CIA Strategy Makes Your Resume Irresistible

CIA Resume Writing

Years ago TheLadders did a study and found that recruiters spend an average of six seconds reviewing a resume. Keep in mind that recruiters are this laser-focused because they do this regularly.

For other audiences, including HR and decision makers, they may give you a bit more time, let’s say maybe 10 seconds.

That is not a lot of time to grab attention and get your message across.

Why do they spend so little time on this initial glance? Because they know what they are looking for and they don’t want to waste time. From their first glance to a more in-depth review, there are two questions they are constantly asking:

What can you do for me?
Why do I want to talk to you versus anyone else?

Your audience is very stealth in reviewing/reading your resume and in order to get – and keep – their attention while answering their two burning questions, you have to be stealth, too.

Like the CIA.

Direct quote from “CIA’s primary mission is to collect, analyze, evaluate, and disseminate foreign intelligence to assist White House the President and senior US government policymakers in making decisions relating to national security.”

What is that person doing when reading your resume? They are collecting, analyzing, evaluating and disseminating intelligence – to do what – help the decision maker (or themselves) make a decision relating to hiring.

Once they analyze, evaluate, etc., they then provide reports or briefings. In our situation, they would make a recommendation. How do we provide a roadmap that makes it easy for them to recommend you as the best candidate?

Think CIA. No, not Central Intelligence Agency, our CIA stands for: Critical, Important and Assumed.

Once you have your baseline resume put together, now is the time to get strategic and use the CIA method.

Critical – what is most important to the company, position, and team etc.? These are keepers.
Important – what are your differentials and aspects that are important for the position? These are keepers.
Assumed – what are the elements, tasks, skills, duties, attributes that are going to be expected or are common? These are strike items.

We need to do this on every level within your resume. Let’s take a Bookkeeper for example. Their role, in general, is to create financial transactions and reports. Keyword phrases include issue invoices to customers and suppliers; cash receipts; tag and monitor fixed assets; monitor debt levels; reconcile accounts to ensure their accuracy, etc.

These are all expected and routine – i.e. assumed. We could waste valuable white space by listing them out as bullets (and sound like a job description) as such:

  • Tag and monitor fixed assets.
  • Pay supplier invoices in a timely manner.
  • Conduct periodic reconciliations of all accounts to ensure their accuracy.
  • Monitor debt levels and compliance with debt covenants.
  • Issue invoices to customers.
  • Issue invoices to suppliers.

Boring! Plus, that is a lot to read to just to cover the assumed. However, we do want to include these keywords for the ATS systems.

The solution: ruthless editing, as my mentor Deb Dib would say. Cut, cut, cut. So let’s redo this so it is human and ATS scan friendly:

Bookkeeper, Company Name, Time Period – Time Period
Brief description

Customer/Supplier Invoicing | Account Reconciliation | Fixed Assets | Debt Monitoring | Cash Receipts

• Now create bullets that demonstrate your value: what was the benefit to whom by doing what.

We can go even deeper within statements to clarify and condense.

If you had the following sentences:

Blah, blah, blah doing XYZ for A, B, C, and exceeding customer expectations. Delivers exceptional client experiences. Blah, blah, blah….

Let’s take a look at that. We can get rid of the “exceeding customer expectations” at the end of the first sentence because it is assumed that you exceed their expectations if you deliver an exceptional client experience.

See how this works?

It takes a lot more time and strategy to think CIA yet the results are well worth it. You will transform that blah, blah, blah resume into a branding piece with condense, impactful staements with plenty of white space, which makes it easier to scan, read and identify you as the prefered candidate.


A little about me: I do what I love: help professionals break out of a suffocating job existence and into a career, position, and place that renews their brilliance.

As the Founder and Principal of Career Polish, Inc., a national career personal branding firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer, and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership, and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging personal branding as applied to LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence, and influence.

Click here – – to find out more about how we can help you.
★ To get all my latest articles, click the “Yes Please!” button on the right ★

Really Connect When Networking By Getting Torn Apart

I used to attend quite a few networking events as a friend of mine before he relocated.  He was a great networker, always bringing new people to events.  He liked to play a game with them, the poor unsuspecting people.

