By Jim Wong, CPA | September 28, 2016

“The simpler you say it, the more eloquent it is.” —August Wilson

As we enter the autumn season and the leaves begin to change, some professionals take a look at what else around them may change—often times leading to thoughts of a career move.

We all know how challenging it is to prepare for a job search, any time of year, and we all know that starts with an updated, clean and powerful resume.

However, updating your resume can be a daunting task that’s often dreaded. It doesn’t need to be though. Accounting, finance and information technology professionals are in a good position to negotiate their ideal jobs, and with competitive salaries. So, it’s worth it to take the time to update your resume before hitting send on that job application.

As you update your resume, take stock of all of your job responsibilities, noteworthy projects and accomplishments, along with any sort of certifications or promotions. It’s easy enough to add a new job title onto a resume, but what happens when there is some gray area with job responsibilities?

I’ve discussed resume writing before, and I recently came across a Forbes article that discusses the challenges around resume writing which I found to be a valuable source of information. I thought this information would be useful to share.

Therefore, I’ve come up with the 3 Things Not to Embellish on Your Resume…

1. Employment Dates. 
Job seekers in any profession should know that it’s not acceptable to skew employment dates—not only will this come across as unprofessional, but hiring managers may also rescind a job offer after they verify your employment history and uncover the fake employment dates. While it is acceptable to leave out the months and simply include the years of employment on your resume when you’ve had multiple jobs and multiple organizations over the years, it is never acceptable to exaggerate how long you’ve worked at a company.

2. Education. 
Just like employment dates, it is crucial that you’re honest with all of the details of your education. Many hiring managers and HR professionals will run education verifications in which any falsified degrees will be caught. This is another careless blunder that will only hurt the possibility of getting that dream job offer, and could hurt your chances at other positions down the line.

3. Certifications and Awards. 
Certifications and awards are a great way to boost a resume, however, they are given to those who earn them, and as such, they should not be simply added to a job seeker’s resume if they were not actually earned. Adding a CPA designation to a resume in order to appear more qualified for a job is not only inappropriate but in some states illegal. Further, it could blacklist you from companies.

And, 5 Things You Can…

1. Job Title. 
This is a tricky one that I do want to clarify. While it’s unwise to use a different title other than the one you’ve held, you might want to consider adding details next to the position in order to paint a better picture of what your job duties actually included. For example, if you held a role as an Accounting Manager but also held some HR responsibilities, you might consider adding, “Accounting Manager / HR” to your resume. Word to the wise, do not go overboard with this. Use your best judgement if clarity is needed on your resume; remember, you can always further elaborate on your job responsibilities in an interview. Which leads me into my next point.

2. Job Responsibilities. 
Instead of listing every single task you performed in your role on your resume, only include what’s relevant to the position you are applying for. If you had some managerial responsibilities and are applying to a managerial role, focus on those details instead of listing five bullet points about administrative tasks. You want to make sure to emphasize what is most important and relevant to the position. Overall, you want to leave some ambiguity so that the hiring manager will have to dig deeper to get your full story once you’re called in for an interview.

3. Relevant positions. 
If you are applying for a position at a nonprofit organization and have five years of unpaid volunteer work, you should certainly add that experience to your resume. However, it might not be necessary to focus on that for other positions you’re applying for that might be in different industries. Further, if you worked construction right out of college before landing your first accounting role, you don’t necessarily need to include that on your resume if you’re now trying to land a Director of IT role.

4. Consulting work. 
This is another important detail to include on a resume. My recommendation is to include consulting and temporary work. It shows that you’ve been consistent in your work experience, even if you had a few weeks off in between the roles, and that you’ve most likely picked up new skills at each opportunity. It’s also perfectly acceptable to group several contract or temporary experiences together, if they are all similar roles. Remember, adding temporary positions will convey that you have a wide variety of experience to hiring managers.

5. Paid vs. unpaid work. 
Regardless of whether or not a position was paid e.g. volunteer work, internships, it’s important to think about the skills that you gained while performing that position. If there were significant skills that can bolster your work experience, be sure to add those. There is no shame in unpaid experience, it certainly helps tell your story.

These are only a few examples of things you should and should not include on your resume. Do you have other suggestions? Comment below and let us know!

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