Your resume is a marketing document. A recruiter or hiring manager will judge by its content and appearance alone whether you deserve further consideration for a security management-level position. A brief, clear, attractive resume will recommend you more highly to a recruiter than will a long-winded, poorly designed one — even if its content is the same. Here are a few tips for creating an enticing resume.
• Be brief. People who come from security, law enforcement and intelligence backgrounds may tend to include wordy explanations of their positions and duties in an effort to be truthful and precise. These are good qualities in a professional, but a resume must make an impact on its reader in 20 seconds or less, so in this case, brevity is key. If you have led a certain type of program, simply state that and move on; unless the program is so unusual that the reader may not understand its significance, there is no need to explain it further. However, if you accomplished something extraordinary in that program — if you were a loss prevention manager and implemented a program that dropped your shrinkage from 20 percent to nothing, for instance — you should consider including a bullet point that states the results you achieved.
• Tailor to the position. You may have a 10-page list of positions and work experience that are relevant to a security career in general, but a recruiter or hiring manager does not need or want every little bit of that information. You should focus on the areas highlighted in the job description. Make a list of the key things you have accomplished in the course of your career and then pick out the items that are relevant to the position you are applying for. If you want to ensure that your resume conveys that you have a broad range of experience, note that in a summary at the top or a simple list of key experience areas.
• Pay attention to the design. Try to develop a resume that is visually pleasing, easy to read, and that can impact or interest someone within 20 seconds. A page so dense with words that it looks like an essay will likely receive little attention, because the people sorting through the stack of resumes will consciously or unconsciously tend to gravitate towards those that look clean and organized. A neat resume also conveys that you have good communication and presentation skills because you can synthesize a lot of information into a small form and make it visually and verbally appealing to the reader.
Choose a layout that you like and that is reflective of you as a person.
• Watch your wording. Use power verbs to start sentences. Don’t use “I” or “responsible for” — this phrase will make your resume sound like a position description. Do not take your old company or organization job description and convert it to a resume.
• Include as much contact info as you can. Address, name, work phone and cell (clearly marked as such) and e-mail.
• Choose colors wisely. A bright white page is suggestive of rigidity and may send the wrong impression to the reader. Light beiges tend to work best, but do not go too yellow. Small details like this, along with choice of font size and type, make a big difference when taken together.
• Include dates with every position listed. You can list month and year or even just year — but do not make the recruiter chase dates for you.
Last, hand someone your resume and ask them to read it, then take it back from them after 20 seconds and ask them what it says and what their impression is. This will give you a good idea of what that all-important recruiter may think.
Jerry Brennan is co-author of the book Security Careers. Mr. Brennan is founder of Security Management Resources, an executive search firm dedicated to corporate security, and a content expert faculty member for the Security Executive Council (SEC). Security Careers by Jerry Brennan and Steve Walker may be purchased through the Security Executive Council Web site (www.securityexecutivecouncil.com/?sourceCode=std). Ask Jerry Brennan your own career questions at the SEC’s Faculty Advisor:secleader.typepad.com/.