Professionally Speaking

Résumé Makeover

This month, Steve takes a reader’s résumé and gives it a fresh look.

Harry, first of all, let me congratulate you—you’ve succeeded! You’ve communicated from the “other side.” Seriously, when your e-mail came in, I was on vacation so ">Greg got to do all the heavy lifting this month. Actually, I like Greg’s “makeover” of your résumé. It accentuates what you have done more than where you did it. As Greg says, wherever possible, stress results and quantify them. I do want to emphasize one of Greg’s comments, however, and that’s that you shouldn’t be sending out a “generic” résumé (unless, of course, you’re one of those pathetic individuals who goes from booth to booth at trade shows handing out résumés indiscriminately). Your résumé should be tailored to each opportunity in which you’re interested.

I know, many readers are saying, “But isn’t that what the cover letter is for?” To a large extent, that’s correct. Your cover letter should emphasize why you’re interested in, and qualified for, a specific position. But, if you’re inquiring about a managerial position and you send in your résumé such as Greg has redesigned, no matter what your cover letter says, your résumé emphasizes your technical achievements. Instead, you probably need to change the wording of the summary and rearrange your achievements to put your experience as president of MNO Solutions higher, plus emphasize your MBA. Similarly, if you’re going after a network engineer job, you need to stress your networking experience, especially the scale and scope, and your CCNA.

What should go on a résumé? Everything you want a potential employer to know about you that’s relevant to the position—and some things that aren’t. What does that mean? Well, when applying for a specific position, emphasize what’s relevant but don’t leave off significant accomplishmsents that may not be directly related. I have received résumés for positions in the past where I thought, “Not exactly what I’m looking for in that job, but this person also has experience for another position I need to fill.” This doesn’t mean that you should include your teenage paper route or Frosty Freeze experience (unless you’re applying at a newspaper or an ice-cream maker).

Greg has restructured your résumé in a non-chronological fashion, which has a couple of advantages: You can rearrange your experience to put more relevant items first, and you can avoid putting dates on it. This last point has some plusses and minuses. In our column on age discrimination, I urged the reader to leave dates off the résumé so there was no solid clue to the résumé reader as to the applicant’s age. On the other hand, putting dates with the positions may show stability (or lack thereof) and a steady progression of responsibility.

Page 1, before...
Page 1. Before...
Page 2, before.
Page 2. ... Before, continued.


One-page resume, after.
Page 3. After.

Quick, what don’t you put in a résumé? Everything that’s totally irrelevant to the situation (but it’s not easy to only give categories here). For example, no one should put their hobbies on a résumé unless it could be relevant, as in stating that your two cats came from the local animal shelter if you’re applying for that shelter’s systems manager position. These relevant personal interest items, whether in your cover letter or your résumé, could be what gets you noticed.

Most of the point of this, Harry, is that your résumé needs to be very flexible. No two companies should get the same version of your résumé. That’s what word processors are for! To some degree, creativity counts; but like Greg, I’m not encouraging you to do any fantasy writing. Résumé inflation has become widespread, and employers are doing much more verification than before.

Good luck with your search. Remember, lead with what you’ve done (experience), not what you know (certifications).

About the Author

Steve Crandall, MCSE, is a principal of ChangeOverTime, a technology consulting firm in Cleveland, Ohio, that specializes in small business and non-profit organizations. He's also assistant professor of Information Technology at Myers College and a contributing writer for Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine.


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