New Resume Polishes a 'Diamond in the Rough' | Ladders

New Resume Polishes a ‘Diamond in the Rough’

Software Project Manager Afzal Baradi’s resume was boxed in by long descriptions that said nothing about his accomplishments. A resume rewrite cut to the chase.

resume_magnify_glassAfter re-reading Afzal Baradi’s original resume three times, I had some vague idea that he developed software applications for financial systems – but I didn’t see any career progression or accomplishments. On paper, he seemed to be stuck doing the same, relatively low-level software-coding work for about 12 years. His resume had no profile paragraph – just a two-line summary of his 18 years in software development.

But a much more impressive story emerged after we talked on the phone for an hour. Over nearly two decades, Afzal’s job title had not changed very much – but his scope of responsibilities had grown dramatically. In addition to software development, he had designed entire financial applications and acquired expertise in complex investment-and-trading strategies.

So we started his new resume with a profile section that sketches his career arc and three areas of exceptional competence. In addition to software development, he’s quite experienced in product management, QA, managing offshore teams, marketing and investing strategies. Who knew?

A good start

Although his original resume did a bad job of showcasing his accomplishments and talent, at least he started with a clear headline, “Development Manager / Technical Team Lead,” which telegraphed what he did – and what he wanted to do – with reasonable clarity.

He also posted a “Technical Expertise” section near the top, which summarized all his programming skills. If Afzal were pursuing a project-management job — or any position that is not as hands-on technical — this information would be shortened and posted near the end of the resume.

Formatting problems made “scanning” difficult

The recruiters and hiring managers who receive your resume will first give it a quick read to determine if it is worth further review – it’s cursorily “scanned” for about 10 to 15 seconds. As a guideline, the reader will quickly skip over paragraphs that exceed four lines. Afzal’s first paragraph in the old resume comprised 10 lines of densely packed, hard-to-read text. The reader would almost certainly skip that section altogether – a real problem because that opening paragraph contained key information about Afzal’s career.

A second formatting problem is a condition called “box-itis.” Afzal stuffed all his information into 15 boxes, which makes the resume look unusual, disjointed and ugly. The 15 boxes also wasted a lot of valuable space, which pushed the resume to three pages. If possible, you should limit your resume to two pages, which is easily accomplished in the new resume by eliminating the boxes, wasted space and redundant text.

We also cut unnecessary text on the third page, such as redundant work history, his yoga experience and “references available on request.” (The reader can assume you won’t hide your references.)

How to inject the “wow” factor

The key improvement for this resume involved strengthening his accomplishment statements. Clever verbiage does not WOW anybody. The “wow factor” happens only when you showcase accomplishments that show how you achieved significant results for your employer or client.

The original resume was only a “diamond in the rough.” His new resume transforms a software developer’s technical minutiae into an impressive narrative of team leadership, contribution and success.

Donald Burns

Donald Burns Donald Burns is a certified professional resume writer who specializes in resumes for C-level executives and senior managers in marketing, sales, operations, and high-tech. His career background includes electrical engineering, marketing and journalism.

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