by Rich Hein

IT Resume Makeover: How to Create an Effective Executive Resume

Mar 04, 20137 mins

In's most recent edition of the IT Resume Makeover Series, certified career coach and resume writer Cheryl Simpson demonstrates the elements necessary to get qualified IT pros into C-level interviews.

Rshab Gaur has worked in a leadership role in IT management for more than 20 years for different multinational companies. He has been looking to land a c-level position, but so far he hasn’t had much luck.

According to Gaur, he’s had limited opportunities and feels as though prospective employers and recruiters couldn’t appreciate his potential. “I’ve used several channels, from jobsites to social networking. I’ve approached senior business leaders directly and, while I have received responses from hiring managers, a concrete offer is yet to materialize,” says Gaur.

Gaur says that while his resume was suitable for a lateral role, the flow of content wasn’t doing enough to reflect his accomplishments and achievements. Furthermore, his current role wasn’t clearly quantified. Gaur came to the realization that he needed a resume makeover.

Link to Rshab Gaur’s original resume

IT Resume Strategist to the Rescue

Cheryl Simpson is president of Executive Resume Rescue and has 30 years of experience working as an executive career coach, resume writer and LinkedIn strategist. She also holds numerous certifications in her field.

“At first glance it seemed like a fractured resume,” says Simpson. She could see that Gaur had the experience and qualifications to be working at the executive level, but his resume was holding him back so she decided to help.

First step, says Simpson, was to meet with Gaur and get more details. “Initially, I asked some branding questions and challenged Gaur to pinpoint his personal brand and then, clarifying at a deeper level, what he achieved, how he achieved it and what results he was able to get,” says Simpson.

Problems with Gaur’s Resume

What’s the most important part of the resume? According to Simpson, it’s the summary piece or top part of the first page that contains the title, tagline, summary and overview. Often there are secondary taglines that infuse other information such as key qualifications, certifications or an impressive MBA into this area. It also includes the keywords section, which is the core competency area.

“This whole branding piece is absolutely critical and is becoming more important every day. This collection within the resume is all about branding and positioning. Without that strong information, the resume will be short on keywords, but more critically it can’t communicate to the reader what this person brings to the table and how they are different,” says Simpson. So armed with her experience, knowledge and the information from her interview with Gaur, she got down to business.

Gaur’s most recent role was his weakest link–“The most important role in a resume is generally the most recent one,” Simpson says. In Gaur’s case it was the weakest role on the resume. “I could tell immediately that the problem he was facing was that this was a consulting role and it’s difficult to make [a consulting role] as strong as a prior corporate role. He was trying to position himself in a dual CIO/CISO role, but his efforts were falling short in that,” says Simpson.

Lack of branding–“The resume was dramatically underselling his experience,” says Simpson. When she looked through the resume it became apparent that it didn’t have an executive feel to it and it wasn’t effectively communicating his experience and skills. Gaur wasn’t doing enough to differentiate himself from other candidates.

Gaur’s resume was weak in achievements– Achievements is another resume section where Simpson sees candidates fall short. When a resume doesn’t have a full complement of achievements, it can’t communicate your brand accurately and it will dramatically undersell your experience. That’s what as happening in Gaur’s case.

“Many people tend to give a weak listing of what the results were; they don’t mention anything specific. They’ll say something like; ‘increased sales or productivity’ if they even do that. The ‘how much’ part is rather urgent and, more critically, they don’t tell enough of the story to put the whole achievement in context. You have to really show measurable value and contributions and tell your story in a way that showcases that, “says Simpson.

For example, Simpsons says, I had one candidate who had these bullet points, but he didn’t find a way to tie them together into a story that made sense. He had a lot of the right elements there, which often isn’t the case, but wasn’t effectively communicating his value. In his case, he didn’t make it clear and made presumptions about how the reader was going to read it and, as a consequence, it wasn’t telling his story,” says Simpson.

The resume was short on keywords– As a result of the issues above his resume was short on keywords. “When he applies for roles where the resumes go into an applicant-tracking system, the resume can’t perform for him,” says Simpson.

When applying online without the proper keywords, Simpson says, “you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s not going to go anywhere and it’s not going to produce any results.”

Transforming the IT Resume

With the issues clearly identified, Simpson began the transformation of Gaur’s resume. “The resume writer’s job is to capture more of the story without using more words or space. The goal is to keep every part within the resume short and the overall length short to make it as readable as possible,” says Simpson.

“People often forget that we are in the midst of an employer and recruiter’s economy. These folks have the choice of really fantastic folks to interview and hire. They don’t have to look very far,” says Simpson. To be a successful resume, hiring managers and recruiters need to be able to scan your resume in about 30 seconds and understand what value you will bring to the position.

Moving experiences from a prior role into a more prominent place in the resume. “When you have a situation like his where the current role wasn’t as strong as you’d like it to be–like a consulting role that was more of a stop gap between one job and the next–it’s really important to position some of the person’s prime achievements earlier in the resume,” says Simpson.

In this case, it was Gaur’s Fortune MNC experience. We had to find a way to get that experience and highlight pieces of it in the upper part of the resume. “We are trying to shape the perception and help people see the totality of his experience before they judge him based on that most recent role,” says Simpson. When the reader scans the new resume, they see the Fortune MNC before they see his consulting work.

Highlighting key achievements. “While Gaur had highlighted some of the right achievements, he, like most people, had a tendency to mention one aspect of it,” says Simpson. What’s impactful and communicates an achievement to the reader are three elements that paint an accurate picture of the situation and the context. This first includes the situation or the problem that needed to be resolved. The second includes the actions the person took. And the third includes the results that their efforts lead to, according to Simpson.

Updating and adding keywords through the skills and achievements sections of the resume. In the process of adjusting previous experiences and updating his key achievements, more relevant keywords were added and brought into the fold, giving Gaur’s resume a better shot at getting through application-tracking systems.

Telling a more complete story. “Resumes, in a short amount of space, have to highlight the bottom-line impact of what your hire would mean to a prospective employer,” says Simpson. Using the information she gleaned from their interview, she was able to relate more about Gaur’s personal brand and in the process she made the resume easier to scan.

Finally, she packaged it all that in a way that made senses. The goal here, according to Simpson, was to create a strong brand for him to position him for c-level executive positions.

Link to Rshab Gaur’s new resume

Capturing the Best

Gaur is convinced his new resume will make a difference in his search moving forward. His response to the final resume, “It’s wonderful and concise. It captures the best of what I have delivered and offers great insights on my unexplored capacities.”

Rich Hein is a senior writer for He covers IT careers. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline, on Facebook, and on Google +.