Too Much Information? Edit and Cut That Long Resume to Size

This TechnologyLadder member has 30 years’ experience to back up her job search. Telling her story required a resume rewrite.

A 30-year career is generally built on many positions, titles and companies. How do you tell such an epic tale without losing the plot – or the attention of executive recruiters?

“Leslie” is a technology executive who began her career as an administrator. She worked at “nearly every major Wall Street firm” and rose to managing trading-floor technology projects. She worked nine years for a consulting firm where she added more positions and titles before she was named the vice president of Information Risk Management and Global Desktop Services at an investment bank. She seemed to be headed toward the CIO’s desk but was laid off in October.

Now searching for a job with the help of TechnologyLadder, the native New Yorker is grappling with the challenge of encapsulating 30 years of experience and ambition. “At this point, my resume was three pages long and read like a shopping list of job descriptions,” Leslie said. “It looked really outdated. … It needed a real tune up.”

Leslie’s resume need to be accounted for and trimmed like a budget, said Donald Burns, a certified professional resume writer who works with Ladders.

“Leslie didn’t suffer from having too little information,” Burns said. “She had the classic challenge of having too much information, most of which only listed duties and responsibilities rather than business accomplishments.”

So Burns took Leslie through the process of re-engineering her resume – an intense but fruitful experience that won her two interviews the first week she sent it out.

“Her initial resume was very detailed. I wanted to get it smaller for a greater impact level — and I wanted to beef up the results of her work,” Burns said. “She was very serious about working on it and putting real effort on, which is the right attitude. … Some people expect that the resume writer can just use magic with information he doesn’t have. … It’s got to come from the person’s experience, and Leslie more than met me halfway.”

“I am very, very happy with the advice and help I received; it was really organized and quick,” Leslie said. “This process really opened my eyes, and it was like I was seeing things from a totally new point of view. … I put a huge effort into this and spent around 25 to 30 hours going through old information I had. … Under Don’s guidance, I went through all of my old performance reviews, picked through review comments from LinkedIn contacts, created a spreadsheet that took every bulleted item that was a task and crafted every line into an accomplishment,” she said.

Through these efforts, Burns was able to pare down and consolidate Leslie’s resume into two results-centered pages with very active and targeted language. As a result Leslie said she feels encouraged and empowered in a whole new way.

“Going through the effort to pry out business results in everything you did in your job was a powerful exercise because I was able to take a breath and say, ‘Hey, I did a lot of really good work that I should be promoting here,’ ” she said.

“Like an accountant doing a person’s taxes trying to save people money and reduce tax burden, you go to people and you say, ‘Go through your stuff, look at your reviews, find positive accomplishments, take from documentation and online sources, talk about awards you received, projects that had quick turnaround that may have seemed trivial at the time,’ ” Burns said. “You have to use this stuff to separate you from the competition.”

Then, once it is all organized and presentable, every item on your resume becomes a talking point in an interview that you can qualify because you’ve already stated the result.

“One thing I use a lot is the ‘So what?’ rule… So your resume says you did X, Y and Z? So what? What did it mean to the business?” Burns said. “Getting new job seekers to think a little bit more of how human resources or a hiring manager is going to look at your resume can be a challenge. … You only have about 15 seconds a page on a resume to capture attention. It’s that quick.”

Burns suggests that once you morph bland, dull resume bullet points into qualified and quantifiable results, you can go into an interview with a whole lot more confidence. You’ve done some serious research and homework on yourself, and you have real talking points as catalysts for a quality interview.

“You can look at your resume and say, ‘I would hire me’ which is the goal, of course,” Burns said. “It’s about packaging someone in the best light possible. I look at my role with every resume I do as a kind of surrogate interviewer, and that generally tends to wake people up a little.”

As Leslie continues her job search and networking, she said she feels confident knowing she put in the effort to put the best possible resume out there. She also feels good because in pursuing both contract and full-time work, she doesn’t have to have two totally different resumes for those jobs.

“Since every job description is different, you need to target each job in your resume,” said Burns. “The way to do that is not just through the cover letter. A summary at the top of a resume that you can tweak and mold as needed is the best way to accomplish that without having to have totally separate documents.”