Agonizing Over Your Resume? Go All In!

Now, I haven’t played Texas Hold’em in a long, long time. But recently my memory was swept back to my days living in California, where I ate super fresh sushi, hung out on the beach, and played lots of poker. (Oh, of course I was a business analyst too, but that experience actually has a lot less to do with what I want to talk about today than playing poker.)

The rules of Texas Hold’em are simple, but the game can be agonizing. A lot like job searches.

Let’s look at how this works. In Texas Hold’em you are dealt two hole cards face down. All players share five community cards, dealt in 3 rounds (first 3 cards are shown, then 1, then the final card) with bets after each round.

In Texas Hold’em:

  • You can’t control the cards you are dealt or the shared community cards or the actions of other plays.
  • You must make decisions (bets and folds) based on limited information.
  • You are not going to win every single hand. You are a winner if you maximize your winnings over the course of several hands.
There are a lot of parallels between Texas Hold’em and job searches. In job searches:
  • You can’t control the available jobs, the other job seekers, or the actions of employers and recruiters.
  • You must make decisions about how to invest your time based on limited information.
  • You are not going to get every single job, but you do need to maximize the results of your efforts over the course of your job search. You are a winner when you are hired for one job that’s a good fit for your career aspirations.

Deal Yourself the Best Possible Hand

And while there are many steps to a successful job search, putting together a resume is the one that causes the most agony. The resume is essentially your two hole cards, the difference being that you get to deal them to yourself.

You have years of professional experience often coupled with training, special accomplishments, and key skills. How can you possibly distill what’s most important into 3 pages? Add to this the fact that even at 3 pages, most of your resume will not be read, and it’s easy to begin agonizing over working and reworking your resume.

While you can’t control who looks at your resume, the time they spend on it, or what they are looking for in a job applicant, what you can control is putting the best possible resume together, one that is most likely to get glanced at and then read.

You can deal yourself pocket Aces.

Go All-In

When someone goes all-in with pocket Aces they know they gave themselves the a good chance for success, although success is still not guaranteed. To a certain extent they are free from the outcome of the hand. When you construct a resume that showcases all the best qualifications you have to offer a future employer, you give yourself the freedom of knowing you controlled everything you could control with your resume.

So what can you do to best present your qualifications?

  • Use powerful bullet points. Make sure they start with action words. “Interviewed” is much more powerful and concrete than “contributed.” Reference specific BA techniques that you used and show the impact those techniques had on your projects. When at all possible use business terms, not technology ones.
  • Organize your resume so a recruiter can’t help but read it. Since the recruiter is not going to sit down with the intention of reading your resume front to back, it’s important to get your best stuff on the first page. And as each recruiter scans resumes differently, highlight your key qualifications in multiple places so you catch them no matter where they glance first. And don’t just limit yourself to the hard techniques of business analysis but also let your “soft” skills such as communication, relationship building, and leadership show through.
  • Focus your qualifications. Identify your most relevant contributions throughout your work history and zero in on them. There is no rule that says your resume has to be a complete catalog of your career or that a short project gets a proportionally small amount of space on your resume. If that short project is your strongest BA experience, give it several bullet points to show what you did in detail!

You Will Win Some and You Will Lose Some

And when you get feedback from one particular person that if your resume only did _____ then you’d be interviewed or hired, remember that poker is not played in one hand. Place bets if your hole cards are a good enough match for the community cards and realize that you will always be forced to make decisions with limited information. You won’t always make the right decision. Sometimes your bet will be a winner, sometimes not.

The important thing is to keep yourself in the game long enough so you’ll eventually find a winning hand. Unlike Hold’em, all you need in your job search is one winning hand – getting hired for one job that fits into your career aspirations. Unlike Hold’em, even if you go all-in on one job and lose, you still get another chance because you’ll get dealt another hand.

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  1. Hi Abs,

    Yes, I would. Here’s a post where I share one way of doing that:

    And by the way, the bonus webinar I mentioned is now available as a self-study course purchase. Anyone interested can find out more here:

  2. Laura,

    thank you for the informative post. however i have one query. if i hav BA experience but it is not reflective in my designation and role assigned by the company, would you suggest me writing in my synopsis(resume) as i have been working as BA?

  3. Laura,

    Thank you so much for this post. It comes just as I am thinking of re-doing my resume to emphasize BA skills. I’ve always thought that working with clients and their goals was part and parcel of being a good web developer, but now I realize I need to actually say that!

    • You are welcome Jeff. Many will not make that assumption about a web developer unless you spell it out for them. In fact, many recruiters and hiring managers will assume just the opposite if your resume is too technical. Spelling out your BA skills and your soft skills in communication, leadership, negotiation, etc is very important to land an interview for a BA job.

  4. Abhishek Pushp says

    Hello, How you doin?

    I got a question… Is it a good idea to modify one’s resume into a B.A resume ( assuming the person has sufficient domain knowledge and other BA skills , but has not worked officially in the capacity of a BA ) and then float it in the job market for career change ? I mean, does it amount to cheating ? But on the other hand , I feel , everything is fair in Love , War and Career… !

    • Abhishek,
      Yes, 100%. Except if you have BA experience, regardless of your title or role, I wouldn’t consider it cheating at all. Your resume is a marketing document and it can and should present the slice of you most relevant to the positions you are seeking. Of course, you can take this too far, then it may appear you are trying to “cheat” and that’s not going to work anyway because and employer or recruiter will see right through it.

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