Just because you're not actively looking for a job is no reason to neglect your resume. In a fluctuating market the rug can be pulled out from under even the most skilled IT pros, so it's always good to be prepared.
By Rich Hein
Doug Koch has spent the last 15 years in various IT and leadership roles. He’s been around the proverbial block a few times, which has instilled in him a measure of preparedness.
Koch considers himself a lucky person. He has a job he’s happy with and a solid relationship with the management team at his current company. That said, he also understands that just because things are good now, it’s no time to be complacent. That’s why he threw his name in the hat for CIO.com’s IT Resume Makeover series.
Koch acknowledges that his experience with his original resume was a little rocky. After sharing it awhile back with his network of peers there were a few who offered their feedback. They let him know that the resume he was using was not an accurate representation of who Doug Koch was and what he was capable of. “They told me, your resume doesn’t really say what you’ve done. It doesn’t give a good picture of your background,” says Koch.
Koch understands that when it comes to careers, the best defense is a good offense and so he took it upon himself to get his resume updated to more accurately portray who he is professionally.
This month’s guest career coach is Caitlin Sampson, resume writer and co-founder of Regal Resume. Right from the start Sampson could see that Koch needed some help. So in order to figure out more about Koch, Sampson met with him for a phone interview in which they discussed the details of Koch’s career. This is absolutely necessary, Sampson says, to tell an accurate story of what the candidate’s daily responsibilities and achievements are and, more importantly, why an employer would want to hire him.
In the interview she asks a number of questions to help draw out of her clients what they’ve done throughout their career. Here are some of the questions she begins with:
Why are you looking to have your resume updated?
What were you most proud of in your current role?
Where would you like to see yourself in five years?
Why are you interested in this particular profession?
What have been your biggest challenges?
How did you help the company save time?
With the interviews done, Sampson began the work of dissecting the original resume. One important distinction that makes Koch’s situation different is that he isn’t looking for a job. In fact, he’s quite happy where he is. However, Sampson and Koch both agree that even if you aren’t looking for a new job, it’s always important to keep your resume up to date. “Usually I’m determined to give a clear direction on the type of role someone is applying for, so we created something more of a general resume,” says Sampson.
In general, experts say that you should be updating your resume every six months or so. It may seem like extra work, but in today’s world you have to be prepared. If the day comes when you need it, you will be happy that you don’t have to dig through old notes or simply remember all of the good things you’ve done over the last year, the seminars and courses you have attended, and anything else that could be used as a resume bullet.
One tidbit that Sampson offers is that a good time to update your resume is right after your performance appraisal while things are still fresh in your mind.
Building a Better IT Resume
The three most important elements of the resume are these, according to Sampson. First, “it has to have a clear direction and message,” says Sampson. The hiring manager/recruiter should immediately be able to see that this is the direction you want to take your career.
Second, keywords are of particular importance, according to Sampson, when applying online due to applicant tracking systems. Applicant tracking systems depend heavily on how keywords are aligned with the position you re hiring for. “Doug had a lot of good keywords in his resume because LinkedIn enables that. You are able to put in your skills and expertise and add keywords in the professional summary,” says Sampson.
Third, you must be able to demonstrate your skillset through quantifiable achievements. “Make sure you have results-oriented accomplishment bullets in your resume so people can see that not only were you able to complete the day-to-day responsibilities of your job, but also that you went above and beyond,” says Sampson.
At first glance, Sampson says she could see that there were items that needed to be addressed. Koch’s approach was a little uncommon in her experience. He had simply taken his LinkedIn profile and created a PDF version and was using it as his resume. “When I first saw Doug’s resume I could see it was a LinkedIn profile, which was intriguing to me. It really made me examine the differences between a LinkedIn profile and a resume,” says Sampson.
“LinkedIn is a shotgun approach with broader, less specific details. A resume is a sniper shot targeted towards a position and industry,” says Sampson. She goes on to highlight the following differences:
A resume would be used as an outbound job search marketing tool and LinkedIn would be used as an inbound marketing tool to attract connections for networking. Even when a company contacts a job seeker on LinkedIn (inbound) chances are they will request a resume as the next step (outbound).
The LinkedIn profile is about networking, exposure (marketing/branding) and making contacts. The resume is a factual summary and is typically used for applying to a specific job. Two different processes, both necessary for optimal job search.
“Although the LinkedIn profile and resume share many similarities, they are two different tools, both to be used. They should not be used on a “one-is-better-than-the-other” basis, but rather complement each other,” says Sampson.
Resume Obstacles and Solutions
So with all the interviews and data points in hand, it was time for Sampson to get to work building the new resume. First on the agenda was a lack of content in terms of Koch’s responsibilities and achievements.
“For his current role he had only one sentence and you really need to expand on that in order to give people a clear understanding of what you do on a day-to-day basis and what your achievements are in that role. In our consultation session I made sure that we captured all of that information,” says Sampson.
Because the candidate isn’t shooting for another role, Sampson had to create a laser-like focus on what Koch’s professional career is all about and tell that story. I found the information [in the original resume] a bit confusing because of how it was structured,” says Sampson.
Koch had done a lot of great things and she wanted to make sure she included that information. “There needed to be more emphasis on what he had accomplished as opposed to his day-to-day responsibilities,” says Sampson.
“Caitlin listened to me blather on about things and then she took some time and was able to consolidate the experience into story points in a very concise manner. It really lays out [to employers] that here are the key things to look at,” says Koch.
Another helpful coincidence is that Koch had recently had his most a performance review. Using it he was able to glean data to get a more accurate picture of what he had achieved over the last couple years.
“By providing those [performance appraisals] we were able to draw out the achievements. We actually included a quote from his performance appraisal in his resume,” says Sampson. This gives another perspective from the people who Doug reports to and demonstrates that he is recognized for his efforts.
The next item on her agenda was the centerpiece of the resume–the professional summary. In his summary on the original resume Koch had accurate information in a bullet-style fashion, but that wasn’t cutting it, according to Sampson.
To create a more professional look, Sampson worked that same data into a paragraph form. She was also able to expand on it a little, giving it more of a professional overview. “We focused a lot on building a professional summary. We also included more keywords in this area,” says Sampson.
Another problem Sampson identified is that Koch had combined several jobs, titles and position changes with one company under one heading. “I kind of thought you were supposed but she told me, ‘no,’ to break them out individually,” says Koch. And so they did, which resulted in a resume more focused on his IT experience. “Even though I have a very diverse background, I trusted her judgment and we kept it IT-centric,” says Koch.
Koch’s resume contained some unique challenges for Sampson in that he isn’t currently seeking another position. Because objective to keep his resume up to date resulted in a more general IT management theme.
“With the LinkedIn-style resume, there was a lot of great information there but it was lacking substance. What were able to do was build that up,” says Sampson. The result is that she transformed Koch’s resume into a focused and more IT-centric document. Koch was thrilled with the final resume and was happy to see his experience laid out in a more coherent fashion.
Koch said that realized that it was a more accurate depiction to potential employers of who he was. “Professional resume writers seemed to me to be more someone who would format a resume nicely. Now I have this whole understanding that they know the types of buzzwords that employers and recruiters are looking for and they know how to position information,” says Koch.
Do you have a resume tip you’d like to share? We value and appreciate your feedback.
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. While many people will email us, only a few will be chosen.