IT Employment

Follow the three Rs to get your resume noticed

While one consultant's technical skills might be top-notch, a four-page resume probably isn't going to help him land his next engagement. One of our career writers suggests he follow the three Rs. You may get results by doing the same.

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.

Question
I have been mostly out of work since March 2001 when the company I worked for, an e-commerce solutions developer, went out of business. I have found a few short-term contracts since then, but no full-time opportunities.

I’m not satisfied with my resume, but don't know how to improve it. I keep making minor changes to it, but I never get a response. I used a resume “blasting” service to post it on 87 job sites to increase its exposure, but that has been unsuccessful.

Please help me fix this resume to make me more attractive to employers.

Answer
Here’s the good news: Your resume, shown in Figure A, has plenty of room for improvement. Once you’ve made it better, you’ll have another excuse to send it out to employers and your network of contacts, offering it as a newly revised, updated document.
Figure A

As with many resumes I see in the high-tech field, yours suffers from too much of a good thing: It’s too long. While you have many valuable technical skills, software/hardware experience, and job titles, you can’t list them on four pages and expect a frazzled recruiter or employer to read every word. Only you and your mother will do that.

Recruiters and my own experience tell me that if job seekers can’t get to the point and write a concise one- or two-page resume, they won’t get to the point in an interview or on the job. Remember, the job of your resume is to make the phone ring, not to tell your life story. You can do that by focusing on what I call the three Rs: readability, relevance, and results.

In your resume, here’s how you can focus on those three Rs.

Readability
You can improve readability by breaking up the many text-heavy sections that dominate your resume. Here’s an example, from your Goal statement:

Goal: Position as System Administrator, Trainer or Level Three support analyst for large-scale enterprise e-mail system running Lotus Domino or Microsoft Exchange involving my technical, project, troubleshooting, leadership and communication skills in a fast-paced, "bleeding-edge" knowledge management, collaboration or groupware environment.

Try cutting that (and other sections) in two, like this:

System Administrator or Support Analyst. Expertise includes enterprise e-mail systems (Domino and Exchange), project management, troubleshooting, training, and leadership skills.

If you must be more specific about the job you seek, you can do that in your cover letter.

Relevance
The top third of the first page is the most valuable real estate on your resume. Put the most relevant and valuable items there, where they have the best chance of being read. In your case—and for many IT folks—you could open with a one- or two-line Objective or Summary statement, to tell readers what you can do for them.

Next, include a Technical Profile or a Qualifications section. Think of this as a kind of executive summary for the rest of your resume. Here, you can highlight your certifications, years of experience, areas of expertise, and top three skills. You can also include one or two of your best achievements on the job; think success stories and use specific details.

With four or five bulleted paragraphs, your Profile/Qualifications section can make the reader (your future employer) want to call you.

Results
Throughout, focus more on specific results. In this job market, it's critical to tell readers about the results you produced: What good things happened when you did your job well? How much money was saved or earned? Be specific.

Here’s a trick that will help you do that. Stick this phrase on the end of every sentence in your resume: “As a result.” When you do this, you will force yourself to write down the results of what you did. And if you were on the payroll for more than 90 days at any one job without getting fired, you must have done at least one thing right worth getting specific about.

Here’s an example from your resume you could rework to explain results:

“Project lead for moving ten servers to new data center.”

Try coming up with something like this to focus on results:

Managed project to migrate 10 servers to new data center, finishing five days early and $2,300 under budget. As a result, saved 40 staff hours monthly ($34,000 in annual costs) with streamlined network.

Resume blasting
Remember that less than 10 percent of all positions are filled from Internet job postings. While the Internet certainly belongs in your job search tool kit, don’t spend more than 10 percent of your time on it.

Instead, focus the bulk of your energies on networking and directly contacting companies that you want to work for. Up to 80 percent of all jobs are filled through this kind of human interaction. Of course, the thought of spending five or six hours a day networking for job leads among personal and professional contacts will make some high-tech folks feel uncomfortable. They’re afraid of rejection, or don’t want to toot their own horn. Good. You’ll have less competition.

Sure, you’re going to hear “No” a lot before you hear that one “Yes” that leads to a job interview. But you only need one “Yes.”
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