Many that he brought were new to networking or did not feel comfortable, so he was their wing man.  He also told them that there was someone there that could help. He just did not tell them about the way I would help.

Before he had us do our introductions, he would comfort each person saying, “Just go with it, I promise it will help.” Then I would ask them what they do and the fun began.

It might go something like this:

Me: “What do you do?”
PUP (Poor Unsuspecting Person): “I work for XYZ Company…”
Me: “That is who you work for, but what do you do?”
Pup: “I’m a manager at XYZ Company…”
Me: “’Manager’ is pretty vague, it still doesn’t tell me what you do.”
Pup: “Well, I oversee the ABC Department” looking at my friend for help
Me: “So you just hang out and watch people in the ABC Department work?”
Pup: “No. I mean, I do watch over them, but I do more than that.”
Me: “Like what?”
Pup: “Well, I have to set the goals and standards for them.” shifting in place uncomfortably
Me: “So you just set goals and standards for people that you ‘manage’?”
Pup: “yeah” small sigh of relief that it is over – not quite….
Me: “No.  That can’t be all that you do.  What is the purpose of you setting the goals and standards?”
Pup: “So our customers get their orders taken care of quickly and the right way and we can take more calls.” a little flustered at this point
Me: “So the managing, goals and standards all goes into customer service, it’s about your customers?”
Pup: “Yeah” a little worn out from the drill sergeant approach
Me: “So what you do is make sure if I order something from your company that I get the best service on the phone followed by receiving my order quickly and right the first time?”
Pup: “Yes! That is what I do.” light bulb!
Me: “Then that is how you introduce yourself.”

This whole conversation can take place in about a minute or so.  It is a rapid-fire approach that limits the poor person’s ability to think and formulate an answer.  I don’t want them to think about it, I want them to answer.  Gut feeling, instinct.  They know what they do, they are just afraid to say it the wrong way.

We get caught up in thinking too much. I am an over-analyzer, so I know all about this.

Networking is an interesting game and experience.  Most people are not paying attention because they expect to hear the same things from every person, just like getting the same networking chicken at every event.

“I work at…”
“I am a fill in title here”

Neither of these things tells value.

Of course, my golden rule comes into play here.  If you are a Pediatric Oncologist – that pretty much sums it up.  You get a free pass on this one in using titles.

For the rest of us, our title and even company do not convey value.  They convey – wait for it – our title and the place we work.

Our value is the positive benefit received by what we do and how we do it.

To craft a succinct elevator pitch you have to peel back the onion, or think of it as a series of ripping off band-aids.   Enlist a friend and do a rapid-fire exercise.

Take turns practicing your elevator pitch – but – for each blanket statement or open ended word immediately interrupt that person and ask a question. Ask questions like:

Who do you work with?
How do you do that?
Why do you do that?
What does that mean?

Ask immediately and make the other person answer without pause.  Keep asking questions, it is the theory of five whys.  The more you ask the more layers you peel back and the real, impactful value is soon discovered.  Using the rapid fire approach also helps cut out a lot of the unnecessary words and fillers.

It can get frustrating but as this is a friend, keep reassuring each other that you are doing great.  This is an exercise and it is meant to help.  There are also no wrong answers, just more avenues to discover.

Take your friend along to the next network event and be each other’s wing-person.  When they are introducing themselves with their new pitch, watch the reaction of their conversation partner.  Critique the interaction including their delivery, body language, if they capitalized on opportunities to engage further and any other items you notice.

In a very short period of time you will have achieved:

  1. An elevator pitch that tells people your value (what they care about the most)
  2. A succinct delivery
  3. The ability to engage your conversation partner
  4. Quality interactions

One last tidbit – mix it up.  Do not rely on the exact same opening for each networking opportunity.  Do not memorize your speech, know the highlights and let it flow.  It will keep it fresh and you can easily modify it for your audience leading to energetic interactions with each new person.

Although networking can be critical to building a career, reputation and business – it should also be fun!  So grab a bottle of wine or a six pack, a good friend and have some fun playing ‘rapid-fire rip apart the elevator pitch’!


As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.

Click here – – to find out more about how we can help you.

