Dear Sam: Thank you for writing the articles on various career development subjects. They have been very helpful. I am currently a senior at Purdue University Global, majoring in accounting. I am on track for completing my coursework by the end of 2021 and, as such, will be looking for a job. However, due to a health issue, I have only had one accounting internship and no other work experience besides a couple of volunteer jobs. How can I make myself and my resume look more attractive to potential employers? – Teresa
Dear Teresa: I am so glad you have found my articles helpful as you prepare to launch your career. I am very sorry to hear about your health issue and hope brighter days are ahead for you. In regards to your résumé, it is very outdated in its content, strategic approach, and design. Let’s look at some ways you can promote your candidacy despite only having had one internship.
First, given you know your career objective of entering the accounting arena in a tax-related role, you should open your résumé with a qualification summary highlighting the undergraduate coursework you have completed and the three-month internship at the CPA firm. In addition, use this summary to present some of your soft skills related to your current career target.
When presenting your education, think about presenting your courses and highlighting any capstone coursework or significant projects. Often, my entry-level clients have completed substantial projects both at the individual and a group level, and we go into great detail about the challenge of the project, the actions taken, and the results achieved. Through a deeper exploration of your coursework, including class titles, you will also dramatically increase your keyword relevance, critical when your resume goes through an automated applicant tracking system (ATS).
I would place your internship ahead of your volunteer experience, creating a section that is titled work experience and moving your volunteer role into a community involvement section. I realize you presented your experiences in reverse-chronological order, but as your internship is more important than your volunteer work—given its relevance to your career objective—creating separate sections will allow you to re-order those experiences.
For your internship, have you asked your supervisor for a letter of recommendation? I will often pull out excerpts from recommendations and place those comments directly on the resume, providing instant third-party validation before a review is even checked. This can also be helpful as sometimes your supervisor will cite specific skills that you would not have thought of, and of course, someone in a leadership capacity in the industry speaking to your strengths is very powerful. Additionally, think of ways you added value during the internship. Currently, you have five bullet points, of which three are related to accomplishments. I applaud you for having thought about ways you added value, but I think you can further expound on how you increased efficiency and organization. Your bullet points leave me wanting to know the actions taken to achieve the improvements you have presented. We have a saying in the résumé writing industry of doing the showing and the telling. This means you need to tell the reader what you did and show them how you did it. Most resumes fall short by only presenting the result and not explaining any of the actions. There is great value in offering a fuller story of your efforts, not only because stories are memorable but also because by presenting some of your actions, you are sure to be including critical keywords.
Your volunteer experience is impressive, especially as you volunteered for more than three years. Similar to my suggestion for your internship, I would request a letter of recommendation from your supervisor and maybe even a peer or two, given the length of your tenure.
I often find that entry-level candidates build resumes that are non-differentiating, falling back on 20+-year-old templates provided by their career services office. If you look at any credible source, you will see your résumé is outdated and does not optimize the value of your candidacy. I am confident with a strategic reengineering of your strategy, content, and design, the fact that you only completed one internship will not serve as a disqualifying factor.
I wish you all the best moving forward in your career and your health.