employees charged with implementing a paperless file system for our firm, including scanning files and proper storage/shredding of paper files.

This works especially well for projects you worked on that you wouldn't take full credit for. Showing the actual number of team members you worked with is useful because numbers and stats (even if they are ballpark estimates) help add substance to your resume. Look for opportunities to use keywords like aided, supported, contributed, and collaborated.

To Show Hard Work & Initiative

  • In the first month, noticing a need for more streamlined file sharing and off-site file access, I implemented a paperless filing system. This process included researching options, digitizing old client files using a third-party company, creating an intake system to securely scan and dispose of incoming documents, and introducing a secure digital signature product.

Add something you accomplished in the first 30-60-90 days in a past job or volunteer role. Noting that you improved a process early in a role shows recruiters that you can hit the ground running and make immediate contributions to the firm or company.

To Show That You are Results Driven

  • I created a paperless filing system for my 30-person firm. This process included communicating with all staff to find the best system for our firm; securing a contract with a third-party company to digitize old files; effecting a secure digital signature; and collaborating with IT to enable secure, off-site access for staff. The new system decreased office supply costs by 65% and provided a 50% boost in productivity.

Employers make most of their decisions, including hiring decisions, based on anticipated financial outcomes, so showcasing a time that you increased revenue or saved money (in this case by saving on office supplies and increasing productivity) is a slam dunk. Do some research on stats and percentages related to improvements on common accounting processes to help quantify your accomplishments. For this hypothetical example I did some online research and found that most companies save 65% in office supplies and increase productivity by 50% by going paperless. Rough numbers and ranges are acceptable, but be sure you can back up your claims by showing how you got to your estimate.

To Show Leadership

  • Managed a 5-person task force to create a paperless file system for our 30-person firm. This process involved negotiating contracts with third-party companies to digitize client files, and training staff on how to access files remotely and utilize the new, secure digital signature product.

Keep the keywords in mind: negotiated, delegated, managed, and trained are all words that showcase leadership. Alternatively, times when you made a proposal to management or presented an idea or project to a group also serve as great leadership examples.

But What If I Don’t Have Much Experience?

That’s okay! You can include skill and accomplishments in volunteer and civic settings. While you’re still in school, make it a point to take a lead role on a volunteer project or offer to chair a committee or club. You can also utilize your professional membership organization (that’s us!) to find opportunities to support the accounting community. Join a local chapter and help plan events. And of course, take the time to attend networking events since these can lead to valuable leadership experience.

Monette-Anderson-HeadshotMonette Anderson is the WSCPA Academic Relations Coordinator. You can reach her at manderson@wscpa.org.


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