Job search Website TheLadders gave CIO and entrepreneur James Jordan's resume a total makeover. Here's an inside look at what they recommended, what they did to improve it, and how Jordan's resume looked before and after the rewrite.
By Meridith Levinson
James Jordan had been trying to fund his own healthcare technology company with the profits from his independent IT consulting business for 15 months when he concluded that the embattled healthcare industry was just not ready for his software product and that it was time to start a job search.
Jordan initially developed the application, now a health management portal, for his then 12-year-old daughter, Courtney, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was just a peanut at three years old. Jordan was frustrated by the tools available to Courtney; nothing made it easy for her to track her blood sugar levels or the amount of carbohydrates and Insulin she was taking.
The portal Jordan created helps diabetics like Courtney and patients with other chronic illnesses to monitor and manage their conditions and connect with caregivers, insurance providers, suppliers and other patients through a set of interactive online tools and dashboards. Patients can upload data to the portal using any of their medical devices.
Jordan was successful in piloting the portal at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Indiana, where his daughter is a patient. Jordan says using the portal helped reduce Courtney’s A1C level, a measure of her average blood sugar level, by 1.5 points over the course of a year. Healthcare practitioners consider such a dramatic decrease to be a huge success. Jordan says the portal also saved the state of Indiana $1,400 by reducing his daughter’s need for medical supplies and doctor visits, and it saved his family $250 in insurance co-payments.
Jordan talked with more than 125 large healthcare organizations about his portal. He says they saw its promise, but they couldn’t commit to deploying it because they were consumed with complying with the nation’s new healthcare laws.
So in March he decided, with his wife’s encouragement, to find a CIO job.
Jordan dusted off his old résumé and updated it with his experience at S5Health, his startup. He then cast his résumé out for various CIO jobs; in three months only one employer took his bait. He needed a résumé makeover.
Within five days of receiving Jordan’s résumé, Caitlin Adriance, an executive résumé analyst and certified professional résumé writer with TheLadders, turned around a thorough critique of Jordan’s résumé. Her big-picture assessment: Jordan’s résumé didn’t provide hiring managers with relevant information about his qualifications, and thus, was selling him short.
“Your résumé simply does not reflect your professional caliber,” Adriance wrote to Jordan in a private message via TheLadders’ Website. “You have an excellent background…you have the qualifications…but you are just not making that first impression count. Frankly, the résumé positions you for a lower-level job and salary than you desire—or deserve.”
Adriance, who estimates she has reviewed more than 20,000 résumés in her career, identified the following eight aspects of Jordan’s résumé that needed improvement.
1. Inclusion of an Objective Statement
Jordan included a wordy objective near the top of his résumé. Adriance discouraged his use of an objective statement because résumé objectives speak to the job seeker’s needs rather than the employers’. She noted in her comments on Jordan’s résumé that objectives are only customary for recent college graduates and other candidates with far less work experience than Jordan.
2. Lack of Executive Summary
Adriance recommended replacing the objective statement with an executive summary. “A great, hard-hitting summary establishes the focus of your résumé with a good positioning slug, provides the reader with a concise picture of the value you offer, and implies where you are headed in your career,” wrote Adriance. “Employers will often make their decision on whether to proceed with a résumé by first reading this section.”
3. Generic Areas of Expertise
Jordan provided a bulleted list of his 10 “Notable Skills” between his objective and career history. Adriance pointed out that highlighting one’s top skills is an effective résumé strategy because it helps employers find them online when they search for candidates with specific skills.
The problem with Jordan’s execution of this strategy was that the skills he listed were generic and articulated poorly.
4. Lack of Focus
Jordan’s résumé suffered from an identity crisis: Half of it was focused on his work launching S5Health while the other half was devoted to describing his CIO and IT management experience. The lack of focus made it unclear whether he was seeking a CIO job or to market his startup.
Further complicating matters, Jordan used the same bulleted format to describe the S5Health portal’s functionality that he used to communicate his work experience and accomplishments. Adriance said this made it harder for employers to identify his achievements.
“They expect to see specific accomplishments (and only specific accomplishments) in bullets,” she wrote. “So including this platform description in the same format only means that the reader will not be able to find your achievements as quickly.”
5. Content Gives the Wrong Impression
Adriance noted that Jordan’s résumé doesn’t communicate the value he’s contributed to each of his employers. One reason his résumé falls short in this goal is because he mixes responsibilities with accomplishments in his bullet points, and Adriance said combining the two dilutes the impact of both and makes it harder for employers to find the details they need to evaluate candidates.
“Employers read the [executives] summary, then very briefly check bullets for outcomes and results to similar circumstances they are currently facing,” Adriance explained to Jordan. “If they skim bullets and see task-based material, rarely do they keep reading.”
6. Not Enough Metrics
Jordan had some solid metrics on his résumé related to cost savings he achieved and revenue he generated in various positions, but he doesn’t have enough. Adriance told him that his résumé needs to be much more outcome-based to stand out in an intensely competitive job market.
“…employers look for potential in the quantitative evidence you show of your success,” Adriance wrote in her critique. “You need to be much more aggressive in tone and in outlining exactly how you’ve made a positive impact for your employers in the past.”
Adriance added that tangible results are more important than individual responsibilities on an executive résumé. “When you reach these high levels and are looking to transition out of an entrepreneurial role, duties and tasks become underlying factors, not deciding factors,” she wrote. “The ones who get the interviews will be those who consistently show the concrete and provable results of their work.”
Jordan wrote portions of his résumé in the first person. Adriance said using the personal pronoun “I” gives what is supposed to be a professional document a casual tone and makes Jordan look unprofessional.
“If you aren’t communicating your job descriptions, accomplishments and other aspects of your work experiences well in your résumé, hiring managers will assume you are not a good communicator in person,” Adriance warned Jordan.
8. Ineffective Design
Adriance told Jordan that the design and layout of his résumé—and in particular, his over-reliance on bullet points—hides his impressive qualifications. She recommended using a job description format to highlight his skills and accomplishments.
With the improvements that TheLadders needed to make to Jordan’s résumé identified, Meredith Spencer, another one of TheLadders’ certified professional résumé writers who works with IT executives, undertook the rewrite.
Spencer and Jordan set up a conference call on June 6. Spencer wanted to learn more about Jordan’s job search, the kinds of positions he was seeking, and his work experience. In an encouraging, professional manner, Spencer probed Jordan for details on S5Health, the portal he built, specific responsibilities he held in various roles and specific accomplishments. She told Jordan to send her ads for jobs that interested him so that she could tailor his new résumé toward those positions.
On June 10, Spencer sent Jordan a first draft of his revamped résumé. Jordan was delighted with Spencer’s work, which only required a few minor changes. In an e-mail to CIO.com Jordan wrote: “They did a great job in branding me and helping me put my best foot forward. My old résumé made me look like a junior executive, rather than the senior-level executive that I am. …I am sure a lot of your readers have made some of the same mistakes that I made on my résumé. So many CIOs are good at solving problems and innovating, but we have a hard time branding ourselves.”
Indeed, taking stock of one’s entire career (including all the responsibilities one has held and accomplishments achieved), assessing one’s strengths, then taking that necessary step back to identify which points are truly worthy of including on one’s résumé is no easy task. In fact, Adriance addressed that very concern in one of her messages to Jordan, when she noted that many candidates have trouble viewing their résumé objectively. Often it takes an outsider to get that objective perspective.
On June 13, Spencer sent the following final version of Jordan’s résumé to him.