VP Gets Help Maturing a Mid-Level Resume

This vice president of systems engineering knew how to hone technology, but needed help tuning his resume.


A large technology company is getting swallowed by a larger technology company. After 20 years of rising through the ranks, this 46-year-old executive knows full well he may not be part of the meal.

“At the level of higher management, like vice presidents and directors, there may be more of a chance of not being acquired with the new company,” said the pre-sales systems engineering vice president, who requested anonymity for himself and the involved companies because of the legalities involved with the merger. “So it’s better to explore a new opportunity.”

After two decades with the company, this technology VP knows plenty: His expertise lies in consulting and product development, along with IT services and software. He’s got nuts-and-bolts technology know-how and business acumen, along with global business operation experience, managerial experience of 800 pre-sales technical support staff who support revenues of $7 billion to $8 billion, and much more.

Bringing his resume up to his level

Nevertheless, he was challenged when it came to communicating the depth and breadth of his worth on a resume — particularly given his high ranking on the corporate ladder. And without that powerful document speaking on his behalf, he knew his chances of getting a foot in the door when interviewing were severely diminished.

“Writing a resume, going through the interviews, that’s not something I’ve done often,” he said. “Especially writing the resume, I haven’t done that in such a long time. The issue I had, I didn’t know how to write one at my level.”

Before he was introduced to Ladders’ professional resume-writing service by a colleague, the VP wrote one himself. What he produced exhibited a host of classic resume problems: First, the 3.5-page document was too long. It also failed to reflect the VP’s status properly. The VP also made a mistake typical of those unfamiliar with equal-opportunity laws in the United States: He included personal information such as age, marital status and nationality at the resume top.

But the most problematic aspect of his original document was that it didn’t tell a resume reader what the VP is good at and what he wants to do, according to Tina Brasher, a certified professional resume writer who works with Ladders and recently reworked the resume.

“His original heading read ‘Professional Services & IT Executive.’ What would you think he’s qualified to do?” Brasher said. “From a resume reader’s viewpoint, he could be perceived as anybody from a manager to a C-level executive: a CIO (chief information officer) or a CTO (chief technology officer). His resume was giving out a poor and an incorrect impression right off the bat with that heading.

“He was also trying to focus the reader’s attention on cross-functional and cross-cultural expertise,” Brasher said. “But those words — ‘cross-functional and cross-cultural expertise’ — by themselves in a subheading don’t mean a hill of beans to a resume reader because they don’t communicate what he’s really skilled at doing.”

DIY can turn into imitation, often of poor examples

Brasher streamlined the resume to two pages, reworking every aspect of it, including the summary paragraph, which she “changed totally,” the VP said.

Brasher also stripped out what she called “fluff phrases” from the summary paragraph — phrases and words that “resume readers have seen 10 million times,” she said. Those included subjective terms such as “highly qualified,” “results-focused,” “effectual leader,” “has talent for,” “energetic” and “confident.”

“(Such wording) doesn’t tell the reader what he wants to know,” Brasher said. “What they want to get out of a resume is 1) How can you make the company money? and 2) How can you save the company money? They’re looking for a resume not only for that but ‘Are you qualified for the job opening I posted?’ And ‘What’s your skill set? How did you make a positive difference in the company you just left? How are you different and more valuable as an employee from John Smith whose resume I just read or John Doe whose resume I’m about to read?’ ”

The resulting document is as different from the original as night and day, Brasher said, and the VP agreed.

“In terms of experience and achievement, she got it down to being very concise and right to the point of highlighting my achievements and so forth,” he said. “Tina, she just did a wonderful job. She came back with two pages. The content was superb. She knew exactly what needed to be done at my level. I’m so happy with the result that I got…. The combination of the worksheet Tina gave me and Tina’s editing resulted in a completely new resume that I really like and that reflects my accomplishments.”