Prioritizing your job experience
Most resume’s list a long history of work experience. In some cases, 10 plus years. Little known fact: You will be hired for your most recent experience. For most candidates, experience in the last 3-5 years will be the most relevant to the job of interest. If you are applying for a controller position, you were probably an accountant, a staff accountant, a senior staff accountant, an assistant controller and maybe a controller.
Your experience may look like:
- Controller: 2017–2018
- Assistant Controller: 2014-2017
- Senior Staff Accountant: 2010–2014
- Staff Accountant: 2004-2009
All of your experience is related to the field of accounting and the position of the controller. The only relevant experience to the position of the Controller is your experience from your Assistant Controller and the Controller positions. The work we did as a Senior Staff Accountant and a Staff Accountant isn’t as relevant. The responsibilities we had at these two earlier jobs are junior to the Controller position and don’t qualify us for the Controller position.
Emphasize relevant experience
We want to emphasize the experience in these recent positions as opposed to the Staff Accountant. More than likely, our experience as a Staff Accountant and Senior Staff Accountant will not be reviewed in any detail.
There are a number of ways to make it easy for the hiring manager to connect the dots between your relevant experience and the hiring companies job description.
- Bold: If you have especially relevant qualifications in your resume (that specifically matches the job description) bold a few of the keywords within the bullet to make your qualifications pop out. Making use of bolded phrases will attract the reader’s eyes within a sea of content.
- List the most relevant experience at the top of job experience. If you have 5 bullets of accomplishments listed from a prior company, list the most relevant bullet points as the first few bullets within that specific company experience.
- List more accomplishments with the most recent experience and fewer bullets with older experience that isn’t as relevant. In our controller example above, we would list 6-7 bullets from our Controller experience, 4-5 bullets from Assistant controller, and the just 2-3 bullets from our account and staff accountant experience. This emphasizes the most recent experience. It will also show the illusion of career progression, showing you have done more as your career has progressed.
3 and 4-page resume’s
Yes, 3, and 4+ page resumes may appear impressive. Unfortunately, in most cases, recruiters and hiring managers are only going to review the first 2 pages. This is where your most recent and relevant job experience will be listed. In our Controller example above, the first 2 pages of this candidates resume will consist of experience from their Controller and Assistant Controller positions. The third and 4th page will be their Accountant and Sr. Staff Accountant positions. These last two pages may be reviewed, but not in any detail because the job experience on these last two positions just isn’t relevant to the Controller position. The last two pages from the earlier experience dilute your most recent and relevant experience.
Key Takeaway: When you want to match your experience to the job experience, highlight your most recent and relevant experience.
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