by Sarah K. White

IT resume makeover: Finding the right aesthetic and format

Jul 30, 2019
CareersCIOIT Leadership

IT leaders must work to hone their resumes, but equally important is making sure the format and flow catch the attention of recruiters and application tracking systems alike.

career resume job candidate
Credit: Getty Images

After decades in IT, it can be hard to capture the extensive skills and experience of a storied career in just one or two pages of a resume. Seasoned IT pros and executives who sit down to list their experience and accomplishments often find they’re left with a three- or four-page resume, which is not streamlined enough to stand out in today’s competitive recruitment landscape.

This was the case for Joyce Morganti, who knew her resume was too long but wasn’t sure how to organize her CV to capture her experience and the reader, not to mention offer a clear picture about where she wanted to take her career next.

“While my resume had good content in terms of quantified accomplishments, it was too long and contained a lot of details. Also, the summary section did not state what I was looking for as a future position,” says Morganti, whose name has been changed for this makeover.

We paired up Morganti with IT resume expert Andrew Ysasi, president of Admovio and vice president of Vital Records Control, to give Morganti’s resume an overhaul. Ysasi was impressed by Morganti’s experience, but knew he’d need to help reformat her resume to make it even stronger.

“Morganti is a seasoned global CIO; there is no question on her ability and experience. Her resume was rich with detail that made it easy to quantify and qualify her experience. However, her resume was four pages long, her most recent position was confusing and there were inconsistencies in grammar and formatting,” says Ysasi.

Here’s how Ysasi worked with Morganti — in particular on its editing and design — to help her resume sing.

Kick off with a career summary

The more accomplishments you have, the more time it takes to polish your resume. Condensing decades of experience into a short document that showcases your skills and achievements is challenging. In this case, Ysasi and Morganti went back and forth around eight to 10 times to “ensure the content was right.”

“A lot of work went into her resume, and it is no surprise because of the great accomplishments she has in her career,” says Ysasi, who took on the challenge of condensing over a decade of experience.

Download Joyce Morganti’s original resume

One of the easiest, and most recommended, ways to shore up an overly long resume is to include an executive or career summary at the top of the document. In this section, you can pull up information otherwise scattered throughout the resume, or skills and accomplishments that are repetitive across jobs, and stick them right at the top of the first page.

“The first page [of the original resume] didn’t shout she was a Global CIO and an IT executive. It is possible an ATS [applicant tracking system] may have matched her to a role, but a recruiter may not have qualified her as a top candidate,” Ysasi says.

In a career or executive summary, you can also include relevant details that might not fit into other sections on the resume. For example, Ysasi included the fact that Morganti is fluent in multiple languages, holds an MBA in international business and has leadership experience at multiple Fortune 100 companies. This is also where Ysasi included Morganti’s future career goals as a CIO and what types of jobs she’d be interested in interviewing for.

Impactful formatting

Your resume should deliver a quick summary of your accomplishments wrapped in an aesthetically pleasing document that is easy to read. Ysasi went through Morganti’s resume to make sure there weren’t any spelling or grammar inconsistencies and that consistent language was used throughout the document, so it felt cohesive.

For your resume to grab the attention of a recruiter or hiring manager, you don’t need fancy design skills. To create an impactful document, something as simple as adding in complementary colors to bring attention to headers and sections can help. For example, in Morganti’s final resume, Ysasi includes a simple graphic at the top with the candidate’s headshot, name and contact information. He then carries the blue shade throughout the document, using it for headings and page breaks. This helps give the document a cohesive feel and makes it more aesthetically pleasing. It also sets it apart from other basic resumes in the pile.

Download Joyce Morganti’s final resume makeover

Formatting isn’t just for the humans reading your resume. You also want to format your resume so application tracking systems will match you with relevant job openings. Ysasi helped Morganti find the right formatting and keywords to help an ATS catch her resume without sacrificing readability for recruiters. One easy way to do this is by including keywords in a skills section at the top of your resume: Find phrases used in job description you are targeting, along with desired skills and expertise, and make sure those are included and spelled properly so an ATS will pick up on them.

You don’t have to share everything

Gaps in your resume are important to address, but you don’t always have to include that information on your resume. In Morganti’s case, she’d taken a sabbatical to care for an elderly parent, but she continued to work on CIO-related projects during the time off. Ysasi cut any “sabbatical” references from the resume, noting that the “information is good to potentially discuss during an interview, but not necessarily in a resume.”

Ysasi restructured this part of Morganti’s resume and labeled her time away from a full-time CIO career as being a “virtual CIO.” This better exemplified what she accomplished during her sabbatical and any other questions about her work history could be addressed in an interview. It not only shows that she can manage an unconventional workload but also demonstrates her ingenuity with finding the work-life balance she needed at that time — all valuable skills for an executive leader.

Final thoughts

Morganti was pleased with her final resume and she found it was a “very valuable exercise to go through working with a neutral party.” She notes that Ysasi helped her get “comfortable with letting go of details for early years” and gave her more insight onto how tracking systems work and what catches the eye of a recruiter or hiring manager.

Ysasi notes that the final resume better demonstrates Morganti’s true abilities as a CIO and offers a document that captures everything she can offer to another company.

“The focus of her resume now clearly states she is a global CIO, plus her photo ads a human element to her resume. The layout is much easier to navigate, and her career and experience are on two pages. Her summary also clearly articulates her story along with a more robust skills section. She also has a new clean formatted version of her resume that is ATS friendly,” says Ysasi.