CFE Job Search Strategies: The Keyword Dilemma



Prof. Colin May, M.S., CFE, CCCE
Stevenson University – Forensic Studies Program 

Recently, a former student (and a newly minted CFE) asked about what types of keywords they should be searching in job postings to help them attain their ultimate goal to be a fraud examiner. That led me to think about that question and what it means to search for a position.

In previous Fraud Magazine columns, I've written about how to define your areas of interest, limitations and ultimate career plans. These questions — and a thoughtful reflection period — can help you immensely in your career search.

Searching for (and reviewing) job postings should primarily be about understanding the skills and experiences the employer is seeking, not titles. Titles don't mean a whole lot because they can be deceptive by either overstating responsibilities or underselling the potential. Both can be issues.

The key is to really research it and understand what the true role is. The focus on the relevant skills you have and what you can bring to the organization, as well potential growth opportunities, too. If you don't have the required skills (or level of experience) yet, this could be a good opportunity to begin to develop them. Of course, each job search is unique and should be tailored to the individual candidate.

A recent search of a major career website for "fraud examiner," returned 712 hits for full-time employment. This unscientific review did reveal some interesting patterns. It underscored how difficult it is to look solely at titles. Further review revealed some of the diverse roles available:

  • Insurance claims examiner

  • Bank investigator

  • Auditor/field examiner for payroll industry

  • Healthcare investigator

  • State government auditor

  • Tax examiner

By thoroughly reviewing the skills and knowledge/experience that are discussed in the job postings, it can help narrow down your interests and determine if there are similarities between what skills you have and the job requirements. Sometimes, we perform similar tasks or functions but call it different things — your job is to “fill the gap” and help identify those similar skills. This means having to be a translator of sorts! Resumes, cover letters and especially interviews are the best places for this “translation” to occur.

 Some of the common skills in the above unscientific review were as follows:

  • developing and writing audit guides or procedures

  • developing and documenting findings, including collecting evidence

  • developing conclusions and recommendations 

  • evaluating adherence to processes and procedures

  • identifying audit review issues and using root cause analyses

  • interviewing individuals with knowledge of the issue

  • identifying and analyzing documents and records for red flags or suspicious indicators

  • writing objective, independent, fact-based reports and other products

This list, while not comprehensive, should be familiar to the Certified Fraud Examiner. They reflect many of the attributes of a CFE, regardless of working in the public or private sector.

Many of the skills and roles are described in further detail in the Career Paths section of the ACFE website. In addition to investigations, there are also career path sections for Accounting, Auditing, and Governance (including Risk Management & Compliance). Looking through these webpages is a great place to start.

Hopefully, this blog post has helped you think about some potential opportunities and the necessary skill sets so that you can start to chart a plan based on where you want to go — and what you want to do, not just the title that you hold.

Colin May, M.S., CFE, CCCE, is an Adjunct Professor of Forensic Studies and Criminal Justice at Stevenson University in Owings Mills, Md. For more than 10 years, he was a Special Agent with the U.S. government. He is a Certified Fraud Examiner and a Certified Cyber Crime Examiner (charter member). He may be reached at The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.