IT Resume Makeover: When all else fails, break the rules

Here's how resume expert and career consultant Donald Burns helped a resume that could have belonged to almost any high-level IT pro stand out from the crowd.

Marydawn Meeder's academic credentials were top-notch: In addition to holding bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical engineering, a master's in software engineering and an MBA, Meeder earned a professional engineer (PE) license -- an elite credential analogous to a CPA or an MD. But aside from those, Meeder's original resume could have described almost any seasoned IT professional.

'Boring and ordinary'

"The overall impression of her resume was 'boring and ordinary,'" which didn't capture her personality or package her achievements properly. Nothing jumped off the page at first glance. There wasn't an answer to the question, 'What does she do really well -- and what does she do better than anybody else?'" says Donald Burns, executive resume writer, career consultant and coach with Executive Promotions, LLC.

Meeder's best information was buried in long, unbroken paragraphs -- sometimes 10 lines or more -- and under dense verbiage that wasn't just hard to find, it was hard to decipher. During his phone interviews with Meeder, Burns recognized that she has unusual clarity of mind and focus. The problem those qualities weren't coming through in her resume.

"Marydawn's original headline, "Experienced Information Technology Executive," was a good start, but it, too, was too generic to open the door for interviews. And in the summary paragraph she explains what she does well, but the dense text hides her message," Burns says.

Burns also had to reframe Meeder's short-term consulting gigs and full-time employment to tell a cohesive story. It's not unusual for IT professionals to mix consulting contracts with full-time positions, especially since the recession in 2009, but organization is key. Otherwise, the impression is one of job-hopping and instability.

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