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IT Resume Makeover: Advice for the Tech Pros

Rich Hein | Feb. 25, 2013
In's latest Resume Makeover, a career coach works with an IT pro who's won awards, worked for Fortune 500 companies, pharmaceutical businesses and more. The challenge: His resume was just a running list of the jobs.

In a world full of noise, competition and short attention spans, your resume has to say a lot quickly.

Your resume is a marketing tool for your personal brand and the first impression that hiring managers, recruiters and HR reps see of you. Suffice it to say, you need to get it right to successfully compete against the horde of IT professionals out there.

Misspellings, unexplained employment gaps, or a simple list of past positions and responsibilities are all potential red flags that can make the decision-makers push your resume into the "no" pile or make it go unnoticed completely.

Enter Arnold Stern

Meet Arnold Stern (not his real name). Stern has a long and successful career as an IT professional, an innovator and a problem-solver. He's won awards, worked for Fortune 500 companies and pharmaceutical companies. Most recently, he was recruited into a government IT role where was asked to untangle some particularly complex issues. Stern was feeling the itch to again find a new challenge in the private sector and decided it was time to update his resume. heard the call and paired Stern with veteran and award-winning executive career coach Donald Burns, who's also a returning guest to the makeover series. Burns initial thoughts: "I could tell this was something he did years ago and he had just kept adding to it," says Burns, who added that is a common occurrence in his experience.

People build a resume and then continue to add new positions to it. "It looked very bland and nothing stood out. I hoped there was something good in here and there was," says Burns.

Interview Process

The next step was to get Burns and Stern together for a conversation to nail down some important details. Burns notes that the interview is one of the most important parts of the process for him. Uncovering the story behind Stern's past positions, the reasons why an employer would want to hire him and where he wanted to go was what Burns was looking for. "Sometimes the most unsuspecting people have the best stories," says Burns, and that was the case with Stern.

Burns' IT Resume Strategy

Make your resume function like an ad. It needs to read fast with key items highlighted. All items should be short--one to three sentences at the most. The goal is to make it easy to read or scan. Five or 10 seconds is all it should take. Once it gets beyond three to five lines people may try to digest it, but will be more difficult, according to Burns.

Obstacles and Solutions

The first problem Burns found once he spoke with Stern, "He had all kinds of information that wasn't on here [old resume]," says Burns. This is why the live conversation is critical to the process. "I do it as a simulation of an interview," says Burns. Speaking to Stern, he was able to unearth some impressive achievements in his career, some of which weren't included on his old resume at all and others that were buried in the text. "Sometimes the best people somehow package themselves in a bad way and they fall through the cracks," says Burns.


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