Monday, October 12, 2009

Some Practical Tips on How to Improve Your Resume

Okay, let me just clarify something. I’m not an expert in resume writing. In my whole career, I’ve only prepared / revised my resume perhaps a total of 4 times, one was for practice back in college, the next was when I entered the Big 4, the next when I applied for another job and finally the last after I resigned and had my own small-town accounting firm. Didn’t really need to do the last one but figured it will not hurt to have one in handy anyway.

So that’s out of the picture. What am I doing writing this blog anyway? Well, for one, I may not have written (or edited) much in terms of my own resume but I have certainly read some resumes when I was still an audit manager and was asked to interview some applicants after they already went through the HR Department. And although they seemed okay, there were some that caught my attention and when I googled about resumes, I remembered what were those things that got my attention. So I decided to write this blog on some tips on how to improve your resume. Most of these tips are for new graduates. Not planning on writing much, just a quick rundown will do and here it goes:

Job Objective – make this short and brief. Don’t make it into a one-paragraph, half-page thing. I’ve read some resumes that have long objectives and my mind just shut off after reading a line or two. And please make sure that your job objective coincides with the job you are applying for. If you’re applying as an audit staff on a Big 4 firm, your job objective should be connected to auditing like ‘developing your auditing skills’ or ‘gaining professional growth in a top-rated auditing firm’. Not ‘getting my license as a commercial pilot’ (an exaggeration, I know, but gets my point across right?).

Hobbies – This one has me confused really. The resume is supposed to be a reflection of what you are in your professional life. But then again, hobbies are more of personal in nature, not professional. But they are still included. Although sometimes I have to shake my head when I see these hobbies – cooking, cross-stitching, reading novels, listening to radio, searching the Internet, etc. From what was taught to me, the rule is that, while it’s true that you have your hobbies (few people do not have one), if such hobbies will not further your job application, don’t include them. Unless your hobby is reading the business section of the newspaper or an international business magazine (is there such a person?) and you’re applying for a financial analyst job, leave those hobbies out of your resume.

Plain versus fancy paper – Although I have never seen this in my whole time in auditing, I know that there are some people out there advocating the use of fancy paper for resumes, instead of plain white bond paper. I can see why they would suggest such a thing and, personally, I don’t have anything against using that kind of paper. But you have to admit, fancy papers are not really appropriate if you’re applying for an audit or accounting job. If you want to impress (and look very professional), use ivory paper or a white bond paper that is of highest quality.

Short resumes vs. long resumes – The usual advice is: don’t make your resume too long. If you’re just starting out, a 2-page resume may seem appropriate (unless you have a lot of work experience in the past). But then again, do not scrimp on the number of pages if you really have very good credentials to fill up those pages. If you have been working your butt out for the last 4 or 5 years while studying in college, by all means, include your job experience there.

Extra-curricular Activities – such as organizations, groups, clubs, etc., etc. Same with hobbies, make sure your affiliation with an organization will help your case in terms of your job application. Student organizations related to your course / profession are okay. Organizations that show you possess a certain skill or talent needed for the job you are applying for should be included. Other than these, if you are in doubt about including your other organizations, think and re-think about including them. If you still cannot decide then it would be better not to include these organizations. Better be safe than sorry.

Okay, this is a little bit longer (thought I said I’ll run them down ONLY, oh well). But I didn’t want to break this off into two. Hope the tips I gave will come in handy for you. Have any questions or concerns? Feel free to drop me a line.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing that! It was very helpful.

    Our resumes and cover letters for the Big 4 are due in 4 days (eek!). Do you have any advice for cover letters?

  2. The general advice on cover letters is to keep them short and to the point, unless you're an awesome writer with a very good message to deliver, in which case it's your chance to show that off. You should know which category you belong to. ;)

    I disagree with two of the general points in this article
    - objectives are unnecessary if you already have a cover letter!
    - other interests/activities are a good one-liner to include to make you sound more interesting than audit student #209234.

  3. Anonymous, thanks. I'll try to come up with one within the next day or two.

    Krupo, actually I did not cover the 'cover letter' in this blog so when I wrote the objective part, the cover letter was not in my mind. But if you already have the cover letter, then I agree the objectives will be unnecessary.

    On the interests/activities, I agree that they should be included but the caveat here is that they should be included if they will help you along with your job application. Like if you are applying for a marketing job, you can include there interests that will show that you are an outgoing, creative person (which may not necessarily be connected with your studies and your course). But if it is of no use, do not include it as it will just clutter your resume. I've seen some resumes where the interests are so unrelated and will not actually help the case of the applicant but were put there because the applicant thinks they are 'required' or because the applicant thinks they make him / her look 'cool'. Such a thinking may result to the inclusion of the interest backfiring on the applicant, which is why I cautioned against putting such interests / activities in.

    Thank you very much for your comments Krupo. Hope you come back and read my future blogs and comment on them. Appreciate your comments. Regards.

  4. I suppose we can agree that the interests better be "interesting" or they should best be left out. :)

  5. re: interests/hobbies being included.

    I'll argue it should depend on who you are applying for.

    Big 4 - you're correct, only if you can relate it to the profession.

    Mid-size - I'll disagree. I think mid-size firms look at personality a bit more than a Big 4 firm does. We want someone who can fit in. Sometimes, an interesting hobby on your resume can lead to a great discussion at your interview, which helps you get the job.

    In fact, it was an activity that I listed on my resume - which the person looking at the resumes took part in as well - that got me my interview.

  6. Krupo, got it there. I'm not against hobbies or interests per se. More like - okay, so, why did you include this kind of attitude.

    Chris, congrats on that interview and thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment. Uhm, I don't really subscribe to the 'only related to the profession' interest. Hope I'm not that boring ;). Interests / hobbies that show a positive side to your personality (whether or not related to the job you are applying for) are fine, excellent in fact. I'm just concerned with some people putting in the interests because they think it should be there, without stopping to think if it really should be there. I have interviewed some staff already and I must admit, if their interests or habits are really interesting (in a positive sort of a way), it is a great conversation piece and usually makes me look favorably at them.

  7. Thanks!!!
    What is the criteria of being selected in Big 4?
    Are there any particular traits they look for?

  8. Your resume tips are useful as well as required by all working professionals, regardless of the fact whether you are an experienced worker or a fresher.

  9. You point out some great and important factors that we need to consider on how to improve resume. But I would suggest to delete the hobbies section, as it is not that relevant anymore. Getting the edge over the other job hunters by creating a good resume. Improving them by editing and proofreading the necessarily things that the employer might ask you about. As I always say: If your resume isn't a Winner, then it is no good at all. We have a different stand on whether to have a long resume or short resume. Personally, I preferred the former. Long resume would give the employee the initial judgement that you really work on your credentials and experiences. So never lose sight of the objective of the resume. By the way, I really love the way you break down the vital guidelines. Job hunters must take note of those ideas, It would help them a lot.

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