Six years out of the Navy, Bonnie Adams, an engineer and project manager for a defense contractor, needed a resume that highlighted her civilian skills.
“Bonnie Adams” (not job seeker’s real name) advanced through the ranks for eight years as a Navy officer and helicopter pilot. She still flies helicopters in the Navy Reserve. But for the past six years she has worked full time as a project and program manager for defense contractors. She enjoyed the work but recently began feeling underutilized and wanted to exercise full spectrum of her leadership, engineering and operational expertise.
Problem was, the resume (PDF) that helped her land her current job was not going to get her the next one she desired. It described her eight years of military experience in detail – great experience, lots of promotion, lots of solid accomplishments – all good material, but not directly applicable for her current objective, namely, a better job in program management. If she wanted a job in project and program management that would rely on her engineering and operational skills, her new resume better make that experience clear. Her priority was to rebalance the content by shortening her older experience (military) and adding details and accomplishments from her role as a civilian program manager.
Telegraph who you are and what you want
Bonnie’s new resume (PDF) takes control of the reader’s first impression – and quickly provides direction and context – by deleting the word “Summary” and replacing it with a headline and positioning statement: “Program Manager, Defense and Aerospace Expertise.”
Bonnie’s old opening profile paragraph jammed six lines of hard-to-read, low-impact information into a solid block of text. The reader would probably skip this paragraph because it’s too much trouble to read. We broke that section into a three-line paragraph and three bullets that do a much better job of supporting her current objective.
Develop stronger content by focusing on accomplishment bullets
The old resume was too heavy with job description instead of accomplishments. It can be difficult to develop strong, quantifiable accomplishment bullets for process-intensive job such as program management. For Bonnie, we started each bullet with an active verb and focused on contributions she made for her employer or client, for example: “Created…” “Achieved…” and “Successfully managed…”
Simplify the format. Use two pages, if possible
The original format comprised three pages, which was totally unnecessary in Bonnie’s case (and rarely appropriate for any job seeker).
We deleted an unnecessary “monogram” (the letter B). Using an image on a resume is a bad idea for two reasons: It usually wastes space and can sow confusion for the applicant tracking system software that collects and stores resumes for human resources managers and recruiters. We also consolidated her contact information at the top of the resume because that’s where readers are looking for it.
Here’s a final tip that helped this resume: We used the “So What?” test to strengthen Bonnie’s content. Imagine an interviewer reading one of her accomplishment statements, looking up and asking, “So what?” This simple exercise shook loose a stronger result. We applied it to every accomplishment bullet and created a stronger resume.