The Art of Accounting: What Does Your Resume Look Like?


Lately I’ve been getting a flood of resumes for tax professionals. I’m not involved in the hiring process, but out of curiosity I’m looking at the resumes and I can’t see that they’re all from the office.

Employers who send them tell me that they are not up to par, but more importantly, the applicants seem to have no idea what their role should be. If you want to succeed, you need to understand how to create value for yourself and then clearly demonstrate that value to potential employers.

This column is about tax professionals, but my suggestions can be applied to any specialty.

A common thread in the applicant’s qualities is that they do good work, are technically competent, manage client relationships (whatever that means), review tax returns, do dispute resolution, have experience in certain real estate and service industries, and prepare tax returns for high net worth individuals, S and C corporations, and LLCs. In reality, each employer’s resume is basically the same, with only a few words different. No imagination will guide applicants who seem to have none.

These are jobs for tax managers with 10 or more years of experience.

None of the resumes I’ve looked at qualify the applicant as a manager in my opinion (as expressed by this column and no one else). Managers must manage staff. The resume did not say anything about their management ability or who they had taught or trained. I don’t want a “manager” preparing tax returns. I want someone who does significant tax research and planning and has the ability to write tax notes and give opinions. I want someone to advise clients on pending transactions and assist with transaction execution. Tell me what you did and how often.

I would like to know if the applicant has helped to anticipate and identify planning opportunities that have resulted in additional assignments from clients. How many have they published? How often they presented the speeches and to which groups (eg clients, industry leaders or CPE). Do they provide in-house training and to what level of staff? What industries are they experts in, and how does this translate into being the firm’s “challenger” person, and is that industry expertise recognized outside the firm?

If these applicants had all these characteristics that made them very attractive candidates for any practice, then why would they leave or leave the place where they work to get them? My guess is they are probably skilled “workers” and not managers or anyone with serious growth potential. The second assumption is that they’ve probably had three or four jobs before, which I think is a great way to stunt growth (please note there are always exceptions to what I say).

I understand that anyone reading such a position will think I’m out of touch, but I know from my own experience that what I’m suggesting is the reality for these applicants. Also, remember, I’m referring to resumes for a manager with “10 years of experience.” In my opinion, these resume seekers are at a dead end and probably don’t understand this reality. There are several ways that they can change this, but doing it with a new job is not the way. These recruiters have a stable income with these staff because they can place them elsewhere every two or three years. Maybe they’ve figured out a business model that works for them, but not for the accounting firms they’re placing these people with.

I have a clear piece of advice: if you are a hiring firm, pass these people along and develop and grow your future tax managers. If you are that 10-year tax manager, use my job requirements suggestions above as a guide on how to change your career. It may mean taking a step back, but it really means deciding to work on improving yourself and upskilling yourself, much of it on your own time because your firm needs you to be the worker they hired you to be.

I know some of you will be revising your resume to include a lot of what I wrote. If you can’t back up your claims, all you’ll accomplish is hastening your next layoff. Do some soul searching and be realistic about your abilities. Review the resumes of the tax partners you want to become and make the necessary changes to your career path. It’s not too late. Use this column as a wake-up call.

Do not hesitate to contact me at With your practice management questions or engagements you may not be able to complete.

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