Beefing Up an Anemic Resume
by Robert Belcher
To get the most mileage out of your resume, you’ll want to emphasize certain aspects of your background. By doing so, you’ll present your qualifications in the most favorable light, and help give the employer a better understanding of your potential value to his or her organization. To build a stronger case for your candidacy, try highlighting the following areas of interest:
Professional Achievements of Particular Interest
For example, if you’re in auditing, the first thing a hiring manager will want to know is your level of responsibility, the nature of your engagements, etc. If you’ve won awards, reached goals or been recognized for your contribution(s), let the employer know.
In the body of your resume, list your degree(s) and/or relevant course work, or specialized training. If you have earned a graduate degree, such as a MBA or have a Master’s in Tax, etc., you may want to place the degree’s acronym, such as MST, to follow your name atop the resume. It’s just another opportunity to quickly designate you from the pack of other candidates. See a related discussion below in the section, “Professional Designations”. Also, if you earned a degree relatively recently, be sure to mention any high grade point averages, special honors, scholarships, or awards you may have received, such as Dean’s List, Cum Laude, Beta Alpha Psi, Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Theta Kappa, Kappa Beta Delta, Beta Gamma Sigma, …
Additional Areas of Competency
For example, these might include computer software fluency, experience working in a particular niche or industry, foreign language fluency, or specialized training.
If you’re licensed or certified in your chosen profession or belong to a trade organization, by all means let the reader know. For example, I’m thinking of acronyms, such as CPA, CMA, CIA, CFA, CISA, etc. These and the corresponding definition(s), such as “Certified Information Systems Auditor”, dates of certification, etc. are placed in a section for Education and Professional Designations, or Education and Certification, or sometimes in a separate section labeled Professional Licenses and Certification. See Resume Templates for some examples. Either way, this information most definitely belongs in your resume. Oh, and if a certification/license is currently inactive, just indicate “inactive”. And when issued by a particular state(s), then indicate the respective state(s).
Be sure to place the official acronyms, such as CPA, to follow your name atop the resume. It’s just another opportunity to quickly designate you from the pack of other candidates. If you have more than three professional acronyms, prioritize the top three for inclusion after your name. After all, a full listing will be in the body of the resume. Finally, while the point size of your name is a bit larger than the point size of text in the body of the resume, I suggest that the acronym(s) following your name be in a slightly smaller point size than the point size of your name. For example, my resume might begin as follows:
Robert Belcher MBA, CPA, CMA
Finally, if you are “seriously” investing time, effort, and/or committed to the process of completing a professional certification, but have not yet earned the credential, don’t miss the opportunity to indicate your initiative and any progress. Employers generally know that if you have successfully completed at least two parts of a certification program, you are statistically highly likely to complete the certification relatively soon. While partial completion is not the same as having already completed, it is definitely noteworthy in the body of your resume. For example, you might present this as follows:
CPA Candidate: In August, 200X, passed two parts: Auditing & Attestation, and Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR).
CMA Candidate: Passed Part 3 in December, 200X. Preparing to complete other parts via Gleim’s CMA Exam Review.
You should definitely include anything in your past that might distinguish you as a leader or achiever. In a competitive market, employers are always on the lookout for traits that distinguish one candidate from another. Not long ago, I worked with a CPA and Audit Manager who mentioned on his resume the fact that he played on a NCAA national championship team. It came as no surprise that several employers warmed up to his resume immediately, and wanted to interview him. His interview included a brief discussion of his NCAA experience and it served as a nice transition to other areas of interest.
If you worked full time to put yourself through school, you should definitely consider that experience as a success indicator, and mention it on your resume. Similarly, these success indicators, when listed on your resume, often serve as a positive point of conversation when you meet the prospective employer face to face. In fact, I believe today that this very point was a contributing factor in me getting three premium paid internships prior to completing my Bachelor’s degree. This tip has worked well for many others as well.
Anything that would be relevant to your prospective employer’s needs. For example, if the job that you seek may require overseas travel or communication, list your knowledge of foreign languages, overseas travel experience, and/or willingness to travel as necessary. If you worked as a co-op student in college, especially in the industry you’re currently in, let the reader know.
If you served in the armed forces, or for some time in ROTC, describe your length of service, branch of service, rank, special training, medals, and discharge and/or reserve status. Employers generally react favorably to military service experience.
NOTE: Depending on the nature and length of your military experience, especially the more recent this experience is in your resume, it may serve you well to pay additional attention in that part of your resume to point out how your military experience, achievements, skills learned, etc. translate to the job(s) you are seeking outside of the military.
Some industries require a clearance when it comes to getting hired or being promoted. For example, if you’re targeting an accounting or finance position within an industry such as aerospace or defense, give your current and/or highest clearable status, and whether you’ve been specially checked by an investigative agency. Security clearances have both real and perceived value; so generally speaking, if you have them, even if recently expired, state them on the resume.
Citizenship or Right to Work
Many employers steer away from the red tape and/or additional expense involved in hiring employees who are in the United States on a visa status. Depending on the particular industry of the job you seek, it may help to include the following reassuring statement on your resume:
Right to Work Status: U.S. Citizen; or Right to Work Status: Permanent Resident
Generally, it is assumed by employers in the United States that candidates for professional employment already have the right to work status of a United States citizen or Permanent Resident. However, over recent years there has definitely been a marked rise in guest worker visas, such as H-1B, within the United States. These guest worker visas come with employment restrictions, particularly as relates to duration of employment, and many employers in the United States are reluctant to consider sponsoring professionals with guest visas.
In case you are currently in the United States on a guest worker visa, and seriously seeking to obtain Right to Work status as a Permanent Resident or United States citizen, I suggest that you clearly state your current employment status and desire for long-term employment in the United States. Remember that employers naturally favor hiring people who could be employed over the intermediate to long-term, therefore allowing time for the employer to recoup it’s investment in your training, etc.
And finally, by all means, if you have dual citizenship, this should be included in your resume, especially if you think you may be working in a foreign country.