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Make It to the Finish Line with 3 Changes to Your Resume

Posted by Kathleen Smith

I spent some time reviewing resumes at CircleCityCon to help conference participants with their job search. While some were looking for new opportunities, others were simply curious to find out more about the review process. However, regardless of their current employment standing, there were a few key things that I recommended participants change on their resume:

  • Formatting
  • How they address technical versus business skills
  • Career paths

Nobody wants their resume tossed aside or stuck in the infamous applicant tracking system (ATS) black hole. Make sure you address these common resume pitfalls to ensure you’re part of the candidate review process, rather than off in no man’s land—aka jobless.

Resume Format

I encountered several resumes that had non-linear formats. They were almost graphic resumes rather than technical. They had side gutters, bolding, italics, and different font colors. But here’s the deal: You do not know who will be the first person or entity to review your resume. There won’t be an icon next to the job posting to inform you if your resume will be reviewed by a person or by the ATS.

More often than not, a computer will scan your resume and be the first to read it. And you don’t know what their user interface is or what will be done with the data. Your information will be pulled and parsed from you resume. Depending on the system, all of your graphics, bolding, and italics will likely be read as lorem ipsum—sending your resume to the trash pile. So keep it simple.

Furthermore, your resume has two critical inches at the top. Many recruiters will “preview” your resume, looking at these first two inches. Almost every resume I looked at used this area to include name, contact information, and home address – along with more bolding and italics. No real content there. So be sure that your summary of experience or your key skills can be seen within the top two inches to ensure your resume moves to the next stage.

And while I’m on it – why the home address? You’re in security. If you’re applying to a company for a security position, why are you assuming the company will have good control of your data? Aren’t they looking to hire you to do that? City and state will suffice. Leave your street address off and utilize your resume’s valuable space to sell your experience and skillset instead.

Technical vs. Business Skills

The second problem I came across was folks putting all of their skills together in one lump. In particular, combining all of their non-technical skills in the same section as their technical skills. I saw things like, “team leader, good communicator, Linux, budget management, Python, and C++.” This list conveys two very different types of skills that shouldn’t be thrown together. Don’t leave breadcrumbs that a recruiter has to follow all over your resume in order to find the skills they’re looking for.

List out your technical skills such as Security+, CISSP, and Java, but use common sense and ask yourself if the skills you’re listing should go together in one breath. And in the descriptions of your various roles, list the technical and then the business activities in the bullets. When writing these statements think about the situation, task, action, and result. You might say, “Reviewed technical needs of a growing department to scale servers and networks to meet current capacity requirements and plans for projected growth” or “Developed and defended company-wide security system budgets, reducing financial redundancies by 15%.”

In one particular instance, a participant I spoke with had recruited, trained, and managed teams of interns and sub contractors every summer for 5 years. This is huge to most managers – to be able to evaluate the technical skillset of the interns and subs, keep them moving along in a tight timeline and juggle the various personalities, all while staying within budget. Sadly this was just listed as a bullet point: “Led technical teams.” Neither a person nor an ATS can read between the lines to that extent. Really look at what you’ve done and pull out the skills and accomplishments that are relevant to your target.

Career Paths

Finally, whenever I review a resume, I see something that piques my interest. It’s like a sixth sense. I see that someone likes doing something, but they don’t think it’s very valuable. To the participant who managed multiple teams, I asked them to explain the “led technical teams” bullet point to me. They got immediately excited and animated, explaining how it was challenging and fulfilling. I shared my observation that managing the team seemed to be something they really enjoyed. I suggested they look for opportunities to do more of this. Interestingly enough the person did not finish their Bachelors’ degree even though they had tuition reimbursement. My advice: finish your degree and go lead more teams.

It was fascinating talking to so many professionals that had been working in fields rife with regulations such as financial, healthcare, and gaming. You will see hundreds of job postings for security professionals with experience working with key regulations. Yet, each one of these professionals did not list any of the regulations they worked within or how they were managing data sets and privacy to comply with them. Not one acronym or report title. Nothing that shared that, not only did they have the technical work experience, but the regulatory aspect as well.

As I chatted with each of these professionals, I asked if they wanted to continue working in this field. They were all positive that they wanted to continue working in the industry, but they wondered if they should challenge themselves more technically and try finding another job. Regardless of what you choose to do next, make sure your resume is forward thinking and not just a list of your past endeavors. You can’t write an effective resume without knowing what you want to do next. And you won’t find the job you want if you don’t craft your resume with your chosen career path in mind.

This entry was posted on Thursday, June 27, 2019 4:59 pm

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