In 2007, Don Bernal left his job as the ETL (extract transform load) program manager and business intelligence (BI) services lead with Blue Shield of California in San Francisco. He had been working with Blue Shield for seven years when he decided he needed a change. He travelled for more than a year, until he received a call from his mother in 2008, informing him that his father had had a stroke. Bernal rushed home and spent the next year caring for him.
During his year away from IT, Bernal decided he wanted to pursue a career in education, and in 2009 he began teaching middle school students. A year into it, he realized that teaching children was not right for him at the time. He wanted to get back into IT.
Bernal updated his resume and LinkedIn profile in 2010 and posted his resume on Monster.com, Dice.com and Indeed.com. Since August 2010, he says he’s applied to 150 positions.
“I have re-made my resume several times based on advice from books, recruiters and from the Web,” Bernal told CIO.com via e-mail. “I feel my resume has become a Frankenstein product that has been reduced to fit two pages and is an awkward mix of achievement-based statements with technical keywords [sprinkled in] to satisfy HR filtering applications.”
The fact that Bernal has been out of the IT profession for four years complicates his job search the most. He told CIO.com that employers and recruiters are keen on his background and skill set, but they worry his experience isn’t up to date with the latest technology. So they move on to the next candidate.
Bernal realizes his “sabbatical” is a liability in his job search. So in the resume he created (and recreated) in 2010, he attempted to address it directly. In the fourth and final bullet point in his summary, at the top of his resume, Bernal tried to spin professional experience out of his time off: “Took an extended sabbatical to explore a career change and vagabond through several countries, this experience enhanced skills in: planning, negotiations, independence, flexibility, boldness, self-sufficiency, and improvisation.”
Improvisation indeed. Clearly, Bernal’s attempt to address his sabbatical wasn’t impressing recruiters or hiring managers. He needed an IT resume makeover.
Enter Certified Professional Resume Writer Jennifer Hay
CIO.com retained Jennifer Hay to revamp Bernal’s resume. Before Hay became a professional resume writer in 2008, she worked for the Data Warehousing Institute for five years as a data modeler and head of its certification program. She holds a Certified Business Intelligence Professional (CBIP) credential through The Data Warehousing Institute. Needless to say, she was well-suited to address Bernal’s background in business intelligence and data warehousing.
CIO.com selected Bernal’s resume for the makeover because it presented a specific challenge common to many IT professionals who’ve either been hit hard by the recession or dinged for trying to make a career change: how to address long-term unemployment on their resume.
The Resume Critique
The main challenge Hay says she had to address with Bernal’s resume was getting readers interested in him and his achievements before noticing that he’s been out of the IT profession for four years.
Hay also felt Bernal’s resume was too focused on technology, which she says is a common mistake IT professionals make on their resumes. She wanted his resume to focus more on specific projects and accomplishments he achieved on those projects. She wanted Bernal’s resume to tell a story about his value and professional experience.
Finally, Hay was concerned that Bernal’s resume limited him to specific processes, such as ETL, and to lower-level roles when, in fact, he had the experience to work at a program manager level.
See the original version of Don Bernal’s resume.
Bernal filled out a 3-page questionnaire that asked a variety of questions about the jobs he’s held, projects he’s worked on, accomplishments he’s achieved, and what makes him unique. The questionnaire also asked about experiences he had launching new products, with mergers or acquisitions, with integrating different technologies, with technical documentation, and business process improvement.
As part of the questionnaire, Hay also asked Bernal to write stories about a few of the projects he worked on that he felt did the best job highlighting his strengths and achievements. Hay wanted to know with whom Bernal worked on those projects, what challenges came up and how he addressed them. Hay says completing the questionnaire can take her clients two to three hours.
Hay crafted a first draft of Bernal’s resume based on his responses to her questions and scheduled a call with him to discuss his new resume. Over the hour-long phone call, Hay and Bernal discussed each of the projects he described to make sure she had all the details she needed. She followed up with e-mails to make sure she was capturing his experience accurately.
Hay created a second draft of Bernal’s resume, and the two followed up with more e-mails, clarifying more details and talking through the language she chose.
Within 10 days, Hay turned around a final version of Bernal’s resume. She says it usually takes her two weeks to complete a resume rewrite, provided clients are readily available.
Most resumes begin with an executive summary and quickly move into the job seeker’s professional experience. That approach wouldn’t work for Bernal because he doesn’t have any recent IT experience.
So, to hook readers and de-emphasize the gap in Bernal’s employment history, Hay devoted the first page of his resume to four elements: an executive summary, a list of four of Bernal’s top achievements, a recommendation from one of Bernal’s past managers, and a list of his core strengths. She took this approach to give readers a clear sense of Bernal’s professional qualities, capabilities and accomplishments without having to rely on the typical job chronology.
“I picked out the projects that did the best job defining Don as a professional,” says Hay. “I picked one project because it showed Don as being able to select the best technologies. I picked other projects because they showed how he was able to get people together, to get people to change and to get buy-in at all levels.”
Hay wanted to include on the first page of Bernal’s resume a recommendation she saw on his LinkedIn profile because it gave specific examples of what Bernal had done and because it included keywords relevant to a data and information management professional. “It was critical for me to get this quote on the first page,” says Hay.
She also wanted to highlight his core strengths—again, to paint a clear picture of his capabilities and as a way to get keywords into his resume. “Don sent me a couple of jobs that interested him, and I put a keyword list together based on those job ads,” she says.
Hay notes that the business intelligence, data warehousing and information management technologies that Don has used are still current. “There have been a lot of acquisitions, but fortunately, the ones he worked with are well known, major vendors, so he has that benefit,” she says.
As well, Hay wanted to show on the first page that Bernal has stayed informed about his field so she devoted the last line of the executive summary to noting that he is a continuous learner who stays up-to-date about technology trends. “I wanted to get that in someone’s mind before they learned he’s been out of the industry,” she says.
Through each of the four elements on the first page of Bernal’s resume (the summary, the list of achievements, the recommendation and the list of core strengths), Hay underscored several themes:
1) Bernal’s leadership – His ability to initiate projects, drive change and obtain buy-in.
2) Bernal’s management – His penchant for mentoring junior staff.
3) Bernal’s technical expertise.
4) Bernal’s commitment to continuous learning.
Finally, Hay wanted to show that Bernal was capable of doing more than just ETL and that he had experience with data governance, which would qualify him for higher-level information management and BI positions. “ETL is a very common data integration process, but these days, people do more than ETL,” says Hay. “He originally had ETL on top of his resume, but I think that’s too limiting. I used [the term] data integration up front and put ETL specifically at the end. Don is perfectly capable of learning other kinds of data integration, and I wanted to make sure those opportunities are available to him.”
With the first page of Bernal’s resume now devoted to defining him as an information management professional, Hay put his 10 years of professional experience and educational background on page two. She notes his sabbatical and educational experience at the top of page two. Taking up less than one-third of page three is a table listing the many current technologies in which Bernal is proficient.
See the new version of Bernal’s resume
Bernal is thrilled with his new resume. “It’s outstanding!” he told CIO.com via e-mail. “Jennifer did an incredible job and was a pleasure to work with.”
He’s particularly happy with the way his new resume communicates his soft skills. He told CIO.com that he didn’t realize the extent to which his soft skills differentiated him. He thought everyone possessed them and added that he had trouble expressing them “without sounding trite.”
“The resume markets me beyond my technical aptitude…deftly highlighting the common sense paths and solutions I’ve applied to rescue troubled situations or to deliver a product/project,” Bernal wrote to CIO.com.
Bernal says he’s looking forward to sending out his new resume the second week of September, after he returns from a trip.
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.