Resume Writing Tips for the Business Analyst and Systems Analyst

The Resume

The purpose of a resume is to convey just enough information to the reader to land yourself an interview. No more. No one was ever hired based on a resume alone, no matter how wonderfully it was written. Once you land that interview, the job of the resume is over. So, your goal is to write a resume that will avoid the waste paper basket. The following guidelines and tips will address how to write a resume that a hiring manager will take the time to read, and how to make your resume stand out from the rest getting you that well deserved interview.

Resume Guidelines

  • Use an objective or summary but not both
  • List your education
  • List your experience in chronological order
  • Show the month and year for dates
  • Write in the past tense
  • Minimize the use of articles and pronouns
  • Do not provide company overviews
  • No experience is too small
  • Do not list irrelevant information
  • Take the time to make your resume POP
  • Be concise

Use an objective or summary but not both. Objectives are great if you plan to have a friend distribute your resume around their office. The objective should be the first thing listed on your resume. It gives the reader a very quick idea of the type of position that you are seeking. If they have a business analyst or systems analyst position available, a one or two line objective can whet their appetite. However, if you are submitting a resume for a specific position, then an objective makes less sense. Instead, most resumes nowadays have a summary. The summary would typically be the first thing on your resume in the absence of an objective. Here you can list your technical skills—those most often required a business or systems analyst—in a succinct, organized fashion. The summary should be short, use powerful language, and get right to the point, while using as many relevant keywords as possible. But never list technical skills or keywords that you can’t back up. Even an average interviewer will typically uncover any dishonesty and you will lose a great deal of credibility.

Always list your education. If you only have a two year degree or maybe a four year degree in some obscure field, you should still list it. Whatever you believe you might gain from leaving it off, rest assured that anyone who reads your resume will assume much worse if you don’t list it at all. Your education should either immediately follow the summary or be the last thing on your resume depending on how much emphasis it should be given. If you have been out of school for some time, and your education does not fit the position, then it definitely belongs at the end. If you have only been out of school for a few years then it is recommended to display it after your summary. For those seasoned professionals who are changing careers but happen to be light on related experience, it can go either way. For example, if you have a computer science degree and you are seeking a systems analyst position then it adds value to emphasize your degree by listing after the summary. However, if your education is unrelated to the position then you should leave it at the end of your resume.

List your experience in chronological order. Most interviewers, managers, and resume screeners have a stack of resumes on their desk a mile high, and when they want information they don’t want to have to search for it. So of the two main types of resumes—chronological, which shows at a glance where you have worked starting with the most recent position first, and functional, which groups together similar experiences regardless of the order in which they occur —nine times out of ten you should use a chronological resume. Information regarding employment dates can be found quickly and easily which makes hiring managers happy. Now, if you insist on using a functional resume, remember, no one wants to waste their time trying to put your work experience in order. So be sure to precede your work experience section with a work history summary that lists each company’s name in reverse chronological order along with how long you were employed at each company. That’s it. The work history summary (which is only needed for a functional resume) shouldn’t contain any additional information. Following the work history summary you should provide the details of your work experience as you normally would.

Show the month and year for dates. Many business analyst and systems analyst candidates are interested in trying to cover up gaps in employment on their resume, and so they list all dates in whole years. While there is some leniency regarding how to list start and end dates, hiring managers typically prefer to see a month and year for each. Only using a year for a date will usually draw more attention to the potential gaps in a resume than if you were to list both the month and year in the first place. The only time one might be able to make an argument for leaving out the month is if you have been at each position three years or more or if you have an extensive amount of work history (15 to 20 years or more). Under these circumstances, only listing years for start and end dates can result in a resume that appear less cluttered. Though, this practice is still not strongly recommended.

Stick with the past tense throughout your entire resume, even for descriptions of currently held positions. Moving from one tense to another is a “writing don’t”. You may have seen some resumes where candidates list all of their experience in the present tense. The thought is that the present tense conveys information in a more active and powerful way, but most readers will find the present tense more awkward to read since almost all of you work experience listed is for past positions.

Minimize the use of articles and pronouns. When writing a resume, it is okay to write in sentence fragments. In fact, it is preferred for conciseness and brevity. Still, you should be sure that the language of your sentence fragments still flow. Never use "I" or other pronouns to identify yourself. Remember, everything in your resume is a description of what “you” did.

Do not provide company overviews. A resume is supposed to convey information about you. Don’t waste precious space on a synopsis of what the company does. A two or three word description such as “Regional Advertising Agency” is usually enough prior to any interview. Business and systems analysts need to be able to sort through a deluge of information and then structure that information to be presented in a clear and concise manner. Your resume is the first chance to show your ability to do just that. So, keep it brief. If the interviewer doesn’t know what your previous employer does, they will find out with a quick internet search.

No experience is too small to list on your resume. Your resume is an advertisement of everything you have to offer that is relevant to the position. Don't sell yourself short. The hiring manager will determine how much related experience is required. Remember, it is the whole of your experience that will be the basis of their decision, not a single skill. A business analyst or systems analyst candidate may have very little experience within five relevant skill areas, but if they have all five the hiring manager may prefer them over someone who is less well-rounded. But remember, you should always be 100% truthful. There is absolutely no circumstance under which it is okay to lie on your resume. If you describe a skill with the word advanced, expert, or senior then you had better fit the description. And if you think you are being slick by rewriting past work history to include skills that you have acquired at a later date, I’m sorry to tell you but you’re not the first to try it. The hiring manager may not call you on it in the interview, but you won’t be receiving that job offer either.

Do not list irrelevant information. In General, anything that is not part of your work history and does not relate to the position should be left off of your resume. Some things are obvious such as age, marital status, social security number, citizenship, disabilities. Others might not be as obvious, such as previous pay rates, previous supervisor names, irrelevant awards, irrelevant publications, irrelevant associations or memberships, and that silly line that says, “references available upon request". When aren’t references available upon request? Don’t misunderstand, things such as publications or awards have their place, but it depends on their relevance. Some awards are a dime a dozen, and when not related to the position they add length and clutter to the resume. Others may represent a monumental achievement. In that case, whether is relates to the job or not, a hiring manager wants to know about it as it say something important about your character and about your drive to succeed and achieve great things.

Take the time to make your resume POP! There are a few tips that you can use to really make your resume stand out. First, each sentence should begin with a powerful action verb or two. This portrays you as someone who gets things done, and business and systems analyst need to have self initiative. Furthermore, by using a variety of action verbs throughout your resume you present yourself as someone who has a diverse range of experience. Second, quantify your experience wherever possible. Cite numerical figures such as budgets that you have managed, money or time saved due to process improvements, number of use cases written, or number of people you have trained or mentored. Numbers demonstrate your accomplishments in a definitive and objective way. They also stick in a hiring manager’s mind making you the candidate that they remember.

Be concise. Five or six page resumes are inexcusable. Business and systems analysts need to be able to communicate in a structured and concise way. Furthermore, hiring managers are extremely busy. For many, if you send them a five or six page resume it is sure to end up in the waste paper basket without being read. This is no exaggeration. Anyone who believes that they are important enough to warrant five or six pages probably will have troubles working well in a team environment. Remember, a resume isn’t the end-all-be-all. Its purpose is to convey just enough information to the reader to land the interview. You never get hired based on a resume, no matter how wonderfully written it is. So listen up, here is the rule of thumb. Five years of experience or less – one page. Five to fifteen years of experience – two pages. And only if you have about 15 years of experience or more should you even consider a third page. Three pages is the absolute limit.

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