Like any specialized industry, writing a resume for a career in IT isn’t necessarily as straightforward as it sounds. We see tons of resumes—good, bad, and ugly—every day here at Pinpoint, so we’ve decided to put together some tips for making sure your resume is just as awesome—and technical—as you are.
1. Don’t make your resume too long
Depending on experience, your resume should be 2 to 3 pages long, with 3 full pages being the maximum. It’s hard enough getting HR reps and hiring managers to read past the top half of the first page, and a resume that makes them scroll and scroll and scroll will just make their eyes more likely to glaze over. Even if you have enough experience to fill hundreds of pages, keep in mind that this isn’t an autobiography; this is a marketing document that sells you. Ask yourself if your internship from 2001 is relevant to the position you’re applying for, and if it isn’t? Cut it.
2. Delete your objective section
To be frank, employers don’t really care about what they can do to further your career goals; they care about what you can do to further their business goals. The objective section is all about you, when the interview should be all about what you can do for them.
On top of that, objectives are usually bland and fairly self-explanatory anyway. So you’re seeking a challenging position at a fast growing company? Who isn’t? Instead, try a summary statement or just delete it altogether.
3. Decide whether you need a summary statement
A summary statement is basically a 4 to 6 bullet points (or short sentences) that showcase your strongest, more predominant skills. The nice thing about a summary is that it speaks directly to your target audience by giving them, right up front, the thing they most want to see from you: your proposed value to their organization. It’s a great place for more seasoned IT professionals to tie together all of their experiences and put a nice little bow on top. Just find the common thread between your skills, even if (or especially if) your employment history is disparate, and then sum it up. You don’t want to use this space to rehash responsibilities already in your bullets, but do make sure everything you list here is backed up later on in your resume.
However, a summary isn’t for everyone. If your employment history is fairly linear and you’ve had a straightforward career path, the real estate you use on a summary might be better spent listing more responsibilities and accomplishments in your bullet points for each role. Same thing goes if you don’t have a lot of experience in the first place, because then you end up regurgitating information that’s already in your resume.
4. Have a technical skills section
A technical skills section is a must for IT professionals. With all of the languages, systems, frameworks, databases, tools, and so on that companies and IT workers use, it’s essential to condense all of your skills in one up front, easily readable place that HR reps and hiring managers can find quickly. You should definitely put this on your first page, before you start listing your employment history, because let’s be honest, these skills are the most important part of working in tech.
That said, make sure you only put down skills you’re comfortable talking about with authority in an interview. If you have a lot of skills that don’t look so good clumped together, you can also split these up into sections such as BI tools, databases, programming languages, frameworks, operating systems, etc., in order to give this section a little more flow. Finally, this part is also extremely important for HR reps and more non-technical people who are mostly searching for keywords. You can also include your certifications here, but it’s usually a good idea to only list the ones that are relevant to the job opportunity.
5. Write about your accomplishments, including measurable results
When you set about writing the bullet points for each of your previous roles, remember that it’s not about the work you’ve done; it’s about the things you’ve accomplished. Companies want you to duplicate your successes with them, not just your tasks, and they don’t want to just take your word for it. If possible, always include solid figures that put your accomplishments into measurable terms; you want to definitively show that you’ve increased productivity or lowered costs, for example, by x percent.
6. Use action verbs
Like the tip above, don’t be afraid to take ownership of the things you’ve achieved. Phrases like “assisted with” and “participated in” are passive, and they can give off the impression that you were a bystander on the project; “responsible for” and “contributed to” are slightly better, but action verbs like “completed,” “engineered,” and “developed” are strongest, and the more you can sprinkle your resume with the latter over the former, the better.
This isn’t to say that you should eliminate all passive phrases from your bullets, but do try to limit them as much as possible. On the flipside, don’t take ownership of things you haven’t achieved. You want to be honest with what you’ve done, so if you really did only assist on a project, then don’t say (or imply) that you managed it. Instead, either find a different project or function that you had more responsibility for, or try to frame your role in terms of—again—what you accomplished and go from there.
7. Include soft skills
With the way technology departments are evolving and expanding, soft skills are becoming just as essential as technical skills to hiring managers and companies. You want to demonstrate that you’re someone who can work well in a team, analyze and solve problems as they come, and communicate with all levels of an organization and everyone outside it—most importantly, you want to show that you’re a good “cultural fit.” Technical skills are always vital, of course, but they don’t get you very far if you can’t explain what you’re doing and why to your customers, vendors, co-workers, or even your higher-ups.
So how do you show this on your resume? Use words like “negotiated,” “analyzed,” and “influenced.” You want to be the “key player” in motivating a team or the “go-to person” for relaying information. You completed a difficult project “under tight deadlines” or “with minimal supervision.” If you were ever asked to do something outside your job responsibilities, this shows flexibility. If you ever trained a new team member, then that shows leadership and communication skills. These are all important soft skills that count just as much as hard skills, and you can usually integrate them into the bullet points you already have.
8. Tailor your resume as necessary
As tedious as it is, it’s a good idea to have a few versions of your resume if you find yourself applying to different roles. You don’t have to have a unique resume for every single job, of course, but if you’re applying for both manager and individual contributor positions, for example, then you want to have a slightly different version of your resume that’s tailored to each one.
The best way to go about this is to find at least 10 recent job listings under the position title you’re going for, scan them all for common skills and experience requirements, and then emphasize those skills and experiences in your own resume. Do this for each position you’re applying for and you’ll be prepared for anything.
9. Check for readability
Finally, you want to make your resume pretty—or, at the very least, you want to make sure it doesn’t offend the HR rep’s eyes. This means doing all the standard things such as proofreading for grammar, spelling, and formatting errors. You don’t have to go overboard choosing a fancy template for your resume—in many cases, less is more—but you do want to make sure your font is 10-12 point, preferably a simple sans serif (think Arial or Verdana), and that you aren’t using any more than 2 different fonts.
Your resume should also look good both digitally and printed out. Additionally, it can be very handy to have a stripped down, plain text version that can be easily parsed by applicant tracking systems.
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