Hooray! All the years of studies are coming to an end. You’re going to prove yourself in a real job doing what you love. Soon you’ll be promoted, you’ll learn new skills on the job, and you’ll form new networks. All of it feels so fresh, exciting and slightly daunting.
For those of you who have entered the job market, things may not be looking as promising as you initially anticipated. The latest study conducted by the ABS indicates an alarming ratio of 22 to 1 of graduates to job openings, i.e. for every graduate position available, there will be 22 graduate applicants! The stats could be worse for the competitive finance and accounting jobs. So how do you make sure your resume stands out from the rest of the competition?
If you have relevant work experience:
As a recent graduate, most employers wouldn’t expect you to come with years of relevant work experience. However, if you do have relevant work experience, it is definitely an advantage so make sure you highlight them appropriately in your resume. How do you do this? Think about the formula below:
Intent + Action + Behaviour = Results
In other words, what you did (Action), how you did it (Behaviour), and why you did it (Intent), drove the results that you got. Use this framework to step through your key achievements from your work experience. You may want to use this framework to describe achievements in your academic field as well. It could also be an extremely effective framework to help build your interview answers.
For the finance or accounting profession, what we do may not directly impact on the bottom line – when has running financial reports ever led to increased revenue? In this instance, try to think of other measurable metrics such as time saved (through automation) or reporting errors eliminated.
If you don’t have relevant work experience:
It is ok if you have limited relevant work experience. As mentioned earlier, graduate employers are not looking for someone with years of experience; what they are looking for, and assessing, is your ability to learn and grow, i.e. your aptitude. Be creative and think of other examples that demonstrate your aptitude for learning and achieving. Perhaps you did a lot of extracurricular activities, including:
- volunteer work
- academic life, e.g. mentoring or tutoring
- summer holiday job
- travel experience
- sporting achievements
- competition achievements
Whatever the extracurricular activities you wish to include in your resume, the key is to demonstrate the skills you acquired through these activities. Top skills to highlight in your finance, or accounting, graduate resume and cover letter include:
- Learning agility
- Being proactive
- Integrity (essential for a finance and accounting professional)
- Critical thinking
- Organisation and time management
MUST accompany resume with a cover letter!
As a recent graduate, your resume is likely to be quite short. There is nothing wrong with a short resume, but what yours may lack is the substance to demonstrate your qualities that are difficult to reflect in a resume that is strictly structured to showcase one’s work history. You need to bulk yours up with a well-written cover letter. The cover letter is a way to make a connection with the employer: it provides an overview of who you are, it gives a prelude to the key skills that make you suitable for the job, and it could show a little of your personality. See our articles on ‘Why do you need a cover letter’ and ‘How to write a winning cover letter’ to get more tips on writing a great cover letter.
Let your personality shine through
It’s ok to inject a little personality into your resume and cover letter, particularly in the cover letter (if you wish to keep your resume strictly professional). The key is to keep it all in balance and make it relevant! We once suggested for a client to include a couple of food photos from her travels in her introductory letter for a role in a food organisation (note, relevance!). This unique approach helped her to stand out, and she was shortlisted for the next round. From our experience, finance and accounting employers like to see graduate candidates with personality, someone that breaks the traditional mold of a nerdy accountant who may lack interpersonal skills.
It is helpful to remember that when it comes to graduate recruitment, employers are looking for someone with potential as opposed to someone that can hit the ground running. With that in mind, allow your creativity to come up with ways to showcase your potential for fitting in with the team/company, and succeeding in a finance career.