Ambitious IT managers and IT directors dream of moving into CIO positions. For them, the vaunted CIO title—and the multimillion dollar management responsibility that comes with it—is their ultimate career goal.
Lindsey Snapp is one such IT manager who wants to take his career to the next level. Snapp had been working as an IT manager for a division of Thyssenkrupp, a global manufacturing company, when he left in August to become a contractor. The contract position he accepted gives him the flexibility he needs to finish his MBA and pays him more money than Thyssenkrupp. Snapp says he lacked opportunity for career growth at Thyssenkrupp because he reported to a young, ensconced director of finance. Snapp hopes earning his MBA will help unlock the doors to IT director, CIO- and CTO-level positions.
The problem facing Snapp, and IT managers like him, in today’s competitive job market is that organizations hiring CIOs want “proven” candidates who currently possess that title, according to executive recruiters. Employers don’t want to take chances on mid-level IT managers or IT directors.
Snapp’s challenge, then, is convincing hiring decision-makers that he’s got what it takes to move into a senior IT leadership position—or at least to give him an initial phone interview. He needs to start with his résumé.
Snapp says that he applied for 50 to 100 IT director and CIO/CTO-level positions over the past year. A few headhunters contacted him for technical positions, but not for the IT leadership positions he’s seeking. He believes his résumé is not playing to the right audience. “My résumé is either too technical or doesn’t show enough management skills,” he says.
Snapp needed a résumé makeover.
Enter Executive Résumé Writer Wendy Enelow
Wendy S. Enelow, a certified executive résumé writer and co-author of Expert Resumes for Computer and Web Jobs (JIST 2005), agreed to revamp Snapp’s résumé. Enelow has worked as a professional résumé writer for 32 years. She also teaches the art of résumé writing to career coaches through the Resume Writing Academy that she founded.
CIO.com chose Snapp’s résumé because it represented many mid-career IT management professionals’ career goals and résumé writing challenges.
Enelow identified two overarching problems with Snapp’s résumé: 1) It didn’t position him for the senior IT leadership jobs he was seeking. 2) It didn’t give readers a clear idea of his professional identity and value.
See the original version of Lindsey Snapp’s résumé.
To address both problems, Enelow first focused on Snapp’s executive summary. She found it wordy and obtuse. “I knew nothing about Lindsey when I read it,” she says.
After speaking with Snapp for more than an hour over the phone, Enelow rewrote his executive summary so that it encapsulated his career, captured his key strengths, combined his technical and leadership skills, and articulated the work environments in which he excels in 72 direct and descriptive words. Enelow also gave Snapp’s executive summary a headline to tell readers exactly what Snapp does: Information Technology Manager. She ended the summary with a two-line branding statement “that clearly identifies the core value that Lindsey brings to an organization,” she says.
Next, Enelow set her sights on Snapp’s professional experience with Thyssenkrupp. The first change she made to this section of Snapp’s résumé was to add a sentence that described Thyssenkrupp’s business because it’s not a common name. The description, she says, gives context to Snapp’s work with the company.
Notably, Enelow did not explicitly state that Presta, the division of Thyssenkrupp where Snapp worked, makes steering wheels. “I don’t say that because it’s unrelated to where Lindsey will probably want to go,” says Enelow. “If he wanted to stay in the auto industry, I would have made a point of saying that Presta is a leading manufacturer of steering wheels. …Lindsey’s career objective determines what I say about Presta.”
While speaking with Snapp, Enelow discovered that he had actually held three positions with Thyssenkrupp. He only listed one on his original résumé. Enelow wanted to make his career trajectory inside Thyssenkrupp’s Presta division clear to readers, so she listed each position under the one-line description of Thyssenkrupp’s business.
Enelow then attacked the paragraph Snapp had written under his job title summarizing his responsibilities as Thyssenkrupp’s information systems manager. She eliminated the first person point of view and emphasized the leadership role Snapp played in designing, developing, staffing and budgeting the IT organization and IT infrastructure for a new manufacturing division.
Biting the Bullet Points
The many bullet points Snapp included in his original résumé to list his responsibilities and accomplishments with Thyssenkrupp posed more problems. There were too many, and they bogged Snapp’s résumé down in minutiae, according to Enelow. She took the first six bullet points detailing his day-to-day responsibilities and used that information in the summary paragraph she rewrote below his job titles. She wanted to use bullets to draw attention to his accomplishments, not his job description.
Since 12 bullets remained, Enelow grouped them under three headings: Leadership Achievements, Technological Achievements and Financial Achievements. “My rule of thumb is no more than four to six bullet points,” says Enelow. “If you have more, you have to put them under different headings to cluster them, to give them some hierarchy and to enhance the readability of the document.”
Enelow put Snapp’s Leadership Achievements first because that’s what he wanted to emphasize in order to move into a senior IT leadership position and because they’re his strongest accomplishments. “You have to write to the job you want and not get lost in the detail of the job you have or most recently had,” she says.
Telling Snapp’s Whole Career Story
Enelow learned in speaking to Snapp that he in fact held two positions while working for Union Hospital, his employer before Thyssenkrupp, not just the one he listed on his original résumé. Adding the first position he held at Union Hospital—microcomputer specialist/help desk engineer—to his résumé helps to show readers that Snapp is someone who stays with companies and moves up the ladder when given the opportunity.
Enelow also learned that Snapp is a lot younger than she thought. She says Snapp’s original résumé gave her the impression that he was in the 48 to 52 year-old-age bracket because he omitted the dates when he earned his two college degrees and because he didn’t say much about his job with Union Hospital. In fact, Snapp’s in his late 30s.
Enelow added the dates Snapp earned his degrees to his new résumé, along with the dates in which he held his first post with Union Hospital, to show that he was immediately hired to work at Union Hospital after earning his first degree in 1994.
Snapp noted on his original résumé the technical certifications he had earned while at Union Hospital. Enelow kept them on his new résumé because she felt they validated his technical expertise. She also wanted to make sure keyword searches caught them. But she says she didn’t play them up because they weren’t current and because Snapp is trying to become an IT executive, not a hands-on technical manager.
Finally, Enelow removed the “LS” logo from Snapp’s résumé and made sure his contact information was displayed more prominently on both pages of his résumé. She considered the logo less appropriate for an IT manager and more appropriate for a graphic designer. Enelow made his e-mail address a live link so that if a recruiter or hiring manager wanted to contact him, they could do so with one click.
“When you look at his new résumé, what you see is a senior-level IT manager,” says Enelow.
See Snapp’s new résumé.
Onward and Upward
Snapp is pleased with Enelow’s résumé makeover, particularly with the way she balanced his technical and managerial qualifications and positioned him to pursue senior IT leadership positions. “She was able to take the best of both worlds and say, ‘Here’s a guy who can make good technical decisions and good management decisions,'” says Snapp. “She was able to pinpoint some of the things I wasn’t able to pinpoint and sell me in a way I wasn’t able to sell myself. I hope it catches the eye of people who are looking to hire someone with my background and experience.”
Meridith Levinson covers Careers, Project Management and Outsourcing for CIO.com. Follow Meridith on Twitter @meridith. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Meridith at email@example.com.