by Rich Hein

IT Resume Makeover: How to Showcase Your Strengths

Sep 09, 20138 mins
CareersCIOIT Jobs

Your resume needs to be more than a description of the roles you previously held. It needs to tell the story of you. Learn what it takes to showcase the skills that will get you hired.

Michael S. Smith is a 13-year IT management veteran who’s done some amazing things in a short amount of time. From an early point in his career he’s taken on major projects and crushed them, resulting in a relatively quick rise into IT leadership.

Smith is currently senior manager of IT Infrastructure with a major technology company, but he’s always eager to solve the next problem and he has been feeling stagnant in this position and has been looking for a change.

Data security issues in the workplace

The IT Job Search Blues

“I have been looking to advance my career, but feel like my resume was holding me back from getting that first interview,” says Smith. He had used his network and social media, but he wasn’t getting the kind of offers he expected.

“It was dismal to say the least. I’ve been gradually searching LinkedIn and Monster for jobs that fit my experience. I received call backs for some temp positions, but nothing longer term. I feel like my resume was looked over but put in the pile as a contender,” says Smith.

He suspected his resume wasn’t doing him any favors. “The biggest problem was my old resume did not describe all that I have done in my career. I feel the accomplishments were scattered across the resume and not organized to highlight my abilities,” says Smith.

Resume Writer and Career Coach Laura Smith-Proulx

Laura Smith-Proulx is also a veteran in her field. She’s worked with countless executives to help them find the roles they desire, and she’s won plenty of awards and accolades along the way. She saw Smith was in need of some help and decided to offer her services and be a part of CIO’s IT Resume Makeover.

Link to Original Resume

First Impressions

“It was heavy in terms of specifics and yet it was a bit dense in terms of reading. He had quite a bit of career progression and a lot of good intel but I had to read into it more closely to get that there was a very strong business support component and an alignment component to what he had been doing,” says Smith-Proulx.

Everybody has a story and a back story within that and it didn’t take her long to figure out why Smith had been successful in his previous roles. “For Smith the back story was being this business leader; someone who has been so valued in his organization. He had value internally that wasn’t necessarily coming out before [in the original resume],” says Smith-Proulx.

The Resume Makeover Interview

Part of the makeover process involves a one-on-one interview between the writer and the candidate in which they work together to find out what’s really important to the candidate and how best to present his skills in the resume, interview and beyond.

“He had a really fast career and didn’t have the traditional type of coming through lower-level positions. He had risen very quickly and part of that was because he was put into major project management roles at an early point in his career. As the company grew he grew with it,” says Smith-Proulx.

One of the things, according to Smith-Proulx, that came up in that interview was that Smith saw himself as having a good mix of technology and an operational background. “A lot of the ways he was contributing to the business had its roots in how he was open to suggesting and following through on some major projects that yielded significant benefits for his company,” says Smith-Proulx.

Wording Was Too Dense

One of the things evident to Smith-Proulx at first glance was the dense wording of his resume. There was a lot of good information there but it was buried under a mountain of text. “Part of it is the speed of the message, “says Smith-Proulx. Her goal was to make the new resume more streamlined and easy to digest so that hiring managers could, in a glance, get a feeling for who Smith is.

“I always rewrite everything that I extrapolate from a candidate because the interviews are typically long and I like to hear what people tell me about the context of what they’ve done. It’s much more robust and meaningful if you will then what they have originally put down on the paper,” says Smith-Proulx.

Changing the Layout

Smith’s wordy resume was telling the story, but it you had to read into it too carefully in order to find those nuggets that would make an employer take notice. Our resume writer made a few changes such as adding what she likes to refer to as the technology career milestones or summary section. This, Smith-Proulx says, really gives the hiring manager a quick snapshot of what this candidate is all about.

“If there is something critical in your background it needs to land on your first page and preferably in the top half or it just won’t be obvious,” according to Smith-Proulx.

Smith-Proulx next took Smith’s career highlights and worded them in a more succinct, easy-to-digest way. She then moved them to the first page of his resume. This was to ensure that hiring managers could in a quick glance get a feeling for the major impact Smith had with his previous employer. She also made smaller cosmetic changes like adding a splash of color to break up all the whitespace and adding a different font.

Highlighting the Correct Skills and Achievements

Smith-Proulx says one important component that Smith wasn’t highlighting was the global nature and sustainability of the major projects he had led. “He was telling the story but it was a little buried. He wasn’t making evident the global nature of his company and that he touched systems in so many different regions of the world. The systems he put in place were very sustainable and used as a standard,” says Smith-Proulx.

The most important skills to highlight are the ones the employers are looking for, so Smith-Proulx brought to the forefront what was notable about each previous position he had held. “This was a way to pull out some strong career highlights out,” says Smith-Proulx, that had been buried in the word heavy original resume.

Tying Efforts to the Bottom-line

“Michael was such an integral part of IT’s digital footprint. He’s able to think strategically about business needs and I thought that was something that needed to be front and center,” says Smith-Proulx. He had alluded to many of his achievements in the original resume but they were buried within the dense wording making them difficult to find without a lot of digging and they weren’t any examples tying results to the bottom-line.

“We talked in our meeting and ended up adding several metrics, for example, the infrastructure being optimized for the collaboration environment. I also added a small graphic on the front of the resume just to show that as he had put in some of these projects like ‘Unified Communications System’ which is a hallmark of his career that he was the driver behind these for his company and they had affected so many people,” says Smith-Proulx.

Added IT Business Keywords

According to our resume strategist, Smith had some of the keywords as they referred to his technological prowess, but there was something missing. After their discussions it was apparent to Smith-Proulx that these items missing were recurring themes in his career and that they needed to be better showcased.

“Some of the business keywords were not necessarily in there [such as] ‘cost savings,’ ‘monetization strategies’ and ‘revenue generation’. With keywords I like to break them out under each position, not just a list at the top of the resume because it gives you a little direction and it shows the scope of each position,” says Prioux Hall.

Added a Recommendation

Smith had a lot of feedback from the people on worked with him. They were extremely grateful in terms of what he was able to do and the magnitude of it. This was reflected in his performance reviews and Smith-Proulx thought that it was fitting to showcase how important his contributions really were by adding the quote within the fold on page one from his company’s CTO. The quote itself was pulled directly from his performance review.

The Future Comes Into Focus

Now Smith-Proulx put her experience to work essentially deconstructing the original resume and creating a resume with a new slant, one that highlighted the crowning achievements from his speedy rise to leadership. The focus changed from a technology-themed resume with some leadership skills that was a bit too dense to being a much more business- and value-focused document that is readable at a glance.

Link to New IT Resume

IT Job Search Back on Track

Smith is ready to begin his job search with a renewed vigor and with a new resume in hand. His overall experience working on the IT Resume Makeover was in his words, “Outstanding! The new resume outlines exactly what I’ve done and what I can do. The format is easy to read and search. I honestly didn’t think a resume could look that good,” says Smith.

If you’d like to participate in the resume makeover please drop us an email with Resume Makeover 2013 in the subject and your resume attached.

Rich Hein covers IT careers for Follow Rich on LinkedIn & Twitter. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline, on Facebook, and on Google+.