The first part of the year is a popular time for job searches, and many professionals place “make a career move” near the top of their New Year’s resolutions. Even in a candidate-friendly job market, your application needs to be spot-on if you want to land a role that will propel your career forward. Here are some do’s and don’ts to help financial professionals stand out from the crowd—for all the right reasons.

1. DO promote an online presence.Whether it’s a LinkedIn profile or a personal website, having a digital presence is essential in today’s tech-savvy corporate landscape. Many hiring managers visit these sites, and it’s a good way to demonstrate your technical skills and show some personality. Highlight certifications you hold and any specialized experience, such as advanced Excel ability or enterprise resource planning expertise. Just make sure you keep your digital portfolio up to date and consistent with your résumé.

2. DO connect on social media. Hiring managers and recruiters today also use more general social media to search for candidates, so this should be a key part of your strategy as well. Online forums such as Twitter and Facebook aren’t only great ways to make new contacts and register your interest, but they’re also a platform for increasing your visibility and advertising your skills.

According to a survey from global staffing firm Accountemps, a division of Robert Half, nearly half of hiring managers (49%) said they would be impressed by accounting professionals who take the time to network with employees at their company ( A targeted approach is best when it comes to making connections online. Think about your ultimate career goals and pinpoint some companies you would like to join. If your goal is to join a manufacturing company, for example, look through your existing contacts to see if introductions can be made.

3. DON’T mix business with pleasure. If you’re using social media to look for work, use separate accounts for your personal and professional updates. The last thing you want when you’re trying to impress a recruiter is to be tagged in an inappropriate photo or associated with negative comments. Keep in mind that your comments on public posts can be seen by the public on most social media sites. Screening applicants online is now commonplace, so double-check your privacy settings. It’s a good idea to Google yourself in “incognito” or “private” mode to see what information is publicly visible.

4. DO tailor your résumé. Personal websites are a useful career marketing tool, yet many employers still ask for a résumé. Rather than submitting a standard summary of work history and education, candidates should customize their curriculum vitae (CV) for each application. Always read the job description carefully, picking out key words and phrases to mirror (if they apply to you, of course), and list your most relevant experience first. Most accounting and finance job postings specify which technical skills are required. It might sound like a lot of effort, but targeting your application will significantly boost your chances of being shortlisted for an interview—especially if the company uses AI to screen candidates.

5. DO write a cover letter. Despite what many think, our research shows that cover letters aren’t obsolete. Fifty-eight percent of hiring managers in Robert Half’s survey said they found cover letters useful. If you include one, it’ll be the first thing recruiters see when they screen your application.

Unlike a résumé, which often includes bulleted lists, a well-written cover letter showcases your written communication skills—which are essential for accounting and finance professionals—and allows you to draw attention to attributes and experience that might not be obvious from your CV. Keep your cover letter concise and, most importantly, tailor it for the company and position for which you’re applying.

6. DO keep it conservative. If you’re applying for a job in accounting or finance, it’s best to keep your résumé traditional throughout. In the Robert Half survey, more than a third (35%) of hiring managers said that using cartoon icons or avatars is the tactic most likely to hurt a candidate’s chances. What would stand out to a finance leader are short statements about your experience that quantify your accomplishments, presented professionally in a simple font and color. For example, mention the amount of investments or the size of budget you managed in previous finance roles. Want to be creative? Highlight your achievements in an infographic, a method four in 10 senior managers said may give a candidate the edge.

7. DO highlight soft skills. While experience, education, and certifications can indicate whether you qualify for the role, it’s equally important to have interpersonal skills and business know-how. List some soft skills to let the hiring manager get a broader picture of you as a candidate. Give examples of cross-departmental collaboration in your cover letter or list on your résumé any leadership courses you’ve taken. A customer service mind-set is sought after in this profession; it’s essential for accounting and finance staff to be able to interact with clients, internally and externally. Other soft skills that are in demand include planning and organizational skills, the ability to work well in teams, and problem-solving skills.

8. DON’T make mistakes. It should go without saying, but there’s no excuse for allowing typos or grammar errors to slip through in your application. How can a business trust you with their income reports or tax accounting if you have poor attention to detail? Always review your materials carefully, then ask a reliable friend or family member to proofread the documents with a critical eye.

No set of documents will be a slam dunk, of course, but a polished résumé, a compelling cover letter, and a strong online presence will give you the best shot at landing the job you want. It can be a way to get your foot in that door.


CareerDriver is a free benefit for IMA® members to assess their technical and leadership skills in management accounting and help plan their career path. Complete an assessment to get feedback on your strengths and areas for improvement, and then map out a development plan to help you toward your desired role. For more information, visit

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