Write the Resume Before the Job Search

Tim Ide changed his resume and discovered he was qualified for more jobs than he ever imagined.


The resume rarely comes first. But perhaps it should.

A job search typically begins when a job seeker decides what he wants to do and for what jobs he wants to apply. He will usually craft a resume designed to land those jobs. Tim Ide of Carlton, Ore., would argue those job seekers have it backward.

Ide, the general manager of a small electronics-manufacturing plant near Portland, Ore., unintentionally put his resume first after a rewrite and let the document tell him the jobs for which to apply.

Ide had his resume rewritten by Don Burns, a certified professional resume writer who works with the Ladders, and the resulting resume convinced Ide he had skills beyond his position and industry. It’s even allowed him to consider jobs in locations with a warmer climate, important to the health of his wife, he said.

“The re-done resume gave me a shotgun instead of a rifle,” he said. “I realized I could branch out a bit.”

“I am looking at positions (now) that would be the director of operations in an electronics-manufacturing business,” he said. “I have looked at some CFO (chief financial officer) positions in other businesses. The position I applied for today is general manager of a business that imports and resells motorcycle accessories.”

A resume often puts into focus the pieces of a career and the jobs a candidate is qualified to do, said Burns. Often, he said, it requires a dispassionate outsider to help see the whole picture.

“People often come to a realization after redoing their resumes,” he said. “What I do is almost like portrait painting. I’m an outsider, putting together their portrait. Some people look at their rewritten resume and say, ‘It doesn’t look like me.’ But I don’t make anything up. When you have an outsider look at you objectively, you are going to get a new view of yourself.”

‘Death by bullets’

Ide has been at the same company for 10 years but decided to look for a job this year after the company was acquired by a new owner and his wife developed some “minor medical issues” that doctors have told him would benefit from living in a warmer climate. He’s been researching jobs in warmer cities, such as Orlando, as well as Oregon.

Ide had recently updated his resume to address his current job description and title. “But when I got the critique back (as part of Ladders premium membership), it said – let me see if I can remember this correctly – ‘death by bullets,'” he said.

Bullet points and keywords (a resume standard) are important but often overused, Burns said. A laundry list of job descriptions does little to explain what he brings to the job and can confuse the employer.

“Often, an employer can’t determine from their resume what job the employee wants,” he said. “Tim’s resume was disorganized. You could see he had a background in operations, but most of the recent information was a jumble; it was more general management. He lumped together all types of skills – marketing, finance, sales, human resources – which needed to be presented as more of a progression. We did that with a summary paragraph.”

It’s important that the potential employer sees the portrait the candidate wants to paint and quickly, Burns said.

“Someone looks at a resume for 10 or 15 seconds,” he said. “They look at what the person has done, where he has been. The resume needs to present that information, plus accomplishments, clearly.”

Ide said that he understood why the changes were necessary. “When I got the critique back, I agreed with it in the sense that it was definitely much less oriented toward accomplishments,” he said. “I’m more oriented toward very concise summaries. And yet, I recognize that not all people think the same way I do. The rewrite was such that it was more verb-oriented. More of ‘I accomplished this,’ as opposed to ‘this was my task.’

“For instance,” he continued, “I originally had, ‘responsible for all aspects of operations.’ The rewrite came out, ‘designed and implemented cost-accounting processes.’ It broke down all the functions of my job and gave information on my accomplishments instead of ‘responsible for all aspects of accounting and human resources.'”

Transferring skills

New resume in hand, Ide is looking at positions as a CFO, director of operations, general manager, even a job as marshal of a court of appeals in Florida. “This position is the administrative boss of the court, the person who handles the personnel, the budget; it seems like a great position. It uses a lot of my skills but is different than manufacturing stuff that I’ve been doing.”

While all of these jobs sound a little different, they all require the skills of someone who can manage a project, manage a budget, handle human resources and more.

“My skills are transferrable,” he said. “If I could find a job that would pay me to play with motorcycles, I couldn’t think of anything that would be much better,” he said. “I do have options. I just have to convince other people.”