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Writing Your First Resume

How to create a compelling first resume

Experience. Along with education and the exam, it’s one of the E’s of CPA licensure requirements, and you can’t get it without an internship or entry-level job. But to land a good job, you need a solid resume.

Having a strong resume is key to getting in the door with your preferred firm or company. And there are more internship applicants each year than there are spots to fill, according to Abdul Mahdi, director of career services in the College of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Resumes help employers decide whom to bring in for interviews.

Employers seek to answer three primary questions when choosing an intern, says Mike Crespi, senior associate director in the undergraduate Market Readiness and Employment department at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. 1. Can you do the work? 2. Will you do the work? 3. How do you fit in the organization? Your resume should answer these important questions.

But writing a resume can be tricky, especially if your previous experience is mostly flipping burgers or folding T-shirts. Here’s some advice:

Don’t get *too* creative.

While there can be some variation in resume styles, for the most part, it’s best to stick to the expected format. Name and contact info at the top, followed by education (school, degree program, anticipated graduation date, and GPA). If you’re a master’s student, include your GMAT score. Next, list your work experience, highlighting responsibilities and the skills you used in each position in addition to any accomplishments you made on the job. Then, list campus activities, leadership roles, volunteer experience, technical proficiencies, and any other applicable information that showcases your involvement, initiative, and energy.

As for the “objective” or mission statement: Carolyn Stone, a Wake Forest University accounting graduate, says such a statement “helps you fine-tune who you are and what is important to you.” Objectives can also provide insight as to where you would like to work.

Yes, you should include your GPA.

It may be irrelevant 10 years into your career, but right now, a GPA is all-important. If you fail to list it, companies may automatically assume it’s low, Mahdi says.

OK, get a little creative.

You may think jobs such as working as a camp counselor or server at a restaurant are irrelevant to accounting. But mentioning them on your resume still gives you an opportunity to show off your skills. Did you have any leadership roles at camp? Did you work on a team? Did you handle financial transactions at the restaurant? Focus on the relevant skills you learned over the tasks you performed.

Don’t leave out the extracurricular activities.

Involvement in activities outside of your regular class load demonstrates an ability to juggle multiple tasks. Firms use extracurricular involvement as a measure of how students balance time and whether they’re able to work for long hours.

“We want to see a well-rounded individual: someone who is involved on campus, involved in their major, and has other initiatives and drive besides just obtaining their degree,” said Jennifer Busse, senior director and national talent leader for McGladrey LLP. “We don’t just want a bookworm.”

Above all, be honest.

If you don’t want to work in the audit division, don’t say you do. Your resume should represent you and your strengths. “Just put on the paper who you are in your truest form, and that will really pay off in the long run,” Stone says.

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