A Resume That Shows Them the Super-You

Business 2.0 is now part of CNNmoney and some older articles are no longer available. If you click through you will be taken to the Internet Archive site to find an archived copy.

If the last time you retooled your resume was back in the days before you reached the airy heights of senior management, you’ve got some work ahead of you. Chances are, everything you know about resume writing is wrong. Cramming all your personal information onto a single page or listing “objectives” may work for grad students looking for their first real jobs, but not for seasoned veterans. “There are a lot of people giving advice on resumes who have no appreciation for the senior-level world,” says Scott Gordon, a partner at leading executive-search firm Spencer Stuart. “Most of what’s written is aimed at the beginner. Not the executive who’s been out there for 20 years.”

So do on your resume as you do in business: Target the audience. For instance, if a company in your sights uses Six Sigma and you’re more familiar with TQM, just mention that you’re conversant in quality-management techniques. Provide useful performance numbers, specific solutions to your potential employer’s weaknesses, how you might help bump up the stock price—anything that shows you’re tailor-made for the job. “I’ve seen resumes that list all the accomplishments but provide no context,” Gordon says. “For senior executives, that’s death.”

To help your resume leap from the stack, Gordon and other experts offer these tips.

  • Go long. Brevity is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Potential employers want to know all about the companies you’ve worked for, how many people you managed, what special recognition you received, and how your experience meshes with their needs. Headhunters and human resources execs don’t flinch at the sight of a 15-page ode to oneself. “In executive search, the more detail, the better,” Gordon says. “It’s absurd for someone with a 20-year career to attempt to limit a resume to two pages.”
  • Use numbers. Figures tell compelling stories. How many more clients came into the fold while you were at your last job? How much did your former company’s stock price rise, and how did you specifically contribute to that? “Explain how you grew revenues from X to Y,” Gordon says.
  • Solve problems. Putting together a brief but competent business plan for your potential employer is as much a qualification as where you last worked. Squirt in suggestions that might streamline operations or boost productivity. Outline how you’d overhaul a struggling department. “Recognize the challenges that the manager you’ll be working for faces,” says Nick Corcodilos, a former Silicon Valley headhunter. “Describe how you’ll do the work. Estimate what profits you can bring.”
  • Selectively withhold information. Making claims that you can’t substantiate is, of course, sheer idiocy: According to the Society for Human Resource Management, more and more companies now thoroughly check job candidates’ backgrounds. But what if you’re applying for a position at a petroleum company and don’t care to share the fact that you worked for an environmental watchdog organization right out of college? Leave it off. “During the hiring process, companies omit many things that make them look bad,” says John Sullivan, a human resources professor at San Francisco State University. “So I see nothing wrong with an applicant omitting nonmaterial facts that don’t add to the marketing function of a resume.” Of course, Sullivan says, you should consider showing your full hand once you get the job.
  • Location, location, location. According to Sullivan, people look for highlights down the left side of a page. “Put an important piece of information on the right and it gets lost,” he says.
  • Be easy to find. List all your phone numbers and e-mail addresses so an enthusiastic human resources executive can easily contact you. “Everyone just puts a home address and number,” Gordon says. “But employers and recruiters work daytime hours. Do you really want to play phone tag on something this important?”

Like this content? Why not share it?
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInBuffer this pagePin on PinterestShare on Redditshare on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.