October 2008 – Does My Resume Stink?

October 2008 – Does My Resume Stink?

Would you like resume advice from the experts? TheLadders.com Resume Service is here to help. Contact our experts directly or, if you’re feeling lucky, send us your resume for entry in our Does My Resume Stink contest. Each month, one winner will receive a full resume rewrite for free!

And now, on to this month’s before and after…

Jack Ryan, Tom Clancy’s famous fiction hero, has little on this month’s recipient of our resume overhaul. As a retired Air Force intelligence officer, our client was seeking to take his wealth of experience and knowledge about intelligence and security to the private sector in a senior management/analysis role. Unfortunately, his old resume was simply not doing its job of marketing his unusual and valuable background in an effective manner. Here are a few topics we covered during the rewrite process:

Functional to Chronological

First of all, the format the client had selected for the old resume was a true handicap. He had decided to use a functional format where he pulled out skills into categories such as Leadership and Supervision, Analysis, Communication, and Planning and Implementation. He followed that with a Professional History which was basically a chronology of positions within the Air Force. It was likely he selected this format because he felt overwhelmed with the amount of experience he had attained throughout his career in the military. In trying to find some form of organization, the functional format may have seemed logical. Regrettably, it was a poor choice that did not benefit his career and dampened his efforts. For his new resume, we changed the format and organization to a straight chronological format.

Achievements vs. Skill Sets

The functional format makes career progression difficult to determine and does not provide a strong frame of reference for the accomplishments. This client had a very strong career progression in the military and a chronological format choice effectively highlights that strength. The functional categories tended to place emphasis on less important skill sets such as “communication” and “planning and implementation”. The chronological places the emphasis on career span and high points of achievement.


We also reorganized the content to a paragraph/bullet format. The “story” of his career is able to come through in a much clearer message by using this format rather than simply having a long list of indistinguishable bullets. This structure allowed us to present the fascinating scope of his roles to set the stage for the reader on each position and then bring in his accomplishments and achievements via bullets.

Industry Jargon

The client was targeting a position in national intelligence/homeland security, a field that is distinctly tied to the defense industry. Because of this, we did not scrub the language completely to “de-militarize” it; however, we did remove some jargon to make it more readable and have a more professional tone. Along these lines, we also included his service medals and awards which will have weight with the defense/security industry reader. If he had been targeting a career outside of the defense realm, these awards may have had little meaning to a strictly civilian reader and we would have excluded them.

The “Wow” Factor

To effectively draw the reader into the resume, we created a strong branding line at the top, followed by a profile that had more impact and glamour while accurately portraying his experience. “Versed in research and analysis for the highest levels of audience, including the President and Cabinet members…” speaks louder than “Superb communications skills, capable of writing for an executive or specialist audience…” Effective career marketing is quite dependent upon word choice, and this is an excellent example. We have written the language throughout the document with much more power to provide better imagery to the reader.

Education Exclusion

We were surprised to find an additional Master-level degree hiding in his background that had not appeared on his old resume. We included that degree and removed the dates of the training and awards. We always want the focus to be on the achievement or the degree rather than on the date it was accomplished. We also removed the “Availability: Immediate” line from the very beginning because it is not used in a modern resume.

The end result of our resume overhaul was a succinct, hard-hitting portrait of a career that has been well-spent in the service of our country and one that will be of strong value to a company engaged in intelligence, national security, and homeland defense. Just as Clancy’s novels grab the attention of his targeted audience, this resume grabs attention and keeps it!