Posted by: Doug Geiger | 2009/07/22

A business analyst’s resume

resume cartoon

(image from KenNash.com)

Why do you have a resume?

As a business analyst (BA), whenever I submit a resume to an employer, I expect that it will be held to a higher standard than other positions within that same company because the job of a BA is to understand the needs of a user and provide clearly written analysis that can be used to make decisions and solve problems. To be blunt, my resume needs to be the obvious solution my prospective employer’s problem of, “who do we hire next?” My approach isn’t simply the result of a logical exercise; it is also informed by years of hiring and hours of interviews. I am sharing my approach for an obvious reason and a clever reason. The obvious reason: on the off-chance that this will help job-seeking friends determine if their resume does its job as well as they do theirs. Can you guess the clever reason?

The first step in any project is to define the problem clearly. This is referred to as the “scope.” In most projects, somewhere along the way (hopefully early on) someone will ask, “what are we trying to do here?” The funny thing about defining the scope is that everyone in the room think it is an unnecessary step because to each of them the goal is so obvious. (In reality each person’s understanding of the goal of the project is usually different enough to cause a considerable amount of aggravation down the road.) Think of your resume as a mini project. My objective in producing a resume is two-fold:

  1. Get an interview
  2. Set the right tone for that interview

One could argue that those are one big goal and you would be right; however, for my purposes I like thinking of them separately because I see the goals as practical versus creative or left-brain versus right-brain. Note that one of my goals is not to “get the job” or “list everything good about me.” The entire scope for my resume is limited to getting to the next step–the interview.

Who will be reading your resume?

In project management lingo, those that are interested in the outcome of a project are called “stake holders.” The only stakeholders for my resume are those who can grant me an interview–Not my guidance counselor from high school, not my peers or my mom–The only person in the world thatI care about, from the point of view of that document, is the hiring manager or human resources. This may sound obvious but it matters. One of the people most noticeably not included in the list of people I am aiming to impress with my resume is me. I already know me and generally speaking I like me. But, entrepreneurship notwithstanding, I cannot hire me. This is a worthwhile distinction. I read a lot of resumes in which the author was clearly impressed with their accomplishments, but little thought was given to impressing me, the hiring manager. Every word I write must tell the employer what is in it for them.

Here is the tone-setting angle: no hiring manager in the world wants to hire the borderline personality, the know-it-all or the goof-off. Everyone is looking for the “perfect fit.” I may or may not be that person. To save everyone time and energy I try to indicate my personality in a number of ways to help that manager size me up effectively:

Asking to be judged. I start with a subjective summary and in so doing I put myself on the block to be judged. Not my list of deeds. Me. Not everyone does this and not every guru recommends this. I find it to be very important because people hire people not pieces of paper. If I do my job correctly then the rest of the document stands in support of these statements. To wit, this is the closest I come to demonstrating “the real me” to the hiring manager prior to the interview.A perfect situation is one in which the three characteristics I list here are also the top three requirements of the job. The other scenario is that there is a mismatch between what the hiring manager requires and who I am. If we find this out early on, all the better for everyone. For instance, if the position entails repetitive work without much human interaction then the hiring manager will be looking for “meticulous” and “self-motivated” at the top of a resume. It isn’t that these two traits aren’t true of me; rather, it is that I most identify with the three I have listed most. Some employers go so far as to perform a key-word search to help screen for certain skills. (Have you ever wondered why some companies ask you to cut and paste your resume in text format rather than upload?)  Here are my summary statements:

Experience summary

Citing others. I include a page of recommendations taken from LinkedIn and from letters of recommendation I have received over the years. By using the words of others in my resume it hints at the fact that I value what other have to say. It also adds credibility to a document; which, by design, is pretty self-important and often prone to embellishment. In my heart of heart I would love to believe that I was a wonderful manager and a talented VPO but even if I said those things the most it would show is that I think that is the case. However, if those with whom I worked say those things; then I was those things, at least to them. (Side note: This principle is at the back of LinkedIn.)

Recommendations

Intentionality of design. The overall feel and layout of the document is intended to communicate things on a number of levels. I adjusted the margins slightly to imply familiarity with document layout. I added a cover sheet with a single centered quote for two reasons, to stand out from the pile,  to offer the reader some visual breathing room before they dive in to yet another resume, and to set the stage for what follows. I chose a serif font for the sake of readability and to imply that I am a stable person (serifs are associated with reputable sources of information like text books and news print). I made sure the content divisions lined up with pagination because it feels more harmonious. I used small caps throughout because it is assertive without feeling pushy. You may ask, “Will any HR person or hiring manager read into each of these decisions?” No. Might they get a gut feeling because it just “feels right?” I hope so. Remember, all I want is the interview.

One more word on this. I have read some pretty shoddy resumes and still offered an interview; however, the interviewee was starting at a small deficit. I am not suggesting that any amount of word processor finesse can land a job; but that little things do add up to provide an impression. Make it a good one.

Conclusion.

The overarching argument I hope my resume makes is this: I can pull together a great deal of disparate information, assemble it logically, and skillfully present it in a way that leads to a positive next action. As a business analyst I had better know how to do that. For those interested, here is my current resume.

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Responses

  1. This is insightful and brilliant!! The idea of citing others is perfect and the topics you touch upon are refreshing. Please write some more!!!


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