Rethinking My 2016 Goals Thanks To Disney World

Rethinking My 2016 Goals Thanks To Disney World
This is one of my favorite times of the year.  As one year comes to a close and another looms on the horizon, there are many articles, tips and pieces of advice on how to pretty much organize any part of your life from making and hitting career, exercise or weight goals to organizing your garage.
I am one of those people who cannot get enough material about organization, systems and processes.  I dream of one day having the perfectly labeled pantry and immaculate garage.  I love getting the new, shiny notebook and plotting out these tips and techniques to achieve organizational bliss.


I always start out with gusto and within a few months look over in the corner of a room to see my not so shiny notebook untouched, unloved and completely neglected.  I won’t even mention what my garage looks like.

I fall into the trap of single minded, goal achievement.

I fail miserably and feel worse than I did when setting the goals after reflecting on how I did not meet my goals for the ending year.  Let the wine and Haagen-Dazs flow!

Not this year.  I had an awakening at of all places – Disney World.

For Christmas we spent the day – and night – at Disney World.  At 5:30 am we started like most everyone else, with a plan.

We had a plan of hitting certain rides, watching the time, scurrying from one place to another beating out all the crowds.  We had a plan. We were determined.  We were going to hit our goals, doggone it, not matter what.

That lasted until about 7 am, when we ran into a snafu right off the bat at the entrance.  After about a half hour delay, we were off.  But the crowd had already began to infiltrate, we had to dodge and weave to get to specified locations to enjoy ourselves.

Oh no!

We became rats in a maze and the cheese was unobtainable.  We blindly followed crowds and became defeated at the sight of lines.

That is when it hit us.  Here we were in 80 degree weather, not a cloud in the sky, in the happiest place on earth and we were concerned about hitting targets.

What the heck.

So we abandoned our original plans by remembering one key piece of advice we had both heard – it is not the destination, but the journey.

We stopped making specific plans and began to enjoy the scenery around us.  We ignored the adults scoffing at their kids that there was no time to enjoy the things they were doing at that time because they had to hit their schedule and began enjoying the laughter and delight in the kids’ faces.

We stopped planning every move and strolled through Frontier Land thoroughly enjoying a turkey leg.  We stepped out of the way of the families that were pushing through to get to their next destination and had fun conversations with other strollers.

We hit every single ride we wanted, and more.  Our longest wait time was 25 minutes, but that was one ride; the rest we eased on in 10 minutes or less.  We saw, and more importantly experienced, every single thing we wanted and more than we anticipated.

We stopped to find ourselves front and center five minutes before the parade.  Best spots in the place and we just happened to luck into them by sheer accident.

Goals are like that.  It is great to have a goal; however, if you only focus on achieving that goal, you miss the most fun, learning and enjoyable part about the whole adventure – the trip itself.

I have decided 2016 goals are going to be more like the adventure of Disney World: an eye on the goal but the focus on the experience.

There was only one ride we did not ride which we wanted to; but given the amazing adventure and fun that we had, we were okay with that.  Instead, we did something neither expected.

Neither one of us are roller coaster ride people.  I do not like them, never had.  A bad experience on Space Mountain when I was a kid turned me off on them forever.  But that day, we were having such a fun time that we threw caution to the wind – we rode it.

We ended up having a great time.  I’m still not doing loopy-loopy roller coasters, but on that one day, I rode a real one.

When you take your eye off only the achievement of the goals, you find yourself doing more than you anticipated because you are enjoying the experience.

Looking back on our adventure that night at the resort, we were amazed at how everything just seemed to fall right into place for us.  We realized it was because we were enjoying the moments in between the goals rather than checking off the goals one by one.

Yes, 2016 the goal is to enjoy the ride along the way to the goals and in doing so, I know I can mark off all those goals I plan on making – and more.  This begins with stopping to look at where I am now, today, and enjoying what this day brings.


I help identify and set a path to achieve individual career and company goals by using the V Formula:

Your Value + Your Voice = Visibility

Visibility is the leverage to move up or move on in your career; expand your book of business, grow your company and strengthen your team.


Lisa K. McDonald, Owner and Principal of Career Polish, Inc. is a speaker and seminar facilitator at companies and professional organizations speaking to leadership, sales, teams, transitioning/downsized employees and networking groups about career mobility, personal branding, networking, creating executive presence and achieving career movement success. To find out more, visit Career Polish, Inc.

