Rethinking The Resume Paradigm Will Make You Stand Out

As an Information Technology consultant, I am constantly looking for ways to make myself stand out from the competition and look more attractive to my customers.  I’m challenging and rethinking every bit of collateral in my arsenal — web sites, business cards, LinkedIn profile, and my resume.

Let’s talk about resumes.

Isn’t it amazing that with all the technological progress around us that we use the same awful chronological resume format that has been around for decades?

Seriously, writing a good resume is tough.  You need the right level detail that is interesting and relevant to your audience.  You also need to communicate the impact of what you’ve accomplished during your career.  Lastly, you don’t want to write “War and Peace.” The goal is to get to the next step — an interview or exploratory meeting.

And yet, that tired old chronological resume format hangs in there.  Frankly, it’s what’s expected.  Alternatives such as functionally-structured resumes never gained traction.  We occasionally try to improve our resume by writing an opportunity-targeted cover letter, or an introductory summary or set of bullets.  However, by and large, the chronological resume format remains unchanged.

There’s a fundamental problem with this type of resume, though.  Your resume says — “here’s what I’ve done and what it meant” in compelling prose.  You are asking the reader to make a leap of faith that you can meet their needs. However, unless you are working with the same people for the same customer (internal or external) doing the same thing with the same technologies, this is probably not your situation.

So, what to do?  How can you improve your presentation of what you can do in a manner that ensures the reader you can meet their needs and achieve outcomes they seek?

After a lot of thought and research I came across a fascinating document—Leonardo DaVinci’s resume (http://www.businessinsider.com/leonardo-da-vinci-resume-2016-4).  Instead of stating something like “I supported Duke X in the Battle of Y by designing and building bridges to chase his opponents troops across River Z,” he states “I have a sort of extremely light and strong bridges, adapted to be most easily carried, and with them you may pursue, and at any time flee from the enemy; and others, secure and indestructible by fire and battle, easy and convenient to lift and place. Also methods of burning and destroying those of the enemy.

Do you see the difference?  What’s fascinating about this example is it’s not about Leonardo’s history — instead it’s about what Leonardo could do for his prospective client — in short, a capabilities statement that is outcome-focused.

To me, this was a much more useful document than the usual historical resume.  So, starting with my resume I set about writing a “Leonardo Resume” for myself, to see what I might create.

I modified Leonardo’s approach a bit as I went through successive drafts.  What I did was to go through my existing resume’s major accomplishments, and boil them down into “what did I actually do?” and put it into terms that read almost like a statement of work.  I had the help of a knowledgeable (technologically and also about me) friend in doing this.  My first draft looked very similar to his — a set of “I can…” and “I have…” statements.  This was a bit repetitive but heading in the right direction.

I then grouped similar statements together, and created headings for the major groups (multiple iterations here).  I narrowed my capabilities listing down to no more than four statements per heading (again, multiple iterations here).  I then got rid of the “I can” and “I have” parts of the statements, tweaked the grammar a bit, and stepped back to assess the result.

But is it a resume?  Not really, at least what people expect for a resume (yes, we are stuck with the chronological format, I’m afraid).  It’s really a capability statement (a “Leonardo Capability Statement”).  But we can use it to improve our resume!  So how do I use this?  For starters, if someone asks me for a capability statement it’s done—it’s this document.  If someone asks me for a resume then I have some excellent boilerplate from which I can draw for a focused cover letter for my resume, or for an introduction within the actual resume itself.  I just use the specific capability statements themselves as they are relevant to that customer, and ignore the ones that aren’t.  The Capability Statement can also accompany a resume, or supplement it.  For example, it’s a great “leave behind” as part of an interview or exploratory meeting.

Do you think a “Leonardo DaVinci Capability Statement” will better position you to stand out, both for career advancement and competitive purposes??

*For example, I had a service area “Architecture, Engineering, and Implementation” and within it, several specific statements one of which was “Collaborate with both application owners and engineering / operations staff to first grasp the specifics of the as-is environment and then collaboratively develop: business cases, highly available and fault-tolerant to-be architectures, technology refresh approaches (such as migration to cloud-hosted environments), designs, integration with or re-engineering of management and support processes and tools, etc.

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