Culture corner: Resume writing do's and don'ts

August 2016

Each month, our HR Manager Paula Fernandes interviews a Richter partner to gain insight into how our leadership finds balance and focus in a demanding job, and what non-technical skills contribute to career success.

This month, the do’s and don’ts of resume writing! It’s that time of year again, as recent graduates are wrapping up summer internships and looking to make the leap into the “real world” to start climbing the corporate ladder. The first step in the process is writing an effective resume. While Richter has a variety of positions we’re looking to fill, what exactly will help make your resume stand out? Partner Vimal Kotecha gives insight into what will help you get your foot in the door.   

Paula Fernandes (PF): As a partner, what’s the first thing you look for when receiving a resume?
Vimal Kotecha (VK): First thing is definitely scanning for spelling mistakes, cohesive writing, and clean formatting. This gives either a positive or negative general first impression – it’s surprising how many CVs we get that have spelling mistakes or are incoherent. To produce a resume that’s free of errors and easy to read shows that you’ve taken the time to consider this application process, are careful in your work and serious about being professional. It’s important to keep in mind, especially for young graduates, that your resume is a company’s very first impression of you; before you even step into the office your resume speaks for you. First impressions count!!!

Beyond that, if we’re talking about a resume from a university student or recent graduate that may not yet have the years of work experience that can only come with time, or at least experience in the field they’ve just finished studying, we look at what they have been involved in. Have they been active in other fields? Do they volunteer? Have they been able to show that they’ve gained applicable skills from other work experience? If you don’t have a lot of relevant work experience directly related to your intended field just yet, show us how your other skills and experience can translate to the position.

PF: How important is listing additional activities, volunteer positions, etc. on a resume?
VK:
Extremely important, especially when you’re first starting out and you may not have direct field experience. Including extra-curricular activities or volunteer positions shows us that you have interests and abilities beyond books; and helps convey you as a well-rounded person. This is important as you progress in your career, you will need many soft skills beyond academia or technical knowledge to help you succeed. Irrespective of the person, regardless of whether you have the most technical knowledge in your field, it’s the connections and the relationships you develop throughout your career that will help you thrive. If you learn this, and start gaining those skills early on, you’re already ahead.

We’re assuming you already have the academic background needed if you’ve gone through university – so what else sets you apart from the 300 other applications we’re going to get?

PF: What is an absolute ‘no’ for any resume? Have you seen any throughout your career?  
VK:
I haven’t seen anything that’s been an absolute ‘no’ at the resume stage – aside from spelling – but a resume can be an opportunity to show your creativity within the given limits. Your CV has to be appropriate for the position. If you’re applying for a marketing role that is seeking a more creative individual, use creativity to your advantage when designing your resume. However, if you’re applying for an actuarial position, where creativity may not be as applicable or appropriate, it’s probably best to steer away from those ideas. All aspects should be considered when preparing your CV. 

PF: As a partner in a professional services firm, what do you look for first: education, or experience? 
VK: If you’ve been out of school for a few years, experience is what we look for. When we say we look at experience, we mean: has the applicant stayed in the same position for a few years or have they moved around; have they progressed in previous roles; what have they done within a five-year timeframe, for example, and what have they learned – either to do or not to do within their field – and for the position they seek.

Following that, for individuals that have finished with university or undergraduate studies, I consider continual schooling that is relative to the position as a bonus; it shows the desire for learning and continued improvement.

PF: As far as technical skills combine with the right amount of soft skills, is one more important than the other?
VK:
Both are equally important. It’s assumed you have the baseline of technical skills already. But of course if we’re talking about an experienced hire that’s five or so years into their practice – are their technical skills up to par with where they are at and with the length of time they’ve spent in their career? If you feel as though your skills might not be up to par, consider looking at extra courses – an Excel course or a modeling course – classes and courses like these can be immensely helpful and show that you have initiative for self-improvement. This also sets you apart from others that may be applying for the same position.

PF: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
VK:
When I was a junior, I was working with a more senior person at the time, and he said to me something I’ve always carried with me and pass on to my now junior associates, which was: when working on a file, there is always a senior and a junior lawyer working on the file alongside us – maintain the relationship with that junior person working on the file. Reason being, you’ll be a senior person one day and so will they; and by then, you’ll have developed a long standing, trusted relationship with that person. It’s important, because people give work to people that they like and more importantly, that they trust.

Vimal Kotecha is a partner at Richter and is on the firm’s Human Resources committee. He is also a member of the subcommittee overseeing Richter’s Mentor and Apprenticeship Program (MAP) which introduces junior Richter team members to various other practice areas of the firm through mentoring and casework assistance opportunities

Read previous articles in the Culture Corner: Going Beyond the Numbers series:

22 tips for a healthy tax season
The importance of corporate giving
Resume writing do’s and don’ts 
Interview impressions 
Networking 101
Finding balance
Teambuilding

To apply for a position with Richter, click here.

About Richter: Founded in Montreal in 1926, Richter is a licensed public accounting firm that provides assurance, tax and wealth management services, as well as financial advisory services in the areas of organizational restructuring and insolvency, business valuation, corporate finance, litigation support, and forensic accounting. Our commitment to excellence, our in-depth understanding of financial issues and our practical problem-solving methods have positioned us as one of the most important independent accounting, organizational advisory and consulting firms in the country. Richter has offices in both Toronto and Montreal. Follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.