Dear Sam: I am a 26-year-old recent graduate who is in dire need of job-search help. I received my bachelor’s degree in accounting and have been searching for a new job for a few months.
Every position seems to require two-plus years of experience in the field. My experience is quite limited. I have worked for a grocery chain for 10 years, mainly as an assistant to the manager of front-end operations. I worked as the payroll administrator for two years, but had to leave the position due to my school schedule. Outside of that, I don’t feel I have much to differentiate myself from other candidates. My GPA isn’t great, and I was not able to partake in an internship, mainly because I needed the steady income to pay bills.
On the two interviews I have been on since graduation, the interviewers told me I should focus on getting my foot in the door by accepting a bookkeeping position, one of the most basic positions in the accounting field. As I continue my search, I can’t find a position for which I am qualified.
Please give me any advice that you think would help my situation.
Dear Andrew: I am really sorry to hear of your struggles as a new graduate, and I am so glad you sent me your résumé so I can provide some valuable feedback. I have presented a copy of your résumé so readers can refer to it while I offer opportunities for improvement.
You have great experience and certainly enough of it to get your foot in the door for something more than an entry-level role. With two years of payroll administrative experience, eight years of team leadership exposure, and a four-year degree in the field, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be edging out your more junior competitors. Let’s take a look at what you can do differently to make your résumé more effective.
Nix the objective statement
You must sell your candidacy up front, utilizing the most important real estate on your résumé to tell the reader why you are qualified for the job. Do not try to sell yourself solely on soft skills — analytical nature, detail orientation and organizational abilities — as these are characteristics claimed by 99 percent of your competitors. Instead, open your résumé with a Qualifications Summary that promotes your two years of payroll administration experience, including your analysis and reporting highlights. Pull out key transferable skills from your time as a front-end coordinator such as your budgeting skills, leadership of 25 team members and daily reporting activities. When highlighted up front, these experiences will give you an edge over your competition.
Add value to your experience section
You are not presenting enough content in your Professional Experience section. Provide the reader with a summary of your jobs in a brief paragraph format followed by key highlights presented in bullet points. When presenting 10 years of professional experience, I would expect full sections that convey value by appearance alone. Reformat what you have, expound on the challenges and actions you faced and showcase the results of your efforts.
Format to engage
Take some time to revitalize your dated résumé format. Take a look at sites like mine to glean ideas on up-to-date formatting techniques that compel readership and help overcome the appearance of limited experience and other potential disqualifiers.
Andrew, I am certain when you revamp your résumé into a tool more reflective of a modern résumé, you will be taken seriously as an accounting candidate, and will get your foot in the door for opportunities of choice.
Samantha Nolan is a certified professional résumé writer and owner of Ladybug Design, a full-service résumé-writing firm. Do you have a résumé or job-search question for Dear Sam? Reach Samantha at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more about Sam’s résumé-writing
services, visit ladybug-design.com or call (614) 570-3442 or 1-888-9-LADYBUG (1-888-952-3928).