Academic Resume Graduates to Corporate Standards

Career-changing consultant and college professor wins “Does My Resume Stink?” contest. New resume opens doors into the business world.

resume_magnify_glass“I want a business resume that opens doors for a corporate job,” said “Bill Lambert” (who asked not to be named due to an ongoing search). Bill had an impressive, 25-year dual career as a psychology professor and consultant.

His goal: To leave academia and join a top company’s HR department. He had many corporate clients but had never worked full-time for a corporation.

Bill’s old resume used a traditional, chronological format that was dead on arrival for corporate employers. At first glance, it portrayed him as a lifelong academic with no business experience. His new resume positions him much more effectively for a corporate job.

1. Sometimes the “functional resume” is your best, smartest choice.

If you’ve been reading all the resume articles here on Ladders site, you probably know that recruiters and employers generally hate the functional-format resume. But it can the best choice for a career changer like Bill.

The “functional resume” showcases your most marketable skills and downplays everything else. Unlike a traditional resume, it ignores chronological order and de-emphasizes dates, titles and the companies for which you’ve worked.

Recruiters and employers complain the functional format hides your work history — and they’re correct! So use this format only as a last resort.

Note: The functional resume is 100 percent truthful — you’re not altering any facts — you’re just changing the order of presentation and putting yourself in the best possible light for potential employers.

In addition to career changers, the functional resume is also a good choice for people re-entering the workplace after a long absence.

In Bill’s case, we packaged his most marketable consulting skills — executive coaching, HR consulting, organizational development and team building — and posted them prominently. At the bottom of Page Two we briefly mention his former employers in academia (three universities).

2. Strong accomplishment statements are critically important.

A second problem with Bill’s resume was his seriously weak content.

Instead of showcasing his top accomplishments, he overloaded the old resume with passive descriptions of job duties and tasks — a big mistake for any resume, no matter what the format. Compare the following examples:

Job Description (Weak):
Consulted and coached executives and managers in banking, retail, manufacturing, publishing, hospital, and broadcasting organizations

Accomplishment Statement (Strong):
Led the executive team of BANK OF NEW YORK through a major crisis. Achieved excellent results via conference calls, phone interviews, and The Interpersonal Circle. Guided execs away from their immediate crises, stepped back, and creatively attacked the root causes of problems.

3. Make sure that every element of your resume supports your objective.

When Bill first read his new resume, he found it a little bit unsettling. Unlike an academic Curriculum Vitae (CV) that reports every teaching assignment and scholarly publication, a well-written business resume uses a direct, fast- reading “telegraphic” style so that a recruiter or hiring manager can “scan” it in 10 to 15 seconds.

At the top of the first page, we deleted the “Ph D” after his name and moved it to the Education section on Page Two.

The idea here is to make Bill look like a business person — not an academic.

Note the “Testimonials” section posted prominently on Page One. This section would be totally inappropriate for a traditional resume but works well in Bill’s case because he’s using a functional format. The testimonials (comprising strong endorsements from executives at top companies) immediately boost his credibility. And when making the transition from academia to business, a career changer like Bill needs all the help he can get!