Michael Sterling

The 12 Rules for Resumes


Resumes seem to fall into two categories: a rival to War & Peace or something which could be etched onto a thimble with little to any detail. The trick is to balance information and length. You want your resume to be easily scanned by the eye, as well as to sell your skills and experience. Use these 12 rules for resumes.


12 Rules for Resumes


  1. Ditch the Career Objective. That’s a given or you wouldn’t be applying for the position. Free up that resume space! It’s valuable real estate.


  1. Provide Titles and Dates. Clearly indicate your current and past employers, job titles, and a concise explanation of your duties and accomplishments. Job titles are often misleading or their function may vary from one firm to another. Your resume should tell the reader exactly what you’ve done and when – be sure to include the dates for each position.


  1. Define and Detail. Let the reader know the nature, size and location of your past employers. Specify some of the more technical or involved aspects of your past work or training, especially if you’ve performed tasks of any complexity or significance.


  1. Content & Context. Confine your information to that which is job-related. Concentrate only on subject matter that addresses the needs of the employer. For early career candidates, without much work experience, it’s fine to highlight skills which parallel those needed for success in your target job from school, sports, music, volunteer work, etc.


  1. Provide Proportion. Give appropriate attention to jobs or educational credentials based upon importance to the reader.


  1. Showcase Soft Skills. Create a section devoted to highlighting your soft skills such a leadership, communication, work ethic. These are as important as your technical skills.


  1. Educational accomplishments. List your degree(s), relevant course work and specialized training. Mention special honors, scholarships or awards you may have received. Include anything that will distinguish you as a leader or achiever. But, keep it brief.


  1. Certifications, Honors and Awards. Professional designators carry weight. List them.


  1. Style & Length. Font Matters. Select an easy to read font such as Arial or Times New Roman. Trying what you believe to be unique or cool fonts to grab attention will just distract the reader. The one page rule still applies. Two max! If you write more than two pages, it tells the reader that you can’t organize your thoughts, or you’re trying too hard to make a good impression. If your content is strong, you won’t need more than two pages.


  1. Check Spelling, Grammar, Punctuation & Voice. Too Err is Human, but not acceptable on a resume. Don’t rely totally on spellcheck, it doesn’t correct for using there instead of their or your instead of you’re. Create an error-free document that’s representative of an educated person. Use an active voice rather than passive. For example, say “I managed a team of 20 associates” rather than “A team of 20 associates were under my management.” Remember: if whatever is at the start of your sentence is not the one doing the action, but the one that the action is being done to, that’s a passive voice.


  1. Be Compatible. Save your resume as a PDF. That way, the formatting won’t be altered when your resume is opened on a different computer.


  1. Think Digital.  Most all resumes are read on a computer or mobile device. Insure your resume reads well on a all screen sizes. Also, provide a link to your LinkedIn Page. Don’t have one? Take 30 minutes and create one. Let your LinkedIn site expand on your experience and skills, allowing you to keep your resume to one page.


Want more resume and job search tips? Check out the Career Wellness library on the SterlingFreeman website. We provide career coaching and recruitment exclusively for Public Accountants.


Need help finding a CPA firm that’s right for you? I can help. Contact me. And connect with me on LinkedIn.


Find Public Accounting Jobs



© 2022 Sterling Freeman   |  Privacy Policy