Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What is a resume and what does a resume do?

A topic that I deal with and discuss on nearly a daily basis is the topic of security resumes and security resume writing.  In my role as a 3rd party or outside recruiter, a recruiter who sits between security professionals who want a job and numerous corporations that have security jobs to fill, I sit in a unique position.  This position enables me to understand the hiring needs of major companies and stakeholder hiring decision makers while simultaneously positioning me as the recipient of security professional’s resumes on a daily basis.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on two Security Director Jobs in Las Vegas.  Most of my effort has been devoted to direct recruiting to get to the most talented information security leaders in the industry.  In addition to resumes coming my way from my direct recruiting efforts, some of the resumes that are coming my way are coming from security professionals who have found these director searches on the Security Jobs page of

In My Client's Shoes

My recent daily review of resumes I’ve never seen before has caused me to put myself mentally in the shoes of my clients.  I’ve been looking at fresh resumes from the perspective that I believe my client’s look at resumes from and I have to say that when I think back on the past 20-30 fresh resumes I’ve reviewed, I’ve seldom been compelled to pick up the phone to immediately call the resume’s owner.  That comment comes from someone who wants to fill jobs and from someone who wants to figure out how to help individuals to advance their careers.  

More often than not, your security resume is likely landing in front of a recipient who isn't thinking about your well-being and your career advancement.

The fact that I’m not compelled to immediately pick up the phone to call people who own the resumes I’m receiving is a problem.  I’ve given significant thought to this problem because I like to solve problems and because I'll soon be speaking to the Los Angeles ISSA about career development.  Addressing this resume issue will be one of the topics I'll cover with the ISSA group.

What Is a Resume?

There are many opinions about what resumes are and how they should be written.  Here are some bottom line conclusions I've come to when thinking about what a resume is or isn't and what it can or can't do. 
  • A resume is a personal marketing document. How are you marketing yourself?
  • A resume is a key that opens an interview door.  Are doors opening when you share your resume with recruiters or prospective employers?
  • If poorly written, a resume is a key that won’t unlock an interview door.  Is your resume landing in the "black hole" where resumes go to die?
  • A resume is a communication tool that makes a first impression.  What kind of first impression are you making with recruiters or prospective employers?

If a resume is written in a clear, concise and logical way, a resume can have a positive impact on one’s job search and it can serve to market the owner in a way that causes one person's resume to float to the top while others float to the bottom of the pile.  

Ideally, a great resume can compel the resume recipient to pick up the phone to engage in a conversation to learn more about the resume owner.  This is really the ultimately objective behind sharing a resume.  To open up a dialogue.

On the other hand, if a resume is not written in a manner that makes it crystal clear to the reader what the resume owner does and does well, the phone may never ring.

The Deep Dark Black Hole Where Resumes go to Die

I often hear people talk about their dissatisfaction with the process of responding to job postings.  I’ve been told by many people that they’ve sent out resumes only to have their resume fall into a “black hole”.  Others have used the word “Abyss” to describe the place where they believe their resume traveled to.

There is no doubt in my mind that the black hole for resumes does exist.  I won’t address that side of the equation today because that side belongs to corporations and recruiters and the magnitude of the problem is overwhelming.

What I can address is the side of the job search equation that belongs to a resume owner.  That side is the side where the resume owner has 100% control over the way they package and market themselves.

If I used all of the examples that are spinning in my head right now, this blog would turn into a book.  Hey, there's an idea I'm already working on!

Director of Security Awareness and Training, Policies and Procedures

I’ll focus on just one recent challenge I’ve faced.  One of my searches is a Director of Security Awareness and Training, Policies and Procedures.  This is a $150,000 job opportunity with bonus and stock. Its a chance for someone to make a difference in a global company and to build upon security awareness program development work they've done in the past.  For someone, this is the opportunity they've been waiting for.

I’ve been receiving resumes for nearly 3 weeks now from individuals who are interested in this position.  Each person is sure that they’re a fit for the job.  I want them to be a fit but sadly, they're usually not.

When I open up a resume, I give the resume a 5-15 second visual scan.  If I don’t immediately see terms I’m looking for such as Security Awareness and/or Security Policies and Security Procedures, I go to the top of the resume and enter the word “Awareness” in the search box. 

Time and time again, the word “Awareness” fails to show up in a resume that belongs to someone who wants to be the Director of Security Awareness for a Fortune 350 company with a price tag of $150,000 plus bonus and stock and they're sure that they fit the job like a glove. 

If this happened once in a while, I wouldn't be writing this blog.  This happens every day.

Time to Shift the Burden

To potentially avoid the resume “Abyss”, consider taking the burden of discovery and critical thinking off of the recipient of your resume.  Stop making the recipient of your resume have to hunt and peck and read every word on your resume in order to form a conclusion about what you’re great at delivering professionally.

What you're great at delivering professionally should be so clearly evident to the recipient of your resume that they could simply read the "Cliff Notes" version of your resume and they'd still be compelled to talk to you.  I rarely see a resume that draws me in like this.

A Different Approach

Instead, invest the time and energy into your resume to make the resume’s message crystal clear.  This means that a resume must be clean, clear and logical in its format.  A resume must clearly tell the reader what you’re professionally great at delivering and the reader should be able to come to that conclusion in 5-15 seconds.  Does your resume communicate in this manner?

If you’re responding to a Director of Security Awareness, Training, Policies and Procedures opening in a Fortune 350 global company, send a resume that clearly explains what you’ve done in the past around the Security Awareness topic.

For example, if you’ve worked for a Fortune 100 company that has 50,000 global employees and your Security Awareness program was directed to all 50,000 employees, say so.  If you’ve built a Security Awareness program from the ground up, provide details that qualify and quantify the projects you've worked on.  Write about the quantifiable level of risk reduction that occurred after your security awareness programs were developed and delivered.  

Don’t make the reader of your resume assume that you may or may not have done certain work.  The recipient of your resume is busy.  They’re likely data-overwhelmed.  What I mean by data-overwhelmed is that you're sending your resume to someone who has an overflowing Inbox.  They're bombarded with Text messages, InMail messages on LinkedIn, etc.  They're phone rings off the hook and every time they get off of a call, a voice mail is waiting for them.  

Some recipients are so busy that they won’t stop to apply critical thinking skills to your resume.  Other recipients don’t possess the required critical thinking skills to evaluate your skills in the first place.  Their job is simply to check boxes. 
  • How difficult have you made it for the check box person to check boxes when reviewing your resume?
  • In 5-15 seconds, can someone who has never reviewed your resume before determine what makes you great as a security professional?
  • Can the recipient of your resume instantly determine what kinds of problems you are capable of solving?
  • Can the recipient of your resume determine how you might add to their company's bottom line or how you might save their company money based on work you've done in your past.
  • Can the recipient of your resume easily tell that you are capable of communicating and presenting to business leaders?  
  • Are you chasing after a highly strategic security career opportunity with a tactically written resume?
  • Does your resume describe what you were previously hired to do but fails to describe your accomplishments, contributions and created value?

As the owner of a security resume, you cannot eliminate the resume black hole. The black hole frequently exists and I’m convinced that many security resumes land in the black hole because the resume owner placed the burden of critical thinking on the recipient of their resume.

Jeff Snyder’s Security Recruiter Blog, 719.686.8810's Security Recruiter Blog