That resume has to make an immediate and positive impression – usually within six seconds – or the Big Boss will trash it.
‘Jigsaw puzzle’ syndrome: The fatal flaw of most IT resumes
I peruse up to 100 IT resumes each month. Most of the resumes of CIOs and other tech professionals look almost identical. None stand out in a good way. Common problems include too many bullet points and too little white space.
Do bullets make your resume easier to read?
IT people tend to dump the bullets into a heap — no context, no explanation, just a data dump.
The resume owner probably expects that the reader will “connect the dots” and puzzle out the story. But that never happens.
If your resume looks like an incomprehensible data dump, nobody important will read it. I call this type of resume a jigsaw puzzle: I can see the puzzle pieces, but I can’t see a complete picture of anything you’ve accomplished.
Before and after
Let’s take a before-and-after look at the resume of a CIO superstar.
This CIO had earned multiple degrees from the world’s best schools, and he had received the highest possible performance ratings from all of his previous employers.
He had a great reputation, and many of the top banks and financial services companies in New York knew his name. He moved from job to job, always in demand, based on his reputation for fixing “impossible” problems.
Until recently, he had never even needed a resume.
Five years ago, he started working for a top bank in the United Arab Emirates. He was doing a great job, but he got so busy he forgot to stay in touch with the people in his professional network.
Now he wants to move back to New York City, but he’s being ignored. He has no contacts and no network, and he botched his first attempt at a resume. He couldn’t get hired because potential employers couldn’t see a clear picture of his career.
The image above shows his original resume. It’s a data dump. The text is too dense and is barely readable. The bullet points don’t make sense because there’s no summary to provide context.
This image shows his new, improved resume. It now has a summary paragraph to provide context. Related bullet points are grouped together.
Here are three points to remember when putting together a resume and embarking on a job hunt:
1. Summary: Add a summary section to your resume before you dump out the bullets. The summary gives readers context. Thanks to the summary, readers can see what you accomplished in a single glance.
2. New content: You’ll notice the content in the CIO’s new resume above looks completely different from the content in his original resume. That’s because I extracted some great material during three hours of interviewing him.
3. Interview: A great resume interview solves another common problem: Talented people lock up their best.
Donald Burns is an executive career coach and a resume writer. Since 2008, he has "repackaged" 1,500 executives -- including some high-profile business leaders you've probably seen on TV or in the business media. He provides these services and more through his firm, ExecutivePromotionsLLC.
His work as a resume writer is featured in books about writing resumes and has garnered 13 TORI (Toast of the Resume Industry) awards.
Burns' approach to career coaching is to encourage shy IT professionals to step into the spotlight, build their confidence and take honest credit for accomplishments. "CIOs often act timidly," he explains. "The engineering culture discourages bragging, so I do my best to convince my clients that telling the truth is not bragging."
After high school, Burns served in the U.S. Army for three years and then earned bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering from NYU Polytechnic and, later, an MBA from Manhattan College. From 1980 to 1989, he worked at Motorola, where he advanced through the company's engineering and sales management ranks.
In 1991, Burns switched his career to commercial writing and studied journalism at Columbia University. After graduating, he got a job at Samsung, where he wrote advertising copy from 1994 to 2000 while based at the company's Seoul, South Korea, headquarters.
In 2008, he added executive resumes to his commercial-writing portfolio. He credits his success with resumes to his background writing B2B advertisements.
"I've enjoyed each of my five careers with no regrets," he says. "But I do regret having wasted so much time while making each transition." His goal is to help his clients avoid those difficult career transitions: "My clients need not do that," he says. "They tell me where they want to go, and I show them the surest shortcuts to get there!"
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of Donald Burns and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications Inc. or its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.