Florence Auala's resume was suffering from a common malady -- a malady so common, in fact, that career expert, personal branding consultant and resume writer Donald Burns of Executive Promotions, LLC coined a term for it.
"At first glance, I had no idea what she was looking for or what she's really good at. I see this type of resume so often that I had to invent a shorthand description for it: 'All bland and no brand,'" Burns says.
"I hate to say it, but her subject matter -- IT auditing -- is not the most exciting topic for a resume," Burns says.
Burns' first challenge was to dig deeper and try to find a story within Auala's work history and experience to make her career narrative more interesting and engaging for potential employers. Fortunately, Burns says, during the course of interviews with Auala, he discovered that she does indeed have a compelling story.
"She does have a great career story," Burns says. "But it was locked up inside her head and appeared nowhere on the resume. It's a very common problem with resumes," Burns says.
From Average to Awesome
When fresh eyes first peruse a resume, they usually give it only about six to 10 seconds attention before deciding whether to consider the candidate's application or trash it, Burns says. That means first impressions are absolutely crucial, and Auala's resume wasn't passing the test, he says.
"Hers was a very average resume. It was not horrible, but not good enough to pass the 'six-second' scan," he says. "At first glance, I had no idea what she did for a living, and had to study the resume for about 15 seconds to determine that she was an auditor," he says.
That's where the interview process came in, Burns says, since it gave him an in-depth look at Auala's current position, career goals and a view into the most important and outstanding aspects of her career, he says.
"We talked for approximately two hours, and during our interview, it became clear that Florence is in the very preliminary stages of a job search and is still figuring out what she wants to do in her next position," Burns says. "She's been an IT auditor for nine years at her current company, and has been contemplating a change to an IT services manager or to a position in IT operations."
To address the "lack of direction" within Auala's resume, Burns says she needed a strong headline, subheadings and introductory paragraph to tell the story of who she is, what she's good at and why she's uniquely qualified to be their number-one choice for a position.
"It's the same way direct marketing works," Burns says. "If you blow the introduction, nothing else will help you. In my experience, you win or lose the six-second 'consider or trash' test in the top half of page 1. You must hook the reader immediately or you lose the sale," he says.
The IT Resume Fix Is In
To that end, Burns reformatted Auala's resume to eliminate confusion and provide context for her career story. While her original resume included a lot of detail about her company and her various tasks and technical skills, in its original form readers would have no idea what that meant to her career goals and progression, Burns says.
"Another problem was the format; though she'd worked for one company since 2005, the format was so confusing it appeared she worked for a few different companies," Burns says. "In fact, she's worked for one company but with multiple subsidiaries," he says.
For people like Auala, who are in the early stages of a career transition, the most important thing to do is find people who are doing what you'd like to do and talk to them, Burns says.
Networking can be a critical part of making such a transition. In that case it's helpful to send peers, colleagues and networking contacts a one-page career summary -- not a cover letter or resume -- but what Burns calls a "bio flyer," that works like an extended business card.
"You'll notice that the first page of Auala's new resume can be sent as a standalone PDF to contacts and potential employers," Burns says. "Sending that one-page overview is handy for networking situations."
'I'm Better Than I Realized'
In addition to making for a great resume, Burns' initial interview process serves as great practice for a candidate's future interviews with recruiters and/or hiring managers, he says.
Burns records each interview and sends it to his candidates to prepare, and most are surprised to hear how well their accomplishments and experience come through.
"After we finished talking, Florence said to me, 'Wow - I'm better than I realized!'" Burns says. "It's not unusual for me to hear that. Most candidates tend to be too modest and bury their best material. They don't want to sound arrogant or as though they're bragging. But all this does is bore recruiters to death with irrelevant detail," he says.
The End Result: Amazing
While Auala's content in her current position, she's looking for a new challenge, Burns says, possibly in IT operations. The difference between her old and new resume is dramatic, and better highlights her career story and the direction she wants her career to take, he says.
"The changes to my resume are very positive -- the difference between old and new is very dramatic," Auala says. "Now, her story is much more compelling not just to her, but to recruiters and people in the hiring chain," says Burns.
Sharon Florentine covers IT careers and data center topics for CIO.com. Follow Sharon on Twitter @MyShar0na. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook.