CFO Resumes … More than just pretty

One of Matt Bud’s recent editorials in the FENG (Financial Executives Networking Group) newsletter was entitled, “Paint a Pretty Picture". He was primarily talking about resume aesthetics but he also said this, which is my point.

“… it breaks my heart at times when I review a resume and just know that the person behind the paper in front of me is so much better than how he/she appears.”

It is critical that who you are in person is the same person you appear to be on paper. If you meet someone at a networking event or you receive a warm lead, recommendation, and introduction to an opportunity and you follow up with an executive resume that falls short of who they believed you to be … in all likelihood, you just lost an opportunity.

Conversely, if you have a resume that is not written in your voice, with your words, and which accurately reflects who you are but instead creates a facade, meeting you in person will most certainly doom you to failure. 

Effective personal marketing documents (resume, leadership addendum, executive profile) for a Chief Financial Officer or Corporate Finance Executive are so much more than aesthetics. While I agree with Matt that “pretty” matters … no white space, grammatical and spelling errors, poor paper quality … the prettiest resume in the world won’t matter if it …

— positions you as a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none;

— is a responsibility-oriented historical novel;

— does not meet the Blackberry principle;

— doesn’t answer the question a company is asking … what do you bring to the table that makes it worth my while to pay you to join the executive team?

Pretty matters. But it is much, much more than just pretty. It’s very much about value. Yours. The clearer you are about your value, the stronger your positioning … on paper and in person!

A Gasoline Rag Tune Up

Some of you may recognize the name Matt Bud. If you don’t, he is the Chairman of The Financial Executives Networking Group (FENG). Several times a week, he emails a newsletter containing an editorial he writes. This is his most recent article and I have re-posted it with his permission. Enjoy!


Many years ago I had to buy my son a car to get to school. So, we went down to the local used car lot and I spotted a Ford Escort. It was kind of cute. If memory serves, it was black and it was a stick shift.

Having grown up poor, I wasn’t new to buying a used car. I opened up the hood and the engine was spotless. I was kind of surprised given the number of miles on the car and when I asked about it, the dealer told me he had steam cleaned the engine. Among the many things he told me he fixed was that he had replaced the windshield. Hard to sell a car with a cracked windshield.

We took it out for a spin, and since I knew how to drive stick shift, I drove. It seemed to be in good condition. The interior had also been cleaned spotless. I turned on the radio, and it seemed to work just fine.

After we took possession of the car, it didn’t take long for things to start falling apart. The first “discovery” was that the radio only had one station. Well, the dealer offered to send the radio out for repair. Not wanting to be a pest, I didn’t call every day, but after a few weeks when I did, he said he had the radio back, but he had lost my phone number. Yeah, right.

It wasn’t too long after that that the clutch went, and I suppose I should mention that the head gasket also sprang a leak and we had to have that fixed as well. I honestly didn’t spend a lot of money buying the car, and I supposed I didn’t spend a lot of money fixing the car. After all, it was a small car and there wasn’t a lot to it. Still, it was more than a little annoying.

Someone had cleaned up the car as you would expect them to do to make it more presentable, but in doing so they had disguised the essential nature of the vehicle. It had a lot more wear and tear on it than was apparent. To quote a commercial I saw a while back, they had put a little lipstick on a pig. Or, as we used to say when I was growing up, they gave the car a gasoline rag tune up.

Earlier this week, I wrote an editorial on “Little white lies.” Some of my editorials spark more than a few comments, especially when they contradict “conventional logic.” I suppose I have never viewed myself as conventional, and that should explain most of it.

The core of the argument I hear about hiding dates and leaving off many years of employment to appear younger assumes three critical issues are true which clearly are not for most of our members.

The first is that they are able to create a resume that appears to be totally consistent with their being younger. I’m sure no one will notice that your first job out of college was as a Chief Financial Officer and if they do, I’m sure they will believe it. NOT. Talk about getting busted.

