Tech Resumes: Get the IT Job You Want

Tuesday May 8th 2007 by Katherine Spencer Lee
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Tips on crafting your resume to land top IT jobs. Did you know that using certain keywords can help?

One of the biggest challenges for technology professionals is creating a compelling resume. It’s a task that requires considerable time and attention, not to mention decent composition skills – a talent IT professionals are not known for. Fortunately, there are ways you can create a compelling resume, even if writing is not your forte.

While there is no magic formula for creating the perfect resume, there is some method to the madness. Consider the following tips and tricks:

Target the content. Take the time to tailor your resume to each job opening by highlighting your relevant skills and experience. A company that is recruiting a network security manager, for example, will be more interested in your knowledge of intrusion detection than your technical support skills.

Choose your words wisely. Many organizations use computer programs to evaluate resumes, searching for keywords in the documents that indicate a person’s experience, skills, personality traits, software proficiencies or academic credentials. Often, the phrases that employers seek, such as “.NET,” “wireless network management” or “CRM implementation,” are listed in the job description. Using language from the posting in your resume will increase the number of “hits” it generates during this initial screening process and improve your chances of being selected for an interview. Just be sure that you’re providing an accurate assessment of your background and not adding buzzwords to sound more impressive.

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Start with a bang. To capture a hiring manager’s attention immediately, begin your resume with a brief summary of your qualifications. The best statements clearly and succinctly describe your professional experience and expertise, as well as any certifications or awards you have received. Here’s an example: “Network engineer with five years of experience in network design and implementation, LAN/WAN interfacing, Internet protocols, and TCP/IP. Cisco Certified Internetwork Professional who has led numerous project teams that completed initiatives on time and under budget.”

Emphasize ROI. A common resume trap is including a “laundry list” of technical skills rather than demonstrating return on investment. No matter how relevant or impressive your skill set, employers want to see how your expertise and efforts will impact the company’s bottom line.

Highlight – and quantify, when possible – your contributions to the companies for which you’ve worked. For example, rather than saying, “Implemented new software,” a better option would be: “Recommended a software application that reduced the amount of time required to address technical problems by 40 percent.” Provide concrete examples of how you enhanced productivity, increased efficiency or reduced costs.

Be thorough but concise. A huge challenge for many IT professionals – especially those with years of experience – is sticking to the “one-page rule.” But most hiring managers today are flexible when it comes to the length of the resumes they review. In fact, nearly half (47 percent) of executives recently polled by our company prefer resumes that are two