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Tips for Modernizing Your Resume
By Paul McDonald, Executive Director, Robert Half Management Resources

May/June 2008If you're starting a job search, either as someone who is new to the accounting profession or as an experienced practitioner looking for a new position, it can't hurt to familiarize yourself with the latest resume trends.

Not that resumes have changed that much. The main principles remain the same: Be honest, succinct and avoid errors. But newer developments in the world of resumes may be worthy of your consideration.

For example, senior executives recently surveyed by our company expressed a greater receptiveness to two-page resumes for staff positions. While most (52 percent) still preferred a one-page resume, a full 44 percent gave the nod to two-page documents. This is a substantial change from the same poll conducted a decade ago. At that time, 73 percent of employers favored a single page.

Executives' growing acceptance of longer resumes suggests that, although conciseness remains paramount, hiring managers also want to receive enough information to make good assessments of candidates' qualifications.

The best rule of thumb is to allow the breadth and depth of your experience to dictate resume length. If you're applying for your third controller position, you would obviously need a more detailed resume than someone applying for their first full-time job as a staff accountant.

On the other hand, don't make your resume longer than necessary to appear more experienced. Hiring managers and recruiters can easily spot "filler." Before candidates put anything on their resume, one recruiter suggests asking, "Does this add value to my candidacy?" If it doesn't, eliminate the information or recast it in more meaningful terms.

The recruiter also notes that the strategic use of white space can make your document stand out to the weary eyes of resume reviewers. Beyond giving careful consideration to the length and general appearance of your resume, these additional trends are worth noting:

Key-in on key words. Since many resumes are first scanned by computer programs, you can help yours make the cut by incorporating key words from the job description, assuming these terms accurately describe your skills and experiences. For example, if the job posting seeks a candidate with "advanced Excel skills," use these exact words in your resume.

Consider an executive summary. More job seekers are replacing the "objective" statement with an executive summary. Objectives are designed to show that you're seeking the type of position an employer has available, but they can be limiting and often sound contrived. A well-crafted executive summary that outlines your most impressive qualifications at the top of the page can better convey why you're an attractive candidate, increasing your odds of landing an interview.

Be cognizant of all resume formats. HTML, or Web-ready, resumes have been used for a number of years and usually include links to work samples or more detailed information about a candidate's experience. An advantage of having your resume in this format is that employers can access your resume 24/7. Another resume format to consider is the video resume, which features applicants discussing their qualifications on camera, and a link is e-mailed to a potential employer or included on a resume. While the tried-and-true printed or electronic resumes remain a job seeker's primary promotional tool, some candidates, especially those in fields requiring outstanding creative abilities, are trying to distinguish themselves with video resumes. However, some employers are reluctant to accept video resumes because of concerns about the potential for discrimination claims. In general, it's wise to consult with a recruiter or other trusted career adviser before submitting a video resume for an employer's consideration.

Beware of overexposure. With the proliferation of job sites on the Web, you may be tempted to try to maximize your exposure to potential employers by posting your resume on as many sites as possible. This can be a bad idea, especially if you're looking for a new position while you're still employed. One hiring manager at a prestigious accounting firm made the final decision to terminate an underperforming employee after being e-mailed his resume in a batch of prospective resumes he received from a popular job search site. Besides the potential for your employer learning of your search for a new position, you also don't want to invite excessive spam or other unwanted e-mail contact by posting your resume too freely.

As you prepare or update your resume, keep the focus on providing a compelling picture of your skills and experience, but also factor in these more modern resume considerations, which may be pertinent to your job search.

PAUL McDONALD is the executive director of Robert Half Management Resources, North America's largest consulting services firm providing senior-level accounting and finance professionals on a project basis. Robert Half Management Resources is a division of Robert Half International. For further information, visit Robert Half Management Resources at or call 1-888-400-7474.

2008 SmartPros Ltd. All rights reserved.

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