The second critical issue is that if they are fooled by your skillful manipulation of your resume, that when they find out as in when they actually meet you, that they won’t be mad at you for fooling them. If you would like to test this hypothesis, please call the used car dealer who sold me that Ford Escort. I can assure you I wasn’t pleased. Yes, he never actually made any representations that the car would last forever, and perhaps my son wasn’t as gentle with it as he should have been, but that is actually neither here nor there. I felt foolish, and that is something I believe you never recover from.

A lot of people believe that good advertising makes them buy things they don’t need. Actually, good advertising creates trial, in much the same way that a good resume causes people to call you in for an interview. What causes the “you know what to hit the fan” is when the advertising promises don’t even come close to the perceived value of the product based on the ad. Angry customers tell 10 people. Happy customers only tell one. Hopefully that puts the disappointment factor in perspective.

The third critical issue is the belief that anyone who reads resumes for a living is ever fooled. After you have digested your first batch of 5,000, not much escapes your notice. Inconsistency is as easy to spot as the invalidity of a cash chit on an expense report. (And, I’m sure you have never been fooled by one of those.)

So, take your best shot at disguising your background. Trim off a few years. Get a face lift. Lose a few pounds. Buy all new clothes. Never tell anyone your year of graduation from college.

None of this will disguise the fact that you are older. The sad part of this charade is that you are diminishing the value of that great product that is you. That “been there, done that” expert who has seen it all and learned from it many times over is reduced to being a sneak.

You may as well have taken a gasoline soaked rag to that resume of yours for all the good that it will do. (By the way, if you do, it’s not a good idea to be smoking at the time.)

Matthew R. Bud
The Financial Executives Networking Group
32 Gray’s Farm Road
Weston, CT 06883
(203) 227-8965 Office Phone
(203) 820-4667 Cell
(203) 227-8984 Fax

The Inmates Are in Charge of the Asylum

Matt Bud made this statement in one of his recent FENG newsletters. For job search candidates, it must certainly feel that way. Here you are, talented, capable, certainly qualified to do the job … and yet, you hear nothing. In fact, the silence is deafening! Ever notice how few people return calls even when they say they will? You never do that, right?

Back to the asylum. It’s a new era; one which is defined by A-players who have a compelling and visible marketable value proposition (MVP) and WHO ARE EMPLOYED. 

Just today, this article crossed Reuters: “U.S. banks play catch-up on hiring effort.” Great news, right? Until you get to page 2 where it says this:

There is also a bias toward hiring people from other banks that survived the crisis rather than hiring those who lost jobs in the last two years, even if that means matching stock payouts or offering guaranteed bonuses, headhunters say.

The old adage “it’s easier to find a job when you have a job” is still true. Add to that the fact that you have the most power when you are employed. You are more desirable maybe for no other reason than that you are on the inside looking out! More desirable often equates to more dollars.

While we KNOW that CFOs who are unemployed may be just as qualified as an employed CFO, the inmates ARE still in charge and the rules aren’t going to change anytime soon.

What Does Your Resume Say About You?

If you are a finance executive and you are NOT a member of the Financials Executive Networking Group, you are missing out on a wealth of information … delivered right to your email box several times a week and containing job leads, articles, good news announcements, assistance requests, and meeting notices.  

Now I don’t always agree 100% with Matt Bud, Co-Chair of FENG, but I do agree with him the majority of the time and being a member of FENG is a great long-term career management strategy for every finance executive.

A recent newsletter talked about a recruiter’s response to some resumes sent his way.

One candidate submitted one of the “worst” ever seen with “a lot of words that toot his horn such as outstanding record and exceptional ability,” contained a worthless list of bullets, and was poorly paginated. Another candidate submitted a one page resume … “with type so small [I] needed a magnifying glass to read it.” Rather then pull out a magnifying glass, the resume was round-filed.

Your resume is often your first impression … so what does it say about you? Hopefully the message is that you are crystal clear about your value to a prospective company (what they are willing to pay you big bucks to get) and that you care enough, and are interested enough, to pay attention to details, quality, and readability.