IT Resume Makeover: How to Avoid Buzzword Burnout

A CIO-level executive's resume was crowded, cryptic and wasn't getting his message across. In this edition of's Resume Makeover, careers expert Donald Burns comes to rescue and takes the resume from gibberish to meaningful.

Christopher White's resume was crammed with buzzwords, jargon and what executive resume writer, social media and career strategist Donald Burns calls “techno-gibberish.”

White attempted to outline his extraordinary career path with quantifiable results, numbers and percentages, but he succeeded only in confusing potential readers and likely dooming his resume to the “maybe” or “no” pile of any HR department, recruiter or hiring manager.

Burns, the head of Executive Promotions, says that even after numerous read-throughs he wasn't clear about the message White was trying to send.

When IT Resumes Are Like Teflon – Nothing Sticks

"Chris's resume was crowded and confusing to read," says Burns. "I read it a few times – start to finish – but like Teflon, nothing stuck. I wasn't able to pull out anything memorable," he says.

It was a classic 'jigsaw resume,' Burns says, with a candidate showing the pieces of a career, but without assembling those pieces into a logical, clear picture that outlines where they've been and where they want to go.

"If you send a resume like this, a bunch of puzzle pieces without a complete picture and no 'success story,' a reader likely will skip to the end and dump the resume in the 'No' pile. If you're lucky, you'll end up in the 'maybe' pile!" he says.

Lost in Translation

Although White's resume was written in English, Burns says it was so difficult to read and cryptic that he felt at times like he was translating from Chinese. For example, Burns says in some instances White used “cost containment” when he really meant “cost cutting.” And when the resume cited a “productivity improvement” of $3 million or an “enhancement” of $1 million, White simply meant he was able to cut costs by $3 million or $1 million, Burns says.

This obfuscation was one of the major issues with White's resume. He deliberately used buzzwords and jargon when plain English would have sufficed, and the resume also lacked a sense of the bigger picture into which White's job roles fit, Burns says.

"Chris's resume was crowded with numbers and percentages but lacked a context for those. And because of those issues, it was very difficult to read – that's a common problem with most of the resumes I see, but especially IT resumes," Burns says. "For example, when you read it closely, many items on the original resume make no sense in English – it's 'techno-gibberish.”

Under White's IT Supply Chain Leader [2002-2004] job title and description, the original resume says the following:

"PROJECT TURNAROUND: Reversed a failing productivity management application rollout by recalibrating project operations"

“This makes no sense in English!" Burns says.

Another example from the original resume:

“…increased productivity $2.5 million through …"

How do you increase productivity by $2.5 million? You can't measure productivity using that metric. That makes no sense," Burns says.

The new resume correctly explains that the company saved $2.5 million by implementing logistics software, clearing up the problem and offering a better glimpse of White's responsibility and decision-making abilities in that position.

During Burns' and White's two-hour phone consultation, Burns says they stepped through the resume line-by-line to define terms, clarify responsibilities and hone the focus of the resume.

"I resolved the clarity problem through intense, line-by-line editing of this resume from 'techno-gibberish' into plain English that most people can digest," Burns says. Once the language issue was resolved, Burns turned his attention to shifting the focus of the resume.

Though White's official title is Director of IT for Marketing and Refining, he's actually been functioning as a CIO, a fact Burns confirmed during his and White's consultation.

"Chris told me he wanted to be perceived as a CIO-level candidate despite his current title," says Burns. "Based on what he told me, it's clear he's functioning as a bona fide CIO and his resume isn't reflecting those increased responsibilities," he says.

Positioned for Success

To address this, Burns added "CIO Equivalent" next to White's title, a perfectly legitimate way, Burns says, to showcase what White's actual responsibilities were, even though his title didn't reflect that. In addition, Burns and White added Chief Information Officer to White's top headline to indicate where White's career aspirations lie.

"It's perfectly legitimate to state your career target at the top," says Burns. "Fifteen years ago, this used to be where candidates would state their Objective, but that's no longer common practice on a resume," he says. To add context to each job role White held, Burns used a bold blue color to set apart the summary paragraphs.

"Throughout the resume, you’ll notice the summary paragraphs in bold blue color. These add some context to what he was doing – much of it was strategically important business strategy – above and beyond IT," Burns says. White's now perfectly positioned to move into an aptly titled CIO role from his current position, Burns says, now that the puzzle has been solved and White's resume is speaking the right language.

"That’s how you position yourself for your true career level – by giving a plain-English explanation of what you've done, what you’re doing and where you want to go – with no techno-gibberish or 'business-ese,'" Burns says.

Download the CIO October 2016 Digital Magazine
View Comments
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies