Professionally Speaking

Resumé Makeover

This month, Greg takes a reader’s resumé and gives it a fresh look.

“Harry,” as requested, we’ve changed your name and details in this resumé so you can’t be easily identified.

Before I start explaining what I’ve changed and why, let me say that resumés can be a very subjective area—the same features that excite some hiring managers may turn off others. However, I believe I’ve steered a middle course that should satisfy most people.

First, you need to remember that your resumé is a marketing document. Its purpose is to get someone excited enough about you to ask for an interview. No matter how well you sell yourself in person, this can’t help you if your resumé appears to be just another one in a pile.

When submitting a resumé to an employer, it should be tailored to meet the requirements of the position offered. Although the basics of your skills and experiences won’t change much, there may be specific items in your past you may wish to highlight that may be particularly relevant.

The most important thing I don’t see in your current resumé is any mention of your accomplishments in previous roles. You describe each role, but don’t mention anything in particular you achieved. This is the sort of thing that can make a hiring manager go weak in the knees and can demonstrate the potential value of your skills and experiences in business terms. (In the updated resumé, without knowing your background in detail, I’ve made up some achievements so you get the idea. I’m not suggesting you fabricate items in your resumé—this is professional suicide.)

For example, in your office manager role, you mention that, via computerizing accounting, you saved money and time. Imagine if you were able to quantify this and say that you were able to save $100,000 annually and improve the time taken for monthly reporting from five days to two hours. Similarly, for the implementation of the switched network, it would be helpful to discuss the success of the project in terms of cost, schedule and scope, quality, customer satisfaction and so on. You might be able to list this as a $300,000 project that was completed on time with no unscheduled network outages and mention that you received a highly satisfied rating by the project sponsor. These tangible benefits are what managers really look for.

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


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

I also moved your formal education and certification to the bottom of your resumé. These are, of course, important; but I hope that 20 years after graduating from college, these aren’t your major selling points. For the certifications, I’ve removed the list of electives studied. In my experience, more than 90 percent of NT 4.0 MCSEs took TCP/IP and IIS as electives. If employers want to know what electives you took, they can ask. Similarly, I’ve removed MCP+I because, with your MCSE already, I don’t believe this offers any additional value. Also, in regard to the Windows 2000 core exams you’ve completed, I simply listed you as an MCP for Win2K. I suggest that, perhaps, you mention this in your cover letter. Point out that you think that, as a professional, it’s important to continually update your skills. To that end, you’ve already completed the four core Win2K MCSE exams and have two exams remaining to attain your Win2K MCSE.

One last area I’d like to see added in your resumé is the length of your IT experience and how long you held each role. For all I know, this could be only a couple of months in total or 15 to 20 years. I simply can’t tell.

I’m sure you can probably improve on the text formatting I used in Word, but I trust you understand the main points I’m trying to make. Good luck on your job hunt!

About the Author

Greg Neilson is a manager at a large IT services firm in Australia and has been a frequent contributor to and


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