Résumé and job interview tips for CPAs

Looking for a new job? Proper preparation makes a big difference in how you present yourself to potential employers.
By Teri Saylor


Tell your story in your résumé

Most careers don’t follow a straight line. Rather, they navigate twists, turns, and bumps along the road to success. Your résumé is more interesting when you tell the story of your journey and describe the effort you put into your career. Remember, your résumé is a marketing document, there to cast you in the best possible light.

  • It is standard practice for recruiters and employers to use applicant tracking systems to source candidates. It’s a good idea to use keywords — some of the words from the job description — in your résumé to outline your experience, expertise, and professional interests.
  • Don’t simply list your skills. Back up each skill with proof and give concrete examples of how your skills have led to success or how you used your skills to overcome challenges. (For example: “Skill: Organized leadership — Successfully led an eight-person project team in the installation of a highly integrated ERP system on a tight deadline.”)
  • In your timeline, be sure to account for gaps in your career, sabbaticals, relocations, and general jobs, even those not on your career path.
  • If you have been in the workforce a long time, summarize your earliest entry-level positions by choosing a point in time and then describing what you did. (For example: “I worked for a CPA firm in the metro D.C. area preparing tax returns for high-wealth individuals and small businesses.”)
  • Put humility aside and highlight the career and life accomplishments you are most proud of. Under each description of your past jobs, have a separate subtitle that states “Accomplishments include” and list a few of your notable achievements. (For example: “Improved operations/systems by doing X” or “Saved an employer Y amount of money by doing Z.”)

Make your interview count

Getting a potential employer's attention with a résumé is only the first step. Here are some tips to help you overcome anxiety and be your best professional self during a job interview whether it's in-person or virtual.

  • Be aware that, in addition to accounting and technology skills, recruiters often look for emotional intelligence during interviews — those soft skills that include the ability to communicate effectively and get your point across without resorting to one-word answers or being too verbose.
  • Look straight at the interviewer and maintain great eye contact. If you are interviewing remotely, remember to look at the camera. Be aware when a sensitive or tough question comes up that you don't answer in a defensive manner or allow your voice or body language to reflect defensiveness.
  • Avoid using filler words such as "uh," "mm," or "like." How you communicate during the interview provides a preview of how you may communicate with your clients and peers. Practice and preparation will help you avoid these awkward fillers.
  • Be aware of your tone of voice, attitude, and body language. Avoid folding your arms as if you're bored. Keep your hands either on your lap or on the top of the table or desk.
  • If you tend to be jittery, plant both feet solidly on the ground.
  • Remove distractions. If you are interviewing remotely from home, be sure children and pets are out of the way. Test your technology to avoid embarrassing gaffes, and whether in person or online, always silence your phone.

Compiled by Teri Saylor, a freelance writer based in North Carolina. To comment on this infographic or to suggest an idea for another article or infographic, contact Chris Baysden, a JofA associate director, at Chris.Baysden@aicpa-cima.com.


Visit the Global Career Hub from AICPA & CIMA for help with finding a job or recruiting

More résumé tips

"The Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Résumé," CPA Insider, Sept. 23, 2019

"Résumé Secrets From a Former Recruiter," CPA Insider, Dec. 10, 2018

More interview tips

"Podcast: How to Succeed in Your Remote Job Interview," Global Career Hub, July 14, 2020

"CPA Job Interview Tips From a Recruiter," CPA Insider, Nov. 18, 2019  


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