By Adrian Barbour
While most techies cram their vitae with technology expertise, certifications, and a list of development projects accomplished, the CIO’s resume must also clearly illustrate his or her business knowledge and how that knowledge has paid off for employers.
It sounds easy enough, but it’s difficult for most professionals to succinctly describe months of work and how a particular effort parlayed into cost savings and enterprise process improvements.
In this article, I’ll discuss the do's and don’ts in building a CIO resume, and I'll identify some unique rules specific to creating an effective technology resume. I’ll also discuss techniques for targeting a specific employer, and how best to follow up on a job inquiry.
A resume is a personal marketing piece
Most everyone knows that the purpose of a resume is to provide a documented history of work experience, skills, knowledge, and abilities. Its primary function, however, is to garner a job interview—period. It is a marketing tool, and it’s a candidate’s first impression on a hiring manager.
A resume should have an apparent central theme—one that supports the position objective. For the CIO or VP of IT, this means emphasizing business acumen as well as technical proficiency.
If it’s been a while since you’ve reviewed and revamped your resume, the initial step is to gather information on what you’ve accomplished since you last updated the resume. This usually requires some time commitment, as you need to review job successes, problems solved, and activities related to career improvement—such as conference attendance and other educational events.
A CIO must focus on significant achievements, such as projects and decisions that have saved the company money, and be able to succinctly describe the payoff scenario in a short paragraph.
In addition, credentials such as an MBA, along with details of experience in project management and team leadership, can make the difference between being hired and being passed over. These management experience "narratives" should contain the use of analytical tools, such as Microsoft Project, and the number of staff directly supervised.
A big hurdle for many tech executives is modesty. But this is not the time to be modest—achievement and accomplishments, leadership skills, and managerial efforts should not be understated.
It is important that your resume reflect your relative value in relation to the salary requirements you’re seeking in a new job. That’s why the important value-added information should be highlighted. In short, if your desired salary is higher than the average market rate of $90,000 to $150,000, your resume must justify your higher market value.
Targeting a prospective employer
Most tech executives don’t typically scan the Sunday paper’s help wanted ads when seeking new employment, especially when they’re presently employed. Oftentimes, the career move is prompted by a slowdown in professional challenges and opportunities, motivating CIOs and CTOs to begin looking for another company role to advance skills, experience, and career paths.
A key element to finding the next "right" position is researching potential employers and then building a resume tailored to the systems and applications in place at that particular company.
This kind of employer information is often available from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), as OEMs love to brag about star clients using their products or services. These vendors provide online client lists via white papers and case studies that indicate what enterprises are using. Another way to gain information is to comb a prospective company’s job listings, as tech titles normally indicate skills required. The skills are usually connected to the in-house software platforms or ERP applications in play.
Preparing the resume document
Once you’ve gathered success stories, and possibly even put together a list of employers you’re interested in, it’s time to present a logical, efficient resume that will catch a hiring manager and the CEO’s attention. I've provided some tips below about the more pertinent issues involved in building an effective resume.
Formatting and layout
There are two standard formats—chronological and functional. The chronological format is ideal for CIOs, as it defines and delineates a strong work history and demonstrates progressive skills development and/or positions of increased responsibility. The functional approach is ideal for highlighting tech skill sets and functions on projects—which is much more suited for entry-level to midlevel IT managers and tech staff. Every technology professional should consider preparing a second, scanner-friendly resume version, as many large corporations scan resumes into their databases, and this assures a clean copy for consideration.
State a clear objective
Objectives, stated near the top of a resume, should be brief and focused on the intended career goal. The objective is the pivot point of the resume, and all supporting insight should speak to the objective. Keep in mind that most resumes only receive, on average, one minute of review in the initial consideration process, so highlighting your objective and ensuring that it is clear is critical.
Highlight skill sets
An efficient and eye-catching way to highlight skills is to present them in a bulleted list. For each skill, include years of experience and when the skill was last used. The resume should also tie each skill to specific projects, as hiring managers want to quickly ascertain skill sets and understand how candidates have applied them in the IT environment.
The value of education and training
Regardless of a candidate's experience level, an indication of continuing education is critical. CIOs should list relevant degrees and training certificates on the latest releases or platforms of software, with dates completed, near the top of the resume. Pay special attention to highlighting recent training, especially for senior technical professionals with over 20 years of experience. Employers want to know that your skills are current and that you’ve continually worked to improve both tech and managerial skills. Evidence of continuing education is often cited by hiring managers, and executives, as the tiebreaker in selecting one candidate over another.
Security clearances are critical if applying for work in the federal government or financial sectors, for example, and the desire for security backgrounds is expanding in all enterprises. Be cautious when listing clearance levels, however, particularly for Department of Defense and other secure government environments, as some government entities prohibit public disclosure of clearance policies. In general, you should also list the type and scope of any background investigations that have been conducted on you, as well as the granting agency and when it was last active. It is advisable to check with the appropriate agencies to determine the disclosure approach on resumes.
Document length not an issue
Technical resumes are given more leeway in regard to standard resume length. It is not uncommon for tech resumes to number four or five pages. The caveat, however, is that all information included must be relevant to the central theme of the document—the stated objective.
A good resume follow-up strategy
Before submitting any resume, it’s vital to double check that your personal contact information is complete and correct. The contact information should include every possible address and phone number at which a potential employer can reach you—and time periods, if necessary, for when you'll be available. Obviously, no CIO wants to receive a cell-phone call from a recruiter during a board meeting.
You should also plan your job search to avoid conflicts. Few job search situations are worse than realizing opportunities were missed due to vacations. And, if confidentiality is a concern, it’s wise to indicate that in your cover letter to the prospective employer.
While you should always call to confirm that your resume has been received, it’s also a good idea to call again a week or two later to check on the status of the hiring process for a specific job opportunity. Remember that IT hiring managers, and other tech executives, are very busy people, and the HR office often processes hundreds of applicants for several openings. Be patient, yet diligent—sometimes the best opportunities are the ones that require the longest waiting period.
Adrian Barbour is Recruitment Manager-West for Anteon Corporation’s Advanced Technology Group. He can be reached at ABarbour@west.anteon.com.