Organize Your Resume to Organize Your Mind

organized closet

I am an organizational junkie.  I love reading, watching and listening to anything about organization; from the garage, kitchen, closets, office – any organizational tip I can find I read it or watch it with excitement.


I guess I am hoping one day all those shows, videos, books, articles and tidbits will magically sink in and make me organized!  I have a bit of dual personality when it comes to organization.  In my work I am laser-focused organized.  In my home – that is a different story.  Let’s just say it is a work in progress.


But I am hopeful and vigilant.  This weekend I tackled my bedroom closet.  I kept in mind some of the basic rules of organizing:


Purge:  Most every aspect of our life falls in the 80/20 rule.  Focus on the 20.


Decide: Right here right now.  For each item ask, “Do I love it? Do I use it?”  If you answer no then get rid of it.


Remove:  Be ruthless and bag or box any unloved or unused item and donate, sell or trash.


System:  Have a system in place.  Group like items, make it easy to see and find what you are looking for and if there are items that need attention be honest if you are actually going to give them that attention and if so then set a specific location for them to keep them all together.


Focus:  The driving force is the goal, not each item.  Focus on the overall goal and let go of the overwhelming desire to let the emotional attachment of each item drive your progress.


I will have to say my closet is looking pretty darn good.  I have sections that make sense to me, function, a lot of cloths to donate and a lot more breathing room in there.  I’m not completely done because now that it is starting to work for me I realize there are some more tweaks I need to do to make it a space I love.


This morning starting my day was much less stressful.  I could see everything clearly, decide quickly what I wanted to wear today and was able to get ready in much less time.  Total win for a Monday!


Maybe it was this new found freedom of stress that helped me realize an a-ha moment: these same rules apply to resumes, too.


I’ve said it before and I will say it many times again: your resume is the foundation of your job search.  It drives everything from your LinkedIn profile, interviewing, networking and job searching.  A good business bio does the same thing for your business in defining your LinkedIn profile, networking, customer communications and growth.  From here on out I will use the word resume, but keep in mind this applies to business owners and their own communication pieces.


If your resume is an unorganized mess than that is the impression you are giving the world.  Let’s use the same organizational rules to help tweak your resume without feeling overwhelmed:


Purge:  Let’s revisit that 80/20 rule.  For the position you seek or the career you desire you must first understand what is important in that role.  Then use that as the 20% to focus on with 80% of your resume.


Decide: Right here right now.  For each position, sentence, area of expertise item and bullet point ask, “Do I love it? Do I use it?”  The love it part is actually does it love me?  Does this item support you in demonstrating yourself as the best candidate?  If you answer no then get rid of it.


Remove:  All those miscellaneous items clogging up your resume that do not support you in the role you want – trash them.  Don’t waste the reader’s time with minutia when you want them to focus on the specific points of your value and overall skill set.


System:  Have a system in place.  Write toward the job you want rather than giving a cliff notes version of the jobs you have had.  Under each position group like items, make it easy to for the reader to find what they are looking for.  As for those items that need attention be honest if you are actually going to give them that attention and if not do not include them.


For example if you are barely functional on Word or Excel; first do not put that you are proficient because you would be lying.  Second, if you know you have a weakness with them are you going to go take a free class to brush up on your skills?  Great, leave it in; if not, take it out or else an interviewer is free to ask you about it and that could be a negative point if it was an unattended item.


Focus:  The driving force is the next position, not your past.  Focus on the overall goal and let go of the overwhelming desire to emotionally beat yourself up on past mistakes, poor position choices and seemingly unexplainable career history.


Again, write your resume looking forward, not back.  What in those past positions helped you in any way for that next job?  What type of skills or lessons were learned and how can you apply them?  There is a thread there; it is your job to find it in order to present it to the reader so they understand.  Putting it bluntly: if you can’t figure it out how on earth are they supposed to?



Once you have taken the time to organize your resume and get rid of all that unwanted clutter then take a break.  Come back to it with a relaxed attitude because what you are left with is what will fully support you.  Then you can start tweaking it and putting in the final touches that bring it all together.


