In most cases, accountants have gaps in their resumes because they got fired and could not find another job they liked within a short amount of time. If you went back a decade such a gap could have been considered a death sentence: If you couldn’t find a job, it was assumed something wrong with you. However, it has become more commonplace to find accountants with multiple firms on their employment history as well as the occasional gap in time between jobs.
Keep in mind that a gap in your resume is not always a bad thing. Indeed, you can turn it to your advantage by noting that you wanted to wait and join a firm with long-term opportunities instead of a short-term paycheck. As someone who has hired a lot of tax professionals, let me offer a perspective from the other side of the fence.
Here is what I want to know as an employer in an accounting firm:
Do you have the skills and knowledge to do the job I need done?
You might have been able to do the work previously, but I need to know if you are able to do the work today. I am OK if you are rusty. There is something to be said for experience, but changes in technology and audit and tax rules are always changing the job. I need to know if the time gap has caused you to lose the skill set shown on your resume or if you can be back to normal within a month.
Do I see you having a successful career at my firm?
In most cases, I want to see that you can be promoted over time. But if the proper expectations are set at the start then it might mean I want to see that you can be productive at the role that we have discussed. In either case, I want to see if you meet my expectations for the job regardless of whether there is an gap in your employment history.
Do you plan to stay?
I need a little convincing that you want to be at my firm longer than a year instead of still sending out resumes to get a job with a larger firm. I want to know that my firm will get a benefit from the time and training we will spend getting you up to speed with our systems, co-workers and clients. Many accountants who have time gaps due to age or being overqualified result from them not being upfront with their potential employer that they are willing to be a permanent manager or provide a guarantee (as much as one can) of a term of employment. Most CPA firms like hiring accountants who are overqualified if the job applicant can convince them they want to be at the firm.
Why did you get fired?
My main concern on this issue is not to beat you up for failing at your previous firm. Firings in CPA firms happen all the time (see my recent article on it). However, I need to understand why joining my firm fixes the problem. It does not do either one of us any good if you are going to run into the same issue at my firm six months later.
Keep in mind that many accountants go into a death spiral when discussing during the interview why they left or got fired because they want to take 20 minutes to explain it was not all their fault. Newsflash: I don’t care! Keep your answer short, simple, and professional and move on to the rest of the interview. Having a gap in your resume is no longer a death sentence. That is, of course, unless you make it one.
Latest posts by Bill Meador, CPA, JD (see all)
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