What can you control in a job search? Your resume, according to professional resume writer Steve Burdan.
Sure, it's in his best financial interest to say that, but that doesn't make it any less truthful.
Burdan, who resides in the Chicago area, has been in the resume-writing profession for 17 years and an independent, certified partner with TheLadders for several years. With his expertise as a resume writer and a background as an executive, he's quick to sum things up for job seekers.
"There are too many variables in a job search," Burdan said. "So, I tell people all the time to manage their expectations and do their best to avoid getting an ulcer over the things they can't control. Focus on what they have some control over, and that's their resume and how much they push the networking end of things."
Steve recently worked with TheLadders’ subscriber Jeff Held, a former CIO at Watson Wyatt who hadn't had his resume tuned up in at least eight years.
Researching job-search services
"It had been a long time since I had done much with my resume, since I got my job back when the opportunities were more plentiful," Held said. "I had done my homework on a variety of sites and services out there."
So, after he subscribed to TechnologyLadder, Jeff decided to give the complimentary resume critique a try. Many places offer free critiques, but he felt comfortable with this one since the site has a real focus on C-level and senior positions, the level at which Held operates after 20-plus years in technology and government work.
"With a million places to go online for job searching, only about 5 percent of what is out there is something I'd be interested in. ... TheLadders separates the wheat from the chaff, to use an old cliché," Held said. "You don't waste your time on things you know you don’t want to do."
Based on the free critique he received from TheLadders, Held said he knew he'd be satisfied with the results of a full resume rewrite. In fact, Held has had three interviews since his resume was reinvigorated.
Highlight areas of expertise
"Jeff's resume was on the right track, but his opening statement had some weakness," Burdan said. "He had a branding statement, but his 'areas of expertise' needed to be muscled up a bit. Also, there were too many bullets that all looked the same. We needed to mix up the language and format to keep the reader's attention and avoid being repetitious … with wording."
Burdan spruced up the opening statement by adding some keywords and stronger leadership language, and he added a stack of six solid bullet points that profiled Held's overall strengths. He followed up that section with a more assertive ‘areas of expertise’ section that got into more detail about Held’s management and technology background. Then several of Held’s stated accomplishments were integrated back in to the chronological areas of his past positions without repeating the same words.
Burdan made it a point to talk about formatting and bullet points because he finds too many resumes dull the reader’s eye.
"It's like putting a bottle of ketchup on top of a meal," Burdan said."One, it's not tasty. Two, it looks bad, and three, it misses the target because that’s all you taste... You have to mix up the look and feel.
Held detailed the experience: "After the initial questionnaire process which took a few days to do, I talked to Steve a few times over e-mail and the phone. And within about a week total, the new resume was completed... I can see now that my old resume had been too chronologically focused. The new one put a lot of emphasis on keywords and the most important information way up front in the document."
Burdan said, "He also needed to play up his international experience more." Held's international experience could be a profound differentiator in the job search, so Burdan brought that more to the forefront using a mix of keywords and sentences.
The hybrid resume wins
"There are three types of resumes out there: chronological, functional and hybrids," Burdan said. "The brutal truth in this business is the best resume is the one the works."
What works for Held’s qualifications and career goals is a hybrid resume that is easy to scan, hits on quantifiable business metrics regardless of the position and presents his qualifications in a way that will spark interest from a potential employer.
"Content is king in a resume," Burdan said. "An information technology resume like Jeff's can sometimes be more jargon heavy rather than a profile of what you can manage and lead for the new employer. ... I look at my role like a dating matchmaker: One person is looking for chemistry; the other may be looking for stability. It's a match game, but one I can help facilitate since I've gone through the process thousands of times.
"I love what I do because I get paid to help people," Burdan said. "You sort of realize that after doing this for as long as I have that people who are having their resumes done are at a vulnerable point in their life. You have to treat that with a certain amount of respect, and you become a kind of coach behind the scenes with the wording. I believe that 99 percent of the people I am working with have the talent to get to the next level, but they lack the knowledge on how to package it for others. ... I can help with that."