Making a Tech Resume Speak for Itself

Posted by Guest Contributor

08:00 AM

How a certified resume writer helped a systems analyst elevate her resume.

By Lisa Vaas

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If there’s one thing that sets Lisa apart from many of her techie brethren, it’s that she communicates well. Just ask Mary Schumacher, a certified resume writer for TheLadders who worked with the Midlothian, Va., resident in March.

“[Lisa] said she was often pegged for nontechnology projects in her company for organizational development, and I could see why. She could communicate really well,” Schumacher said. “She was able to communicate well about what she knew and what she did and what was important and why it might be important to the companies she applies to.” 
But while Lisa tells her story with style, the resume this technology project leader started to shop around in February came up short. 

Here’s an example of what that lackluster communication looked like:

“Project Management  ♦ Team Building  ♦  Corporate Communication ♦ Presentation Development.”

Those words comprised the first chunk of text on Lisa’s old resume, bold and bulleted, centered at the top of the page just under her contact information and desired job title of “Information Technology / Systems Analyst.”  

What’s so bad about that laundry list? After all, it states Lisa’s field (information technology) and her desired position (IT analyst) and it contains those oh-so-important keywords. 

What it lacks is a summary statement, Schumacher said. That’s a “key part” both recruiters and ATSes (applicant tracking systems) are looking for nowadays.

“Her resume wasn’t too bad,” Schumacher said. “But ... if you can’t sum up your history and strengths in a few sentences, it’s one reason your resume might be thrown out. There’s just so little time [for recruiters] to look at resumes now.”

Mistaking tasks for accomplishments

Beyond the lack of a summary statement, the language was weak, Schumacher said. “[The resume] needed more hard-hitting accomplishments. For example, one ‘accomplishment’ said she was responsible for a $500,000 company wide IT annual budget. That should not even be there ... she sort of mixed up accomplishments and the job description. In this case she did have the job description, but [the budget item] -- that wasn’t an accomplishment; it was more a task.”  

Lisa’s job search ramped up slowly, and her decision to get a resume rewrite wasn’t immediate. Currently in her fourteenth year at “a pretty decent company,” she’s a little leery about the state of the economy. She also misses her family in Kansas and would like to move back. 

While Lisa “wasn’t fully invested in looking” for a new position, she said, she still saw interesting opportunities. The problem was, her resume simply embarrassed her.  “Every time I submitted my resume I was embarrassed for myself,” the TechnologyLadder member said. 

While she’d paid for the old resume three years ago, “I never got something I was satisfied with and just gave up on it and did my own edits after that,” she said. “My situation changed, I never ended up using it, and I just tabled it.”

When she decided to start the current search, out came the old resume. But after a few weeks, she decided that enough was enough. “Every time I looked at my resume I was reminded of that experience, and it made me so mad,” Lisa said. “I decided I had to have another leg up.”

A first draft within one week

The resume rewrite with Schumacher couldn’t have been more different from her previous disappointing experience. Within 48 hours after Lisa signed up on TheLadders, Schumacher called her to schedule a conference call. Schumacher asked Lisa “tons of questions,” Lisa said, and would then relay Lisa’s answers back to her to ensure they were both on the same page. 

Within about four days, Lisa had a first draft. The results: a resume that included that critical summary statement with energetic wording that’s sure to catch recruiters’ eyes, including words such as “versatile” and “energetic,” along with dynamic passages such as, “Effective communicator able to solicit feedback and convey technology vision to stakeholders.”

Finally, Lisa’s resume communicates the fact that she’s a great communicator. 

Lessons learned?

Lisa said she learned that a superlative resume can surmount even the toughest of roadblocks, such as her lack of a college degree. “(It) makes me self-conscious. I was very nervous when I presented myself because TheLadders (includes) executive-level, higher-paid positions. I looked at my old resume as a detriment, but the way (that Schumacher) wrote it, it covers such a broad skill set that I’ve applied in the last 15 to 20 years,” that the lack of a degree fades in importance.  

“She represented me as a higher-level professional, somewhat of a generalist, well-rounded, experienced in all facets, not just the technical” aspects of her career, Lisa said.

And that’s exactly what’s she’s after: a tech job that includes project management instead of requiring her to be a narrowly focused technology specialist.  

“I think she did a fantastic job,” Lisa said of Schumacher’s efforts.

Lisa Vaas covers resume writing techniques and the technology behind the job search for TheLadders.

Topics: Resume