Show off your professional background the right way

  • Reading time:5 mins read

You need to draw attention to the right things on your resume. Your educational background is secondary to us unless you are a new graduate who recently left university. I said secondary. To executive search firms the most important part of your resume is the Professional Background, Working Experience or any word combination of the two. That’s what must make up 80% of your two page resume. 5282_holly_-_web

Here’s the thing. A Master Degree in Finance won’t help you much if you don’t have the work experience from the right industry, the right brand name companies, and the number of years that will make it likely that you have had exposure to what the client requires. But give me a senior executive with 20 years on the job, with the right industry and 15 years of real life experience with impressive achievements, and I already see a queue of clients lining up outside my door. Even the highest education is a diploma. Mr. Trump called them street-smart or book-smart.

Now don’t give up on education because it’s what got you started on the right foot. And of course many real technical industries do require some good theoretical background and where such theory will give you access to the right jobs. But my point is, as years have passed it’s your work accomplishments which will make you a hero. Or a zero.

Your well thought out career plan will give you the profile that makes you attractive to an employer and a lot of headhunters. I often think of my own youth, so many years ago that you don’t want to know. When I graduated we had no laptops, no iPhone and BlackBerry, not even a fax, no electronic calculators, fast moving consumer goods were called retail, airlines couldn’t fly non-stop from Bangkok to Europe. We had no Microsoft Office and Google was our local library with real books on real bookshelves. So whatever I learned in school then will certainly not be knowledge worth the paper is written on in today’s business.

5433_Christmas_present_red_emerald_webComing back to how you structure the first three lines of you Professional Background. These lines must include your title, the name of your employer, the period of your employment and a one-liner about the industry of your employer. But not necessarily in that order.

If your title is relevant for the job you are interested in, that needs to come first. But if your employer is a brand name in its industry and the name itself will lift you above the rest, or most, that needs to come first. Generally speaking the period should never come first but rather at the end of the first or second line. You don’t want to draw attention to 1 or 2 years and be seen as a job hopper. On the other hand, be careful with anything over 7-8 years as many will conclude you have stopped growing, that you are no longer ambitious, no longer good enough to be promoted or accepted by other companies you have no doubt tried to get into it. Dead wood which no longer contribute to the organisation. There are of course always exceptions to everything, in this context, it would be the high-flyer who moves to bigger jobs and more responsibility within the same organization every 3 years.

Executive search firms, recruitment companies and agencies, HR departments, all want to put you in a box where they can keep you until such time when you many be needed. These boxes could be an industry or a function. You need to help the assistant who is reading your resume and who is desperately trying to find out if Group 4 Securicor (in this example your current employer) is in security or securities. Unless you work for Thai International or Coca Cola you must have a one-liner below your employer’s name that will direct the recruiter to your right holding area. 5306_xmas_tree_-_web

Now if you end up in securities and not in security, you can imagine what will happen with your resume. Or rather not happen. Obviously, you are lost in the big black hole and never to be seen again, when HR or the recruiter is trying to find candidates for their security client.

Assuming you have now chosen the perfect sequence for the name of your employer, your title, the employment period and the one-liner about industry, we can move on the next part of the professional background.

It’s perfectly ok to have a line or two about your overall responsibility, as it is or was. But don’t waste ten bullet points with that. What we really want to know is what you did with your responsibility. Save the bullet points for a list of accomplishments and achievements. Be as specific as you can and show numbers, percentages, periods and similar expressions that will quantify your achievements and accomplishments.

An achievement is a goal that has been reached. An accomplishment is a job or project that has been completed.

May I finally wish all readers, candidates and clients a Happy New Year, here’s to your success in 2011.

Tom Sorensen

Tom Sorensen is an executive search veteran with over 25 years of experience recruiting in Asia, Europe, and Africa. He has worked in executive search in Thailand since 2003 and is recognized as one of the country’s top recruiters and most profiled headhunters.