Resumé refresher best practices

This podcast discussion addresses ways to refresh a resumé

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SPEAKER: Mike Rothman, President and Principal Analyst, Security Incite

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Q: Hello and welcome to SearchCIO.com's podcast on CIO careers and resume advice. This podcast features Martha Heller, Managing Director of the IT leadership practice at Z Resource Group in Boston. In this podcast, Martha Heller offers CIO's candid advice on hard topics and sensitive issues, including age and simple steps to crafting a winning resume. Here she is.

A: Consider a recruiter who looks through hundreds of resumes a week. Ultimately, what matters is the content, right? What you've done. However, just as you wouldn't wear your worst suit to an interview, you may say the same things you would say in your best suit, but that bad suit is going to turn it off, is going to make that very first impression a less than positive one, so will a four-page resume. It's annoying to read a four-page resume, it's too long, it's too much paper. And what it shows a recruiter is that you don't know how to communicate concisely, and concise communication is one of the absolute critical skills of any executive, whether it's a CIO or not.

So, if you put a four-page resume in there, you look like somebody, your first impression is, "I can't prioritize and I can't communicate in a concise manner." A quick, early way to evaluate a resume is using that trick. So if my company has 20,000 employees that I'm recruiting for, I need to know how many employees your company has. If my, the role I'm recruiting for is going to have a staff of 300, I need to know your staff, how many people you've managed. Same goes for your budget, same goes for the size of the projects you've managed from the perspective of budget. Same goes for the annual revenues. So if you can get metrics in there like,
"This company, I was the CIO for this company, which is a $10 billion company, with 25,000 employees, I have a staff of 250, and an annual budget of, you know, three billion, or whatever it is, a budget of 100 million. Put that in there because that's going to allow a recruiter to see the relevance of what you've done.

Similarly, after each role, when you say, "OK, I'm the CIO of X Company,"
do a one-liner on what that company is. X Company is a $12 billion maker of paper products. You want to include more detail about the last three jobs, and as you get towards the beginning of your career you want to include very little detail. What a recruiter is going to look for in a resume is,
"I want to see how long you've been at each company, and I want to see that you've had an upward trajectory". So if you've been, if you came into a company as an Assistant Director and then moved to be a Director, and then moved to be a Senior Director, and then a V.P., and then a CIO, you want to show all of those moves. You don't have to list everything you did under each one of those, but you definitely want to show that you came in and were promoted. There are a lot of different ways to do that, but just make sure that you're showing your career as a trajectory.

Unless you are very advanced in your career, meaning that you have two more years of work, before you retire, put your dates on your education. You know I've seen people who are 43-years old, which is a great age, hired into a CIO role, not put their dates down. When people don't put their dates on their education, I assume that they're approaching 70, so if you're not approaching 70, put your dates down. And if you are approaching 70, it's debatable. The fact of the matter is, I am not going to present you to my client unless I know how old you are. I'm going to find out. Tell me now, more marketable. In terms of length, two-and-a-half is fine, but don't go much longer than that.

Also, pay attention to formatting. Give your resume to a resume service if you don't know how to make it pretty yourself. I'm going to go back to that same analogy. Don't wear your worst tie to an interview, and don't use horrible fonts and really narrow margins, you know, where you treat every kind of information with the exact same font. You know you need to present your resume in a way that is pleasing to the eye. Not just because it's a good impression, but because it allows the people who spend their lives reading resumes, to ingest your information much more efficiently, and that's what you want. Recruiters do not read information that is not contextualized in a company and in a role. So if you have a whole list of bullet items on your first page that say, "Ran $10 billion CRM program, Built a staff from scratch, Turned around an I2 organization," that means nothing to me because I don't know where you did it. That's like reading a newspaper article that says, "700 people were attacked by a bomb". Well, where? That doesn't mean anything to me unless you contextualize it. What part of the country? Who were these people?

So to have a whole cover sheet that just lists all these accomplishments, but are not grounded in a particular role makes no sense. So I would lose that cover sheet, I would maybe just have something at the top that says, you know, "IT executive with 20 years of experience in the following industries, excelling in staff development blah, blah, blah. Guarantee there's nothing unique about that, compared to what everybody else is putting on, but then right at the top of that resume, right after you've gotten that little generic info, you should say, "Currently, I am CIO of this company," and then all your good stuff should be contextualized underneath that role. Generic information that says, "I'm a great leader"
tells me nothing. How many people? What did you do? How did you do it?
That's what I need to know.

Q: That concludes today's podcast. For more information on resume refreshers, as well as advice from seasoned CIOs, be sure to read the article by senior news writer Linda Tucci entitled, CIO Resume Advice: Keep it Simple. You can find the article and other careers resources in the CIO career development section on SearchCIO.com. Thanks for listening.

This was first published in April 2008

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