How to write a compelling resume for accounting & finance roles?

Creating the perfect resume for accounting and finance roles is all about going above and beyond qualifications and credentials. Learn how to sell yourself to employers the right way with our in-depth resume guide.

Accounting and finance are highly competitive areas where applicants require all sorts of skills and qualifications even to get their foot in the door. Fortunately, if you're entering a profession in this sector, you already have one of the essential skills required to produce a great resume, that being attention to detail.

You've also got a head start on many other resume writers because you're comfortable with numbers. In many cases, numbers stand out even more than words on resumes, not least because they're easy to scan and understand. If you've spent twenty years with one of the world's top financial firms, the competition will be eager to snap you up. If your new accounting processes increased profitability at a company by a certain percentage, people would be keen for you to do the same for them.

When it comes down to it, you have the advantage that most roles across the finance sector require specific qualifications. If you haven't got them, you probably wouldn't be applying in the first place. Therefore, the facts themselves don't necessarily matter as much as they would in other specializations. You already know whether you meet the specific criteria for a job, and it's all about demonstrating what else you can bring to the role and presenting your skills as compellingly as possible.

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1. Use a reverse-chronological resume format

Once most people enter the finance and accounting industries, they have a career for life. You'll undoubtedly have got better at what you do over time and perhaps even picked up even more qualifications along the way. It's vital to remember that you're not selling the version of you that was fresh out of college or lacked the experience you can call upon today.

Instead, you want to present yourself and everything you've achieved based on the employee they'd hire today.

A reverse-chronological resume format ensures that the most relevant and often the most impressive skills you have to call upon sitting proudly atop your resume. Hiring managers will look at your application and feel that if you know something or have achieved something, there's every chance you've got the fundamentals covered. That means you don't need to waste too much space on tertiary qualifications. Instead, you can focus firmly on what makes you stand out and proves you're the perfect candidate for the role.

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2. Make your education and certificates stand out

Speaking of making your qualifications stand out, that's the next most important tip for anyone in accounting and finance roles. In this industry, it's easy to assume you've got the basics covered. If you need a particular certificate to operate legally or to work with financial products, everyone will believe that you've got them or you wouldn't be applying in the first place.

They'll qualify you for the job, but they won't necessarily land it on your behalf. Think about what sets you apart from everyone else, and that could catch the eye of a potential employer. Then, make sure there's no chance at all they could miss it on your resume because you've made it the highest priority.

This might include:

  • The most recent certifications that other applicants may not yet have had the time to acquire
  • Widely recognized certifications from top institutions
  • Specialist qualifications that are particularly relevant to the job in question

Think about which of your qualifications will matter the most in a competitive sense, and draw as much attention to them as possible.

Accounting education section example

BASc, Colorado State University, USA
Bachelor of Applied Science

3. Don't underestimate the importance of both hard and soft skills

It's easy to break down your experience and suitability for the job into qualifications and certificates. Still, it's just as easy to overlook the fact that the hiring manager will often have to work with you. Furthermore, they might rely on you to interact with clients, represent the company, and otherwise showcase skills that extend beyond competency in finance and accounting.

The best hard skills for accounting and finance to put on your CV

  • Financial regulations for markets in which you operate
  • Reporting skills, both internally and externally
  • Software skills – try to showcase knowledge of industry-standard software and any specific tools used in the organization you apply to
  • Cost analysis

In accounting and finance, in particular, you're expected to have certain hard skills. It's fair to assume you'd be unable to do the work you list in your previous experience without them. The tiebreaker often comes down to soft skills. 

Handy soft skills in accounting and finance professions

  • Leadership and teamwork skills
  • The ability to work closely with external stakeholders, such as clients, regulators, and other institutions
  • Time management skills
  • Professionalism
  • Trustworthiness

4. Craft the perfect accounting and finance work experience resume section

If you work in accounting and finance and want to take the next step in your career, your resume must be practical and eye-catching. The sectors are quite different from others in that there's a certain baseline that employers expect for every role. Your main job is setting yourself apart, so while you want to confirm that you do indeed meet the baseline, you also want to show employers why you stand out from the crowd.

It's not always easy to do this with the typically analytical mind of a finance professional, but don't be afraid to sell yourself to employers as something special, especially when you have the track record and qualifications to prove it!

Accounting work experience section example

RBC, Toronto, Canada
Financial Analyst Intern

  • Conducted competitive research on production costs, market segment share and strategy of LOM product line.
  • Built Excel models providing structure to pricing decisions with a goal to increase revenues by $10-20M/year.
  • Influenced and gained support for implementation from key operations partners in marketing, sales, and finance.
  • Developed specific process steps for pricing decisions; now implemented by finance, marketing and sales collectively.