Curious about how to write the best possible resume? I can help. I know how to blow hiring managers away with a resume. How? I’m a developer who was previously an IT recruiter. I know how to write a great technical resume, because I know what to look for. My background as a recruiter certainly worked to my advantage when I was first working on my tech resume. I’ve seen all sorts of resumes. The good, the bad, the strange, the incomplete. You name it and I’ve probably seen it.
Resumes can be the deal-breaker on whether you get called in for an interview, or ultimately get the job.
If you aren’t particularly talented at writing resumes, don’t worry. I’m more than happy to help explain to you how to create a strong one. Here are some best practices for writing a technical resume:
List Your Skills At The Top
According to Talent Intelligence, one in five hiring managers spend less than 30 seconds looking at a resume. What does this mean? You need to include skills that will “wow” them right away. Imagine this like having 30 seconds to market yourself and tell the company why you’re the best candidate.
Whenever I am looking at resumes, I like to see the skills listed at the top, especially in the IT industry. This helps to give me a better idea right off the bat on if someone is a fit. It also gives you a better chance of coming up in database candidate searches performed by recruiters. If you’re a fit for the job and your skills are clearly listed top and center, you will have less of a chance of getting skipped over by hiring managers.
Keep in mind – technology is constantly changing. I wouldn’t recommend listing a language/program/system/etc. that is outdated as a skill on your resume. Choose 10-15 skills to list and choose them wisely. Remember that your goal is to keep your resume short, clean, and to the point, so make sure everything is relevant to the job you’re applying to.
A good exercise to do before you start applying is to take 3 or 4 job postings that you’re interested in. Go to the bottom portion that lists the required skills. Then simply make sure your skills which match that job description are featured front and center on your resume. That’s it. Easy… and that’s exactly what you want it to be for the recruiters.
Keep It Simple
I was asked to look over someone’s technical resume a couple of months ago and the first thing that I noticed was that his resume was five pages. It included everything from his breaks in employment to his lengthy skill-set to every job he had worked at since graduating high school. No hiring manager is going to care to read all of that. In fact, according to an article by Workopolis, 80% of resumes are rejected within the initial first scan.
Think of a technical resume almost like your “elevator pitch,” or what you would say if we’re to summarize what you do. You want it to highlight your experience and skills but most importantly reflect why you’d be a great fit for the job. List languages that are applicable to the position you’re applying to. If possible, try to keep your resume to only one or two pages. You can elaborate on additional skills once you actually land an interview.
Avoid fluffing your resume. If you have a hundred skills that you’re proud of, try to narrow it down to the top 15-20 skills that you feel are relevant to the job. Keep your descriptions for your work experience detailed and to the point. Include the responsibilities that are most relevant to the job that you’re applying to. For example, if you’re applying to a SQL Developer job, including that you have experience writing SQL queries at your previous employer is relevant. On the other hand, listing that you helped remind the admin to order coffee when the office was running low would not be a relevant thing to include.
Don’t Be Too Jumpy OR Have Gaps Between Employment
Try to stay at each job you work at for at least one year. Employers don’t want to see a jumpy technical resume. Working at multiple different jobs within a year can flag you as a flight risk. Hiring managers are looking for someone that will work be there for the long-run (unless it’s a contract position). A good rule of thumb is trying to have an equal or lesser amount of jobs on your resume as years of experience.
If you were working as a technical contractor or IT consultant, make sure to clarify that in parenthesis. This will help hiring managers understand why you may have multiple jobs listed within a short time frame. In addition – make sure that you list months of employment alongside the year for date. I don’t want to bring you in for an interview just to find out you only worked at Comcast for 1 week, because you misled me by only listing the year of 2017 on your resume.
On the other hand, if you have any gaps between working make sure that you address them. For example, if you finished a job in April of 2018 and don’t have any other experience listed until August of 2018, make sure to list why if it’s a valid reason. This could be due to surgery, personal issues, military, FMLA, etc. The one scenario that I don’t recommend justifying an employment gap would be if you were unemployed. In this case, just wait and see if it comes up during the interview.
Pay Attention to Formatting
Believe it or not, the formatting of your resume can make a difference. Choose a clean font and make sure to that your font size isn’t too small so that it’s easy on the eyes. You should break up your resume into sections, and make sure that the headers for each section are in bold.
