by Rich Hein

IT Resume Makeover: Moving Your Job Search to the Senior Level

Dec 20, 20126 mins
CareersIT Leadership

Your resume is your most powerful tool when trying to market yourself to IT employers. Are you doing everything you can to effectively communicate your message to them?

Gunawan Santoso is a senior IT executive in Bangkok. He has worked in financial services for more than 15 years and specializes in infrastructure strategy and enablement. He has proven experience with virtualization and data centers within his niche.

From a supervisor to IT operations manager and eventually to vice president of systems and infrastructure, Santoso has seen a lot over the years. He had also distinguished himself as a thought-leader in his niche, speaking at events and publishing articles over the years.

Santoso’s job search hadn’t been going well. “With the economic downturn it has been difficult to find senior positions,” says Santoso. Although he was getting interviews companies weren’t offering him the money that he desired so he decided to something about.

He knew from the start that he needed to update his resume, but he didn’t know where to start? “My resume was too long at four pages and is geared toward mid-level positions, not executive ones,” says Santoso.


Download: Gunawan Santoso Original IT Resume


Ross Macpherson Steps In to Tackle Resume

Enter Ross Macpherson, president of Career Quest and an expert in advanced career strategies. Macpherson has more than 16 years of experience in his field and is certified as a personal branding strategist, an online identity strategist and a interview and job search coach. He’s also appeared in more than 17 different career publications.

Macpherson says he believes the old marketing adage holds true here. “There is a big difference between what you’re selling and what your audience is buying. You need to approach your resume from your targeted employer’s standpoint. What are they interested in buying,” says Macpherson.

Knowing that Santoso isa thought-leader in his specialty, Macpherson’s goal was to highlight all of Santoso’s skills in his area of expertise and make him appear on paper to be the expert that he actually is.

Identifying Resume Problems

The first thing Macpherson noticed were grammatical errors. “Effective writing and accurate grammar are absolutely mandatory in a resume but people still struggle with it,” says Macpherson. So get rid of grammatical mistakes. Have a friend read it and use (but don’t rely exclusively on) a spellchecker. Using words correctly can mean the difference between sounding like an educated professional or a slack-jawed gawker.

The next issue: At four pages it was clear to Macpherson that this resume was too long and more of a data dump. “Thinking from a marketing perspective requires a target audience. It requires a strategy behind it,” says Macpherson. Gun tended to put everything down making it appear more like a data dump.

Approaching your resume this way Macpherson notes is akin to saying, “Here’s everything I’ve ever done you figure it out.” “This is a dangerous resume strategy to take,” says Macpherson. Ross says that in his experience as a career strategist, that IT resumes tend to be the most guilty when it comes to data dumps.

Your resume is marketing tool, so think like a salesperson. What are the selling points? What is the buyer/employer looking for? “He had areas for main activities and responsibilities and another for achievements. This was unnecessary and was cluttering up the resume,” says Macpherson. You need to clearly and succinctly communicate your worth to the reader so keep it short. No more than two pages.

To fix this Macpherson pared down Santoso’s resume into a two-page document that was more focused and gave direction as to his career goals. “There were cases where I was able to take two or three bullets and combine them into one. I had to decide which bullets were absolutely critical,” says Macpherson.

His next goal was to give Santoso’s resume a laser focus on the position that he is seeking. “[Santoso’s resume] starts off with selected achievements, which are great but although Gun had a clear direction on where he wanted to go, his resume didn’t suggest that. It didn’t give any focus or direction,” says Macpherson.

One of the questions that Ross initially asked Gun, “In your current role what were you specifically brought in to do?”

“I really wanted to crystalize this because very often when I read resumes, I can read the entire first page and still not be clear on what the focus is. The most effective resume clarifies the focus by a third of the way down the page,” says Macpherson. The rest, he points out, are simply accomplishments that highlight specific relevant skills.

To gain clarity Macpherson added a profile at the top of Santoso’s resume. The profile does a number of things. For example, it contains what Ross refers to as the headline. In it, Santoso clearly states that he is in financial services. In his old resume there really wasn’t an area that stated that clearly and effectively.

“Below that, the profile paragraph summarizes and crystalizes specifically what Gun offers and why his qualifications stand out,” says Macpherson. Doing it this way, Macpherson says, “means that by half way down the page Gun has already made his case to prospective employers and has clarified his specific expertise. The rest of the resume just goes into specific accomplishments.”

Keywords also need special attention. Keywords are absolutely critical, Macpherson says. “I encourage anyone who is putting together a resume to take a look at the job postings that you’re attracted to. What keyword commonalities do they have? What is the skillset that your target company is looking for? If you’ve got those skills make sure they are reflected in your resume.

And the final, albeit minor, issue was that Santoso’s resume contained a profile image. While it may be OK in other cultures, in the U.S. having a profile image in your resume isn’t good. Macpherson removed the image from Santoso’s resume, a small but necessary change.

Santoso’s Reaction to Resume Makeover

Santoso was quite happy with the final product. “I always knew my resume had too much info, but I couldn’t figure out how to simplify it. Ross revamped and evolved my resume without sacrificing my career highlights,” says Santoso.


Download: Gunawan Santoso IT Resume Makeover


Updating Your IT Resume

Approaching your resume from a marketing perspective is a smart way to get noticed. “Keep it concise, to the point and relevant to your audience–that’s what going to work. Then they’ll see why you’re the perfect fit,” says Macpherson.

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