Project Manager Wins Contest, Receives New Resume

Senior project manager wins Does My Resume Stink? contest and receives a new resume that matches his legendary work history.

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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. Now onto this month’s transformation:

“Until now, I’ve never had a problem finding jobs,” said “Mike Smith,” a senior project manager who specializes in software and telecom projects. “I’ve got an excellent reputation in my field.”

During his 25-year career, Mike acquired much kudos for his near-legendary PM skills — but you’d never know that from reading his original resume.

Mike had what I call a “Teflon resume.” Although I had read it three times, nothing about him stuck in my mind. His work and career were fuzzy and out of focus. His resume left me with no clear idea about his work and accomplishments.

Mike had buried all his good stuff underneath a data dump: five pages and 1,730 densely packed words.

Later we connected by phone, and Mike talked me through his resume, line-by-line. During that call, his resume came to life; suddenly, he looked very marketable. Mike’s new resume captures all of his top highlights in two easy-to-read pages. Here are the steps we took to go from mediocre to standout:

1. Determine his wins, and then cut that in half.
Don’t try to explain every task you do on the job — that’s “mission impossible.” Instead, for each job listed on your resume, quickly describe the position, and then add a few “accomplishment bullets” that showcase your top highlights. That’s the basic idea behind Mike’s accomplishments-based resume, which focuses on how well he performed each job.

Resume tip: For each position, ask yourself this question, which often shakes loose some good material for accomplishment bullets: Why did XYZ Corp. hire you in the first place — what did they expect you to accomplish?

2. Maximize his 10 seconds of fame.
Do you think you need more than two pages to tell your story? Probably not!

Rare exceptions do exist but, as a rule, do not exceed two pages. In Mike’s case, we focused on his recent work and summarized any experience older than about 12 years.

Today’s job market is obviously more competitive than ever, so make your best points very fast. When a human reviewer actually “reads” your resume for the first time, you have roughly 10 seconds to make your case.

Resume tip: To condense a 25-year career into two pages, just focus on your top, top highlights. Ruthlessly condense the older jobs, and lavish more attention on your more recent experience. If you cannot stand to cut your three- or four-page resume into two pages, just call in a professional resume writer.

3. Use simple language and specific details.
I knew that Mike had a problem with “Teflon” language: The meaning of his words kept slipping away. Mike’s case was especially bad; a long time ago, I had worked as an electrical engineer for one of his same employers, and even that didn’t help me figure out what his resume was saying.

Resume tip: Write simply. Use simple words, short sentence fragments and active voice to showcase your jobs. Add specific details and hard results wherever possible.

4. Write to the future.
If you’ve been reading the many resume articles here on Ladders, you already know that an “objective” statement at the top of your resume is almost always a bad idea (although some rare exceptions do exist).

On the other hand, it’s important to indicate what you want and where you’re headed. I call this an “implied” objective.

So make sure that all the elements of your resume support the type of work you want to do in your next job. For example, in Mike’s old resume, his summary paragraph is a rehash of old experience and some vague personal attributes. His new resume — especially the headline and summary paragraph — clearly indicate he’s headed towards a PM training and coaching role.

5. Apply the “mouse in a maze” principle.
Mike’s original resume overwhelmed the reader with five pages of text and inadequate directional signposts. Don’t let your readers get lost! As you write your resume, imagine that your readers are entering a maze, and it’s your job to lay out a path that gets them out within 10 seconds. Point the way forward by using bold headings and adequate white space.

You can solve the “Teflon resume” issue by following the principles outlined above. You’ll definitely stand out from your competitors in the resume pile — and you’ll make a positive and memorable impression hat sticks in the reader’s mind.

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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