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September 22, 2023

Are Résumés Obsolete in Public Accounting?

resume public accounting

Okay, maybe not quite obsolete, but they absolutely should be. Résumés don’t convey much. Did you work Big 4 or not? Did you have a high GPA in college? They’re the only truly socially-acceptable way to brag about an award or study abroad experience. Beyond that, a résumé isn’t very helpful.

You can tell by someone’s signature if they’re a CPA, so that’s something you probably already know once you have an opportunity to dig into that person’s résumé. Plus, people rarely update them. They are just a static proclamation of how cool you are…

Why not rely on social media, in this case, LinkedIn, instead? Or, just skip it and go straight to a skills assessment that corresponds with the actual job? Wouldn’t that be much more indicative of someone’s abilities?

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner preaches that “skills, not degrees” should be the foundation of every hiring decision. Who cares if you an accounting degree if you don’t have any idea what you’re doing?

Oh, wait, being in over your head without enough training is an auditor’s life. Bad example.

Let’s go back to this Business Insider article, which quoted startup founder Adam Markowitz:

Potential over pedigree. Talent, grit, and passion [are] everywhere — from Ivy Leagues to community colleges, dev boot camps, and everywhere in between.

I agree marketable skills matter more than a fancy degree. And, I’d say in public accounting, the ability to fake it ‘til you make it is also required. That’s something that doesn’t show up on a résumé either.

Unfortunately, no matter how flawed, firms still ask for them. So we have to oblige and scrap one together. But, why spend time crafting your résumé for public accounting recruiting season when as soon as you make it to an on-campus interview, you are asked to retype everything on your résumé (and more) into a digital application? Who has time for that? It’s annoying.

I argue that the “meet and mingle” events are much more important in public accounting than a candidate’s résumé. For direct campus hires especially, no one has done much to differentiate themselves on paper anyway. Maybe a stellar GPA or past internship? Nothing really stands out at that age.

That’s why firms do so many of this type of event. To get a sense of you as a person, and if they can spend 10-14 hours a day in a room with you, without wanting to gouge out their eyeballs. Then, if you pass that first impression test, the internship will determine if you can tick and tie sufficiently and, by golly, you’re in! With people jumping ship right and left, firms won’t tell you, but they do need you.

So, can we just skip the résumé and save us all a little time?

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