CIO resume advice: Keep it simple

Resume writing has become an art, with automatic keyword searches and scanning software. Advice to CIOs: Brand and prioritize yourself.

The accepted wisdom on executive résumés in recent years is that less detail is more and branding is everything. Tell the world who you are and what you do best in as few words as possible. But search engine optimization has reared its cumbersome head in the job market. Some CIOs say they are being encouraged to list everything they have done because even résumés for top talent often get a first swipe by software that uses keywords to find prospects. More CIO career resources Branding drives Volvo, FedEx and CIOsNine tips for polishing your résumé But take it from job coaches and CIOs in the field: resist. Just ask Jesus Arriaga, a former CIO and senior vice president at Spirent Communications Inc. Arriaga has been on the job market since July, a casualty in a layoff of top management at the Rockville, Md.-based manufacturer of telecommunications equipment. He said his first résumé effort was to "build a brochure." "I learned that I was giving way too much information. Except in very limited cases, no one is going to read a résumé verbatim," said Arriaga, currently interim CIO at Bosley Inc., a Boston-based hair replacement company. "I had to remember how I looked at résumeés." A five-page résumé was cut to two and a quarter pages with the aim of giving a quick snapshot of top accomplishments, and a relentless focus on business acumen. "My résumé has very little technical information and no tactical bullet points -- PeopleSoft deployment, SAP experience. The aim is to show how I have led projects to successful conclusion," he said. An exception to the rule: In a text version of his résumé posted on job sites like Monster or Dice, Arriaga includes a keyword category at the bottom, with a long, "unreadable" list of technical terms for spider crawling software. Even in that venue, Arriaga said that when he receives responses, the first request is always to see his "pretty looking" Word document. Arriaga has it right, said certified career coach Kim Batson, founder of Career Management "We're seeing a trend for shorter résumeés, not longer," Batson said. "You want to clearly, succinctly, up front, in the top third of the résumé, lay out your value, and what differentiates you from someone else," said Batson, who also is also certified as a "Personal Branding Strategist," according to her website. There are several factors driving the shorter résumé, including the addiction to BlackBerrys, Batson said. "Many hiring authorities are reviewing résumeés on mobile devices. They might be on the train. They certainly are not going to wander through four pages," she said. "It may be unfortunate, but this is the age of the sound bite." Keywords are fine to use, such as CRM, ERP experience or P&L, but they should never be front-loaded onto a résumé, Batson said. "Think about it: They are features about you, not benefits you bring to the table." Priceless commodity Moti Vyas needs no convincing. His cardinal rule for résumeés? No more than two pages. That shows he is cognizant of "the value of time," in his view the most telling attribute of top talent. Five résumé rules for CIOs Martha Heller, managing director, IT Leadership Practice at Boston-based Z Resource Group, offers her rules for a rock star résumé.1. Use metrics judiciously: Recruiters need to know how many employees your company has and how many people you've managed. Same goes for your budget and the size of projects you've managed. "That will allow a recruiter to see the relevance of what you've done."2. Show an upward trajectory: Focus on your last three jobs, provide much fewer details on your early career and be sure to underscore promotions. A recruiter wants to see how long you've been at each company and that you have moved up the ladder. Provide context for your achievements -- who, where, what and how.3. Date your education: Don't be coy about when you were trained. Unless you are very advanced in your career (i.e., you have two more years before you retire), put your dates on your education. When people don't do that, recruiters assume you are approaching 70.4. Pay attention to formatting: If you don't know how to make your résumé pretty, give it to a professional service. The aim is to help recruiters easily ingest your material.5. Keep it to two and a half pages: Use keywords, focus on your most recent employment and keep it short. "Concise communication is one of the absolute critical skills of any executive, whether it is a CIO or not." "If you can manage your time, you can be a successful executive. It's a commodity you cannot buy," said Vyas, who recently left a CIO job at a large gaming casino in Southern California. After seven years of shuttling between work and his family in the New York area, he's in the hunt for a CIO position at a global company while he consults. "I don't want to waste the time of the executive looking at my résumé because I know their time is valuable, as mine was when I was on the job." Vyas said résumeés should come in different flavors, however. The résumé dispatched to his professional network does not look like the one sent to an executive recruiter, or the text-based version uploaded on job sites. "I don't change the facts; I only change the way they are presented," said Vyas, who has a doctorate in astrophysics and a master's degree in computer science. He said he's careful to put select numbers to his accomplishments -- the money he saved, the top-line revenue -- "because believe it or not, that résumé goes to the CFO also." Moti said he adds a few lines of description on former employers that are not household names but in general avoids "stuff not related to my experience." Technical details are either left out or harnessed to an attribute he wants to highlight, such as "leadership" or "efficiency expert." "People want to know how you look at a problem, how you made a positive contribution to the enterprise and how do you manage risk." Résumé best practices Think of the four-page résumé as a bad suit, said Martha Heller, managing director, IT Leadership Practice, at Boston-based Z Resource Group Inc. What matters in a job interview, ultimately, is what you have done. You might say the same things in your worst suit as you do in your best suit, she said, but the bad suit will make that very first impression "less than positive." So will a lengthy résumé. "It's annoying to read a four-page résumé," Heller said. "It's too long, it's too much paper. What it shows to a recruiter is that you do not know how to communicate concisely. And concise communication is one of the absolute critical skills of any executive, whether it is a CIO or not. If you put out a four-page résumé, you look like somebody who can't prioritize and can't communicate in a concise manner." What about the argument that résumeés get a first screening by human resources, which uses software to search for keywords, and it can't hurt? "I guess what I would say is, 'Do you want to be selected for an interview because you once, 25 years ago, were a sys admin on Unix? Are you looking for a Unix-oriented job now?'" Heller said. If you're worried about somebody who is screening on the word Linux or Unix, you're not being strategic or targeted enough in your job search, she said. Some recruiters do screen by industry names -- in retail, for example. You can list relevant keywords that you want to be matched against, she said, but be concise. "You can say in an opening line, 'IT executive with experience in financial services, manufacturing, retail, blah blah blah. But you don't have to list every role you've ever had and every task you've ever done under those roles," she said. If you put out a four-page résumé, you look like somebody who can't prioritize and can't communicate in a concise manner. Martha Hellermanaging director, IT Leadership PracticeZ Resource Group Inc. She recommends taking the key technical words you want to be screened on, perhaps big things like SAP or open source, if it is important to a company, but put them in a table. "It can take up two inches on your résumé." Tim Ameredes came to that conclusion after sending out a fact-stuffed accounting of his many accomplishments when he began his search for a CIO position in September. The multipage chronicle included ad technology platforms, case studies, articles where his work had been featured and plenty of facts. When he wasn't getting callbacks for positions where his experience should have piqued interest, "I realized I wasn't saying what I needed to say," Ameredes said. A seasoned executive, Ameredes navigated the California job market through the dot-com boom and bust years before landing a CIO position at a government agency in Ohio. He became CIO by climbing the ranks. Marketing himself effectively was "a steep learning curve." He hired a career coach in late January and was put through a résumé boot camp that included writing out descriptions of what he had done in his last three jobs. "The journaling was brutal," he said. But it allowed him to home in on those all-important benefits he could bring to a table, not just features. "I knew what I had accomplished but was not getting it across." He eventually "sharpened the message," focusing on the highlights of his last three positions. "It's been quite a learning experience -- frustrating at times, but enormously useful," Ameredes said. Let us know what you think about the story; email: Linda Tucci, Senior News Writer

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