Those with less than a year of experience in finance and accounting are generally considered entry level professionals. At this point in your career, recruiters will be looking for you to fill positions in accounts payable/receivable or staff accounting roles.
"Applying for these positions can provide you with relevant experience and help you to the next step in your career, especially if you are working with an enterprise level company," says Leigh.
In order to obtain an entry level position, recruiters will look at the following areas when considering candidates:
Eighty-seven percent of recruiters surveyed typically prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree. Those with an associate's degree can still have a shot at entry level finance and accounting positions, if they have a fundamental knowledge of generally accepted accounting principles and previous experience from another role or internship.
"Internships can give entry level professionals a perspective into the day-to-day tasks of a particular job, especially if they interned at a larger company," says Leigh. "As positions become more competitive, an internship is going to be that one piece that can make a candidate stand out."
3. Relevant Skills
For those without previous work experience, recruiters will look for applicable skills. "Even though these professionals are at the entry level, they should be proficient in using Excel, working with macros, pivot tables and able to manipulate data," says Leigh. "It's not all about gathering the data either, we are also looking for those candidates who are able to present it to their team or managers."
Recruiters consider mid-level finance and accounting professionals as those with two to four years of work experience. In addition to holding a bachelor's degree, at this point in your career you may be expected to have experience with enterprise level clients. Recruiters will focus on the following areas when considering mid-level candidates:
1. Specialized Roles
Due to changes in the economy, more organizations are increasing the number of niche roles, such as mid-level financial analysts and staff accountants. As an alternative to hiring additional senior level associates, these mid-level professionals are being sought by recruiters to help assist in mergers and acquisitions or forecasting, for example.
No matter what level, great references are a must. For those mid-level professionals with gaps of unemployment due to the economy, recruiters will especially focus on solid references. Now, Leigh says recruiters frequently consider candidates with gaps of unemployment up to 12 months.
"If there was a layoff involved, a positive recommendation from a former supervisor can certainly help a candidate overcome the challenge of having a large gap of unemployment," says Leigh.
3. Advanced Experience
Accurately describing your experience can also be a deciding factor on whether you catch the attention of a finance and accounting recruiter. First, recruiters will likely expect mid-level professionals to be proficient in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems such as PeopleSoft or Oracle. Also, remember that including action words when describing advanced experience or job duties on your resume can help you stand out.
"If you were a manager, recruiters want to know how many people you directly or indirectly managed and what duties you may have directed others in," says Leigh.
Senior level finance and accounting professionals should have five years or more experience. In addition to holding a bachelor’s or master's degree, senior level candidates should have supervisory experience, especially with enterprise level companies. Recruiters surveyed said this experience is in high demand for audit and compliance and financial analysis roles.
While it's important to remember to use action words on your resume, it's more important to describe what you accomplished through each job skill. Leigh says you should include all quantifiable project accomplishments on your resume.
"Even if it means including just one bullet point under each position on your resume, explain where you excelled," says Leigh. "Recruiters and employers want to see what you brought to the table."
While a master's degree is preferred, recruiters will expect senior level candidates to hold relevant finance and accounting certifications. For example, this may include an active or inactive CPA certification, showing the candidate has experience in public accounting.
3. Extended Resume
A thorough and complete resume is expected at the senior level, however lately recruiters say they are looking beyond a piece of paper. LinkedIn has gained popularity amongst staffing specialists looking for additional information on potential candidates. Leigh says it's a good idea to join LinkedIn and continually update your profile to include your most recent experience and recommendations from current or former co-workers.
In the next post, find out what finance and accounting recruiters look for on your social media pages.
Shannon Leigh is a Talent and Development Manager at Kforce Inc., a professional staffing and solutions firm providing flexible and permanent staffing solutions in the skill areas of technology, finance & accounting and health and life sciences. Shannon focuses on providing Technology and Finance and Accounting resources for Fortune 500 companies and other organizations nationwide.
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