IT resume makeover: Breaking through tech jargon

Resume writer Donald Burns was faced with an interesting challenge this time around -- he needed to take a resume that was already in good shape and make it even better. This month, makeover candidate, Steve Smith, COO and CTO for Environmental Data Resources, recruited Burn's help take his resume from tech-focused to one that showcased his business acumen. This was especially important because his ultimate 10-year goal is to move out of the tech world and become a business executive.

And Burns was up for the challenge, noting that Smith's original resume -- while well-crafted -- was "narrow and technically focused," as well as "very difficult to read." Burns felt that Smith ultimately ended up burying his greatest hits in a pile of dense verbiage." So the task was clear, Burns needed to take Smith's tech heavy resume and make it something that someone with a business background would better understand. Burns knew that Smith had the experience and the right background to make it in the business world, but his resume just didn't reflect that.

[ Download original resume ]

Breaking up the text

One of the first things Burns knew he'd have to change on Smith's resume was the giant blocks of text, since they can often turn recruiters and hiring managers off. As Burns puts it, "He crammed the text into impenetrable blocks of solid text. That's a common problem with tech-oriented resumes, and reviewers don't really read them."

Since Smith has his eye on creating a future as an executive in the business world, rather than the tech world, Burns had to make sure his resume portrayed his qualifications. Burns arranged calls with Smith and spoke with him for a few hours to get a better understanding of what Smith wanted out of the process. "It's always the same process: Interview the person for a few hours, step through each job, connect the dots and, finally, write the resume. Resume writing is 80 percent interviewing and connecting the dots and 20 percent actual writing," says Burns.

And Smith agreed with Burns' assessment of his resume and was ultimately impressed with Burns' ability to take his background and reflect his business skills. He was surprised at the "diligence and detailed orientated nature of the interviewer," and appreciated Burns' ability to expertly craft his experience into an easily digestible resume.

[ Related story: 10 signs you need to update your resume ]

Translating to plain language

One big mistake Smith made on his resume is one that people in the tech field often fall prey to -- they assume everyone reading their resume knows the same lingo. And that might be true if you're seeking another job in tech or if you know the person reading your resume has a tech background, but that typically isn't the case. A recruiter might be the one reading your resume, and you don't want them to abandon it just a few sentences in.

Burns gives one good example of how he turned Smith's "tech speak" into something any recruiter or hiring manager would understand. Burns says, "One line from his original resume says, 'Provided GE with thought leadership and product parity amongst its Digital Competitors, delivering viewership continuity across a number of distribution platforms, products and services'."

After some editing, Burns recrafted that sentence to read, "Led creation of the Hulu Channel (NBC Universal), which stopped a competitive threat from YouTube. Also led creation of GE's first digital-asset-management (DAM) system, which led to multi-million dollar contracts with Apple iTunes and similar third-party distributors of NBC content." This simple change, which relayed the same information -- just in an easier format -- took his resume from "mid-level techie, to high-level mover and shaker," according to Burns.

It's important that when you're writing a resume for a job that is outside of your current field, that you don't alienate anyone reading it. Keep things as simple to understand as possible, so the person reading your resume doesn't give up because of dense verbiage.

[ Download final resume ]

The final product

For Burns, Smith's resume was another unique resume makeover down in the books, and he noted that it's not uncommon for people to step back and objectively market themselves. "Very often, the resume owners are shocked to see how marketable they look to an outsider. The owners cannot do this for themselves -- they're too close. Seeing yourself from an outsider's point-of-view can transform your life for the better."

In the end, Smith was impressed with Burns' ability to tackle this unique challenge, especially since his original resume was nothing to scoff at. "Donald was extremely focused in understanding what my needs and career goals were, and actually aligned the resume along those lines," he says. His final impressions were surprise and admiration for "the amount of work Burns did and expertise he brought to the table."

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