With a clean, fresh resume you can confidently – and strategically – organize and implement your LinkedIn profile, networking, elevator speech, interviewing and career search.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.


Is a Resume Worth It?

resume (2)I have had clients tell me that they have read articles stating that the resume is dead, the new trend is web pages and Google searches and that no one reads a resume any more so do they really need one?


In other words – is a resume worth it?


Worth all the work and expense.




Why – because the resume still holds as the foundation of your entire job search strategy.


Then next statement I hear is, out of frustration, “I know what I want to say on my resume but I don’t know how to say it.”


I hear that a lot.


Lot. Lot. Lot.


It is not just making a pretty piece of paper it is about creating and defining your message and delivering it in a way that promotes action.   This is what compels someone to talk to you and compels you to get out there and sell yourself in the best possible way.


Clarifying exactly who you are, your value, what you have to offer and why someone would want to talk to you rather than the hundreds of other candidates.  It sets the foundation for who you are, period.


Once you have a foundation, it then translates to all other aspects of your job searching.


How you introduce yourself and build connections through networking.


How you define yourself and create a searchable and connectable profile on LinkedIn.


How you perform during interviews and subsequent communication.


It also helps you re-identify yourself, the things you love about what you do and define where you want to go.  It strengthens your commitment, allows you to acknowledge and appreciate your own value and builds confidence in moving forward.


It is not just a piece of paper – it is your foundation.


It is worth it, even if no one ever reads it (which they will), to go through the process of creating this profile, identifying your value and clarifying your message.


In job searching you are in sales – you are selling yourself.


If you do not know what you are selling and how to sell it then how do you expect to make a sale?


It is worth it.



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW


Be a Dog Today

One of the things I love about my dogs is their complete and unapologetic spontaneity.  Feel like taking a nap – plop – right in the middle of a ray of sunshine.  Feel like barking at thunder – let it rip.  They can go from running around the yard like banshees to turning into affection lap dogs in a heartbeat.  No rhyme, no reason, no explanation and no apology.


They don’t stress about anything – they just do.  Oh sure, they may get a little stressed when they get busted opening the pantry or picking up a shoe.  Then I get the look like, “Oh, I wasn’t supposed to do that – sorry, I’ll try to remember that” and off they go.  And we both know they have no intention of remembering anything.


I think sometimes we look at each other in total amazement.  I look at them envious of their carefree attitude and they look at me with pity wondering why I’m stressing over anything.


If they don’t want to do something they simply don’t.  Ever try to move a dog out of a comfy spot?  They become dead weight, and I don’t care how little they are, they are almost impossible to move – it is their magic power.


But they don’t stress over explaining why they don’t want to do something, they just don’t do it.


They don’t look at the others in the pack as though trying to get approval, they don’t care, they are completely happy self-absorbed furry creatures.


To them there will always be another ray of sunshine to warm their belly or another stick to chase.  They don’t stress over the little things.  They know at the end of the day there are lots of tummy rubs and ear scratches coming their way.


We need to be more like dogs.


They hold the key – their other secret power: to be able to say no without guilt.


If you are asked to do something that you don’t want to do by a friend, colleague or loved one normally you feel guilt in even wanting to say no.  The urge to have to explain yourself and justify the no is overwhelming.


Not dogs – they just sit their butt down or walk away.  Period.  No guilt, no explanation, no worries – just no.


Basically their message is simple: I don’t want to.


But those four words are so hard for us to say and say alone.  When was the last time you said that?  Maybe when you were five and you were probably admonished for it at the time.  Because the choice really wasn’t yours at the time.


But now you are a grown up.  Hey, I say if you have to take on all the responsibilities, stresses and crap that comes with being a grown up then you have earned the right to say “no” and “I don’t want to”.


Not only that – you have earned the right to leave it at that.  You don’t have to justify a damn thing to anyone.  That is the thing about choices – they are options.  Your decision is just that – yours.


Be a dog today.


Just say no to something or someone that is stressing you out or to something asked of you that you just don’t want to do.


And leave it at that.


If pressed then simply say, “I don’t want to.”


Oh my, the freedom, the exhilaration, the giddiness – the sudden urge to go find a ray of sunshine and soak it all in….



Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

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