EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

Since 1997 when I first became Chairman of The FENG, I have probably reviewed well over 200,000 resumes. (Gosh, I’m exhausted just thinking about it.)

I would tell you that the biggest problem I see in resumes is the incredible clutter. Although some of the resumes I get are 3 or 4 pages, most of the time the author has squeezed all they would like to say on 2 pages. The “tricks” they generally use are narrow margins and VERY tiny fonts. (I would swear some of them are less than 8 point type.)

While I am a big fan of writing to your heart’s content to create enough material to edit, your best friend is a sharp pencil. The old saws: “Less is more,” and “You can’t see the forest for the trees,” both apply here.

To get some sense of the task ahead of you, take that resume of yours, block the entire document and change the font to 12 point. It is electronic, so it’s not like you have to retype the darn thing.

Let’s start at the top. Most summaries are not value added. Like your 90-second announcement, you have to get rid of all of the meaningless modifiers like “bottom line oriented,” “team player,” etc. (I really could go on and on about meaningless modifiers, but in the interest of time I will stop. You will have to sign up for my comedy show if you want to hear them all.)

Usually following the summary is a list of tasks you have performed like “Strategic Planning,” “Profit Planning,” “General Ledger,” etc. Here again, most of them can be eliminated on two issues. One, are they “ordinary course of business” for financial officers? Or, are they duplicative? Most of the time they honestly are not value added. If you are thinking they need to be there for word searches, think again. Word searches for candidates are generally not done at our level.

Next let’s take a quick tour of the end of your resume. All that work experience at the end of your resume should only appear with the names of the companies where you have worked, the titles you have held and the periods of time in year ranges. I’m just guessing here, but many of the things that appear under accomplishments early in your career, you have done more recently, but at a more senior level. All the early part of your career needs to show is career progression.

To finish your review of the last page of your resume where your education appears, I would ask you to really consider whether all those honors that appeared on your FIRST resume out of college need to still be there. Look, I know you won the XYZ award on your senior paper, but that was 25 or more years ago. Or, perhaps you graduated with high honors or were elected to some honorary society. Again, it was a long time ago and probably not relevant to whether you can be an effective Chief Financial Officer TODAY.

Hopefully we have now freed up a little room on your resume. The good news and bad news about readers of resumes is that they only give each document about 15 seconds. Yes, I know you put your heart and soul into writing it, but it will get short shrift and NOT be passed on to a hiring authority if you blather on.

As accountants we have been trained to “save” everything. You never know what piece of paper might be important. I would encourage you to keep everything you have written about yourself and your accomplishments. I am just suggesting that you not publish it as part of the resume you are using to apply for jobs.

A 5 page resume with all the goodies may be just the thing for an in person interview or to give you fodder to apply for jobs that are not a major part of your experience. Resumes of different lengths are good for different purposes.

In the marketplace of candidate selection, clutter never wins. Go ahead. Confuse me with ALL the facts and I will never get through it. Make it simple so that EVEN I can understand it, and you just might win the day.

Regards, Matt

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