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Nine tips for polishing a CIO resume

Looking for a job? An executive recruiter tells CIOs how to make the case on paper.

CIOs on the job market should view their resumés as marketing materials, advises executive recruiter Martha Heller. Heller is managing director of the IT Leadership Practice at Z Resource Group Inc., an executive search firm with offices in Westborough, Mass. She offered the following tips for making an effective case on paper at the recent CIO Decisions 2006 conference in Carlsbad, Calif.:

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Lose the summary page: The first no-no, says Heller, is beginning with the boiler plate that goes something like this: An experienced leader who's turned around da da da… "I never read that summary page. To me, it's generic, it's throw-away, I tear it right off," Heller said. A good CIO resumé will start with lots of detail on your last two positions. The descriptions should get shorter as you go back in time.

Show a growth trajectory (even if you've had a setback): Employers want to see a steady increase in responsibilities: staff managed, revenue, reporting structure. "In your last position, for example, you were not on the board of directors. Now you are. You were not on the executive committee. Now you are. You were not an officer of the company. Now you are," Heller said. If you've had a dip -- maybe took a flyer on a dot-com that went south -- Heller suggests you find a way to portray it as a growth trajectory, by choosing metrics that show an increase in responsibility or a new expertise.

Formatting matters: Heller looks at 50 resumés a week. "I can tell you that the ones that are easier to read are well-formatted. It's like the difference between walking into an interview wearing a suit that's eight years old and wearing a custom-made suit and a really nice tie," she says. "The suit is not going to get you the job, it's the content. But at the same time, I would prefer to see the nice suit. The same thing goes for resumés." Use crisp fonts and lots of white space, and if you're not good at layout, get professional help.

Use categories for branding: "It's very hard to read a list of 15 bullet points," Heller says. She suggests you highlight your list of accomplishments by themes, categorizing them under headings such as supply chain, strategic planning or leadership. "That's a really effective way to make a great resumé, but also to take your 'brand attributes' and give them a clear showcase," Heller said.

Focus on the business impact: A CIO resumé often falls prey to what Heller calls tech laundry lists: 14 servers, numbers of data centers, etc. "Unless you want a very technical position, it is not that relevant. If you're doing really cool things with technology, put it down at the bottom," Heller said. Focus on the business impact. Don't just say "reduced data centers" or "cut operating costs by 20%," she said. "Better to say, you're getting cost reductions of 20 % by consolidating data centers. Privileging the business impact over the technology used to do it is extremely important."

In an era when there will be a real dearth of IT talent, your ability to attract and develop and maintain a great team is worth highlighting.
Martha Heller
managing directorZ Resource Group Inc.

Leaders are talent magnets: Any CIO today knows that talent retention is critically important, Heller said. Baby boomers are on the verge of retiring. "In an era when there will be a real dearth of IT talent, your ability to attract and develop and maintain a great team is worth highlighting, provided you have done something significant in this area," she said.

Don't hide 'hot areas' under a bushel: You know what's hot. Compliance, risk management, service-oriented architecture and so on. Research what's germane to the industry or to the company you're targeting for a job, Heller said, and make mention of what you've done in these areas.

No one-page resumés: Heller says she probably gets the most questions on the right length for a resumé. "The one-page resumé means nothing to me. I can't get any information from a single page. I don't see the value," Heller said. Don't go longer than three or four pages, she said, but don't cut off "something critical that you've done."

Groom a successor: One more word to the wise: If you are aiming to move from CIO to an operational role within your current company, Heller said it will be much harder to do if you do not have a successor your peers and business executives would happily accept as CIO. "Get everybody excited about working with this person. That's really step No. 1 in moving to a new role."

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Linda Tucci, Senior News Writer

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