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What Makes the Resume of an Accounting Student Stand Out?

Most people embrace college life with such euphoria that they initially lose track of  the ultimate reason why they decided to attend college: gaining a sustainable competitive edge for the highly dynamic and brutal job market. Consequently, a majority of students unsuspectingly spend half and sometimes two third of their college lives  just going through the motions until reality takes the center stage: post graduation employment prospects are bleak… Ouch! It’s indeed rather difficult to make up for time lost.  In order to improve your post graduation job prospects, it is primordial to recognize that each and every year spent on campus do count toward building a robust undergraduate resume.  Most importantly, you will need to learn to allocate your precious time between playing hard and working hard. The rest of this post will focus on the latter while the earlier will be left at your discretion.

Achieve and maintain both overall and major GPAs that are equal to or greater than 3.00: As you get familiar with the recruiting philosophy of most public accounting firms, you will come to realize that your accounting and overall grades are going to matter to those prospective recruiters. As a matter of fact, some business schools make it a point to restrict their internship or cooperative education programs to students who have an overall GPA equal to or greater than 3.0.  In addition, if you want to join the Beta Alpha Psi society,  an honorary organization for Financial Information students and professionals, you will need to maintain a 3.0 GPA or higher  overall as well as in accounting. For those of you who are not familiar with BAP, it is the only organization that provides a fast track access to a job in public accounting.  There is a consensus among accounting firms which is that students that do well in college have far more exceeding chances to provide a greater return on investment. There is ample room for debate on whether or not there is a causality relationship between the quality of a student’s grades and the quality of his work as an employee. However, this is not the appropriate occasion to review recruiting philosophies, I will get a chance to cover such issues in a later post. For now, just always remember that the quality of your grades has a great influence on your post graduation job opportunities.

Assuming leadership roles in your college extra curricular activities: Prospective employers are interested in finding out if you have the attributes of a team player as well as of a leader.  They are assuming that students who have participated in extra curricular activities display sharper soft skills, which allow them to be better team players and optimally more effective leaders once they join the workplace. There is some truth to that assumption. There is no need to be joining many student organizations, just select at most two that have mission statements that you approve of then devote yourself to them. It’s however important that you get involved very early so by the time you are near graduation your seniority and the relationships and alliances you have forged along  the way would have earned you the rights or votes to assume a leadership responsibility. In addition, if by any chance you are unable to to obtain an accounting or office related work experience by the time you graduate, your extra curricular activities will come handy as the perfect substitutes.

Obtain an office related work experience before your graduation from college: It’s very important to realize it’s going to be a tough wager to translate your four years of experience in retail, a magnet for most college students, to a possible job opportunity in an office based workplace like in public accounting. Therefore, it is to your greatest advantage that you strive to migrate from those retail jobs to more “white collar” types of jobs. You don’t have to absolutely ink an accounting related employment. All you have to do is to find any part time job opportunity that will place you within an office environment so you can gain exposure to all the tasks that characterize a day at the office such as: filing, sending faxes, making photocopies, answering the phone, and working with computers. Be aware that it’s not going to be an easy task for a college student to land a  “white collar” job but you need to always persevere and if you do you will be handsomely rewarded. I realize these guidelines might not apply to every student as some of you might accumulate a full time job, parental duties, and a full or partial course load.

All I have done here is outline the main attributes that public accounting firms look for when reviewing your resume: excellent grades, soft skills, and office work experience. It is now up to you to shape these guidelines according to your personal circumstances.

Sample Accounting Student Resumes and Cover Letters:




  1. Comment by KG:

    Great article, but also don’t forget other student organizations such as AICPA (student) memberships and a few others. In addition to this, hopefully you will publish some more articles about obtaining employment in the accounting field, as well as articles about the different types of accounting fields, such as employment within the federal government, banking industry, etc.

  2. Comment by Louise:

    It's a nice article, but it seems like common sense really. Work hard and you do better than someone who doesn't work hard. I know there are people out there who do need this sort of information and encouragement. I know I was one of them.

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