Finally, there's good news for job-hunting finance executives: you can stop worrying that your résumé will end up at the bottom of a chin-high stack on someone's desk.
That's because hiring managers now read résumés on their BlackBerrys, deciding within 30 seconds which ones deserve attention. That puts pressure on the top-third of the first page, which has to not only showcase your finest accomplishments but also highlight the skills that have gotten you there, differentiating you from the pack.
So forget about dusting off an old version — odds are good you will need to create a new résumé. That may mean letting go of some cherished conventions. For example, the traditional statement of an objective or career goal is passé. "The company really doesn't care what you want," says Cindy Kraft, who owns CFO-Coach.com. "They want you to come in and take away some of their pain."
Self-marketing can be uncomfortable for finance types. Even though your résumé may tout your ability to communicate, it may fail to demonstrate how that capability has produced results. Virginia Geraghty, the former CFO of a $100 million company, is on the job hunt for the first time in 13 years and says she has received some valuable feedback on what her résumé failed to include. Such as? "I identified and created a separate business division that now accounts for between 20% and 30% of revenue," she says, "but I didn't mention it." She has since rectified that oversight.
What other errors are financial executives making? Below are some things to watch out for.
Don't dwell on ancient history.
Achieving the rank of Eagle Scout is certainly something to be proud of, as is your military service, but it may not mean much to a would-be employer. Ditto for personal details: you're better off devoting the verbiage to work achievements, preferably recent and that have some connection to the job you're after.
Stop listing irrelevant skills.
If you hope to hoist yourself into a CFO spot, stress your leadership ability. That may mean explaining how your skill at inspiring your staff saved money. It counts for little that you're a dues-paying member of a professional organization, but if you've shown the initiative to guide and train others at that organization's events, that's a key gauge of your executive potential.
Go short, and long.
Two pages is the maximum length your résumé should be. Having generated attention with those 2 pages, however, feel free to attach an addendum — anywhere from 4 to 12 pages — that offers details about how you expanded one store into a multichannel retail concept, or guided a firm from development through its post-IPO.
Replace descriptions with accomplishments.
Rather than noting every job responsibility you've had, emphasize your achievements. "I want to know what practices you implemented and how they impacted the bottom line," says Cliff Eischen, a former credit-union CFO who now runs a résumé-writing service. "If cost-accounting procedures you put in place resulted in $200,000 in savings, that should be right up there."
Don't be a Luddite.
Your résumé should convey the sense that you know how to leverage technology. Make sure you have an updated LinkedIn profile and adjust the privacy settings on your Facebook page so that would-be employers know you're there, but can't learn more than that. If you're applying for a job in high tech or biotech, find yourself some tweeps (people who Twitter) on Twitter. You might even consider launching a finance blog to show you're engaged with the profession, even if you aren't currently employed in it. And if your current e-mail address ends in "@aol.com," consider an alternative. Why? "It's for amateurs," says Kraft. "It says, 'I'm a dinosaur who knows nothing about technology.'" (Take issue with that? E-mail the author at email@example.com.)