As I mentioned before, having your skills at the top of your resume is always a good idea. It looks great on not only technical resumes, but all resumes. Personally, I like to create a five by four table and list one skill in each box. I’ve even seen resumes that list how many years of experience programmers have with working with a language or software. This is a great way to grab the attention of hiring managers and show them that you have more than just a basic understanding of something.
I recommend formatting your resume in chronological order. I always list my current job at the top and list my previous employment experience underneath in order of most recent.
Typically, I’ve included lengthier job responsibility summaries for my current role and most recent previous role. I don’t write as many responsibilities for previous jobs the further back I go. In addition, try to write your resume summary in the third person if possible. For example, “SQL Developer with four years of experience coding, reporting and working with databases”. If you’re applying for an entry-level role and don’t have work experience, then I recommend using this section to highlight projects that you’ve worked on in further detail. If you had an internship, make sure that you include that information here as well.
Below is an example of a good order to write your resume:
- Full Name
- Contact Information (address, email, phone number)
- Summary (ex. IT professional with 4 years experience working with SQL Server)
- Skills Section
- Work Experience
- Education and Certifications
Should You List An Objective On A Technical Resume?
I don’t list objectives on my resumes. I don’t think it’s necessary to include one for the stage I’m at in my career. In fact, I think that including an objective would make me appear immature. A company isn’t going to be too concerned with what I’m trying to get out of the job. They really only care if my skills are relevant and if they think I can bring them some value. I know they don’t care what I want. They’ll see what I want when it comes time for salary negotiations after I’m offered a job.
However, you’re a recent grad or if this is your first job in the tech industry then I encourage you to write an objective. If you’re changing careers into a different field then it’s not a bad idea either. Write what value you can bring to the company and what you expect to gain from working for the company. For for tips and advice on getting your first job in the tech industry, read my article on how to get your first programming job.
Don’t List Details That Are Irrelevant
I’ve seen too many technical resumes that have achievement, hobbies, you name it, that are totally irrelevant to the position. In fact, I’ve even seen a couple of resumes from candidates that included their marital status. Trust me, the only benefit a hiring manager will get from seeing this is a laugh, maybe. Nobody cares whether you are divorced, keep that off your resume. Try to stick to the details that are relevant to the job you’re going for.
Overall, list previous job responsibilities that are most relevant to the role you’re applying for and were also ones that were primary responsibilities. If I get a resume with a novel of responsibilities, I am going to assume that the person doesn’t know himself which ones were most important. That’s not a good sign. A good technical resume for IT jobs be clear and to the point.
Most Importantly – Tailor Your Resume Based On The Job
This is extremely important. I am constantly updating my resume proactively and saving different versions. I know this will come in handy if a job I’m interested comes up and I need to apply quickly. You don’t want to have to spend days editing your technical resume to appeal to a position only for it to be too late. I recommend having multiple versions ready for several different types of roles you could potentially apply to. If you need to tweak some things here or there, that’s not a big deal. I know that I’m not limiting myself to one single job title and you shouldn’t either.
I know first hand that recruiters find candidates based off of searching for certain words and phrases that match the job description. They may be searching for candidates on LinkedIn, Indeed, Monster, or even an internal database. They perform special searches that can find candidates not only based off of their job title, but also their responsibilities. For example, they can perform a search to find all candidates who have “SCRUM” listed on their resume.
To find out more about technical resume keywords that can help your resume, read this article by Jobscan. I highly recommend adding “filler” words and phrases to your resume that match the description and role you’re applying for. If a recruiter or hiring receives your resume and scans it for one of their “target” words, this could make or break your chance.
Overall, having a clear, focused, professional technical resume has always helped me get get interviews. I’m not the biggest fan of writing resumes, or even writing in general. I do know that spending the extra time to write and tailor my technical resume is always worth it. In addition, spending the extra time to format and spell-check your resume based on the job makes a huge difference. Make sure to keep your resume to one or two pages max. In addition, keep in mind that some cities and areas have more job openings than others.
If you follow some of these simple tips, I have complete faith that you shouldn’t have a hard time landing a job with your technical resume. If you need help writing a technical resume then contact me for help.