Kevin Donlin owns and runs Guaranteed Resumes, a resume and cover letter writing service that also provides job search assistance. He fields questions from TechRepublic members and offers advice based on his experience and expertise.
I work for a software/consulting firm doing application, network, and database support. I was hoping you could take a look at my resume and suggest improvements.
To stand out in this job market, your resume needs three things: more focus, more context, and more details. Let’s take a closer look:
Starting your resume with a concise, one- or two-line objective or summary at the top, as you’ve tried to do, is a good idea. It helps to quickly tell readers what you can do for them. In this resume, your current objective is not focused enough to be effective. Don't worry: There are ways to write this section that won't pigeonhole you into just one job.
I would revise the objective on your current resume, which reads:
Objective: To meet the technical needs and exceed the service expectations.
That’s too broad to attract attention. Try revising it to create something like this:
Objective: Position in which six years of network administration and technical support experience will add value.
Think of your opening objective as the headline for your advertisement. Since all good ads have a headline, your resume—your most important advertisement—should have one, too.
Almost every resume I see could be improved by providing more context to help readers better grasp the effect of what you’ve done on the job. Why do so many people leave out context? It’s simple: They’re too close to their own careers and assume too much. I’m sure this describes you as well.
To give your resume more context and your achievements more power, try to answer these questions for every job you’ve held:
Did you meet or exceed your performance goals? If you weren’t fired after 90 days, chances are the answer is “Yes.” So, how often and by how much did you meet or exceed your goals? If you don’t know, ask. Call current or former managers and ask them how you did. When you have that information, you can include language like this on your resume:
Met or exceeded all performance metrics for technical support service-level agreements serving 14 high-profile clients for nine straight quarters (1999-2001).
How did you get each job? Were you promoted internally? Recruited from another company? The one person among 55 applicants hired? That sort of context is overlooked by almost everyone, yet it can look extremely attractive when done right. Here’s an example from one of my client files:
One of two chosen from 149 applicants for high-visibility project to analyze and resolve fraudulent account activities nationwide.
Where do you rank vs. others on your team for productivity? If you’re the most productive among 15 network administration professionals, and you can back it up with written or verbal verification from managers, say so. Again, we’re working on adding the right context to your resume.
Ninety percent of most resumes could benefit from more results, including yours. Take a look at every good thing that you’ve done on the job. What were the specific results? This trips up a lot of technical folks, who say: “I’m in desktop support/software development/QA/network administration. There are no results for what I do.”
I don’t care if you clean toilets at a mountaintop Tibetan monastery: If you’re doing your job right, you’re either saving or creating time or money. It’s just a matter of following your achievements.
Here’s an example from your resume that I would revise with an eye on results:
What does this mean for your firm? For its clients? Try to come up with something specific and results-oriented, like this:
Ranked in top 10 among 213 employees for quality four times (every quarter eligible) for outstanding efforts. As a result, enabled 100 percent compliance with service-level agreements and 100 percent client retention.
See the difference?
Some final pointers
Before you sit down to revise your resume, it pays to step back and take a look at the big picture. When you say, “I work for a software consulting firm doing application, network, and database support,” you underestimate your true value.
What you really do is keep that consulting firm in business by supporting its clients. Because if the applications don’t work, the firm has no clients, right? And no clients means no business.
So try to describe your experience, skills, and achievements as an impartial observer might. Be focused and results-oriented and provide context as you write. The resume you come up with will almost surely tell your story in a way that excites more employers.