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The Outside-In Resume

Traditionally, resume’s are written in from an inside-out perspective. They explain what the person in question has done, so that the potential employer or client can determine the suitability of the candidate. So what’s wrong with that? Well, it’s much easier for the employer or client when the resume is written from the perspective of another employer or client who has work with the candidate.

Let’s take an example. Here’s a traditional inside-out description of an assignment.

“Joseph executes an application portfolio assessment for <client> that has acquired a considerable number of applications, with the goal of reducing IT costs and rationalizing their legacy applications. He conducts interviews and assessments of the business value and technical value of the applications and offers guidance as to which applications should be retired in order to realize cost savings. This results in an assessment that is presented to the IT director for decision making, after which the approved rationalization plan is executed.”

Change the viewpoint

This contains the usual parts: situation/goal, role/activities, and results. But when written from the perspective of the client, it shows the reader what the client did (with the candidate) to solve their problem. This makes it much easier to imagine what they could achieve with the candidate. It also demonstrates the candidate’s ability to see things from his or her client’s point of view. In the description below, italics denote the changes. The introductory sentence has been rewritten, but apart from that, it’s just a case of reversing the perspective.

“Most organizations experience that it is easier to acquire a new application than to retire one and <client> is no exception. In 2007 they are faced with the challenge of reducing IT costs and decide to focus on rationalization of their legacy applications. They engage Joseph to conduct interviews and assessments of the business value and technical value of the applications and to offer guidance as to which applications should be retired in order to realize cost savings. This results in an assessment that is presented to the IT director for decision making, after which the approved rationalization plan is executed.”

Here’s another example. The inside-out version is as follows – “Mary has been responsible for establishing the IT-Business engagement function in the organisation. She has pioneered effective techniques for building collaborative relationships with stakeholders. She has also identified and leveraged opportunities for the use of technology to improve the customer experience and optimize utilization of organisational resources. This has resulted in an improved perception of <service provider> by the business.” This version begins with a statement of responsibility followed by a list of activities undertaken and concludes with the outcome for the organisation.

Demonstrate employer value

On the other hand, the outside-in version emphasizes the value to the employer at the outset. “In 2009 <service provider > decided to focus on managing relationships with the business for the purpose of reversing negative perceptions and delivering true value. To this end Mary was tasked with establishing the IT-Business engagement function. By building collaborative relationships as well as leveraging opportunities for the use of technology for enhanced customer experience and resource utilization, Mary has improved the perception of <service provider> by the business.”

This way of writing is more than just a change of syntax. It helps the candidate focus on how the client has actually benefitted from his or her contribution. This often takes some effort to identify and formulate in an attractive way. The effort is worthwhile, however, because an outside-in resume is not only more attractive from a substantive perspective, but is also unusual, and therefore attracts attention. And that’s the candidate’s first goal.

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Mark Smalley & Malini Jayaganesh

Malini Jayaganesh is a Business Relationship Manager (BRM) who draws upon her varied professional experience (as business analyst, academic, writer, speaker and story-teller) to foster collaboration in complex organisations. Her multidisciplinary approach incorporates Lean, Agile and Design Thinking. Her contribution has been recognised with a Highly Commended Award for Service Excellence by the Department of Health & Human Services in Victoria, Australia. She is also affiliated with BRMI, as a member of their Global Council. Connect with Malini on LinkedIn & Twitter @MaliniJay9 Mark Smalley is an IT Management Consultant at Smalley.IT and is specialized in application management and business information management. He is affiliated with the non-profit ASL BiSL Foundation, APMG International, GamingWorks and AllThingsITSM. Mark is an inaugural member of the industry initiatives SMCongress and Taking Service Forward. Also known as The IT Paradigmologist, Mark has spoken to thousands of IT professionals at more than 100 events on 4 continents. Connect with Mark on LinkedIn and Twitter @marksmalley.
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