In Finance, Aim for Resume Perfection
Not all resumes receive the same level of scrutiny once they are in the hands of a prospective employer. Senior level applicants in all fields get a close look and a resume must contain succinct descriptions of your achievements. If the position entails responsibility for regulatory reporting and compliance, the magnifying glass comes out. For that same position at a publicly traded company, your future colleagues are likely to drag out the electron microscope before making anything resembling an offer.
Jobs in finance, especially at senior levels, are particular objects of the microscopic approach. Companies expect financial professionals, and not just CFOs and Vice Presidents, to demonstrate accuracy, attention to detail and highly developed analytical skills. They want candidates who shoulder responsibility and act ethically in pursuit of the organization’s goals.
What does a senior finance professional’s resume look like? It follows that the resume of someone targeting a position in finance should reflect the qualities that define the field itself. Granted, every resume should be free of grammatical mistakes and typographical errors, but finance calls for extra care. The resume of any financial professional, whether CFO, controller or treasurer, should be flawless.
The absence of errors is just the beginning. At senior levels, companies expect candidates to define their goals, accomplishments and potential value with clarity and thoroughness. After all, these are management positions. They call for leadership skills and the ability to communicate persuasively inside and outside the organization. There is no point in crafting a resume that does not express the candidate’s vision of the contributions he expects to make. A resume is there to persuade. It has to make a sale whether it is an achievements resume or a functional resume or a hybrid resume.
What might pass as puffery in most commercial settings has no place here. In finance, honesty is a bedrock value. Candidates should avoid any hint of exaggeration, padding or inaccuracy. Misstatements do have repercussions. Take the 2002 case of the then CFO of Veritas Software, who had exaggerated his educational credentials. Although there was no evidence that his misstatement hurt the company, he resigned. On that day, Veritas shares lost 14.4 percent of their value.
Building a resume that meets all of those requirements is not the work of a spare hour or two. The job involves a great deal of art and a fair amount of science, neither of which is at the immediate command of professionals who do not regularly draft resumes.
The art of the resume covers issues of presentation, format, grammar, spelling and content. A resume can make the same career look like the history of a competent, effective and dynamic professional or it can present it as an ordinary story that leaves the reader cold.
The science of the resume has grown in importance as employers have turned to keyword analysis in order to screen candidates. Finance, with its wealth of acronyms like GAAP and SAP, is especially vulnerable to this approach.
At the very least, no resume should be submitted before it has been exposed to a few pairs of eyes for review. When in doubt, a touch of professional help can make a resume live up to its potential and tell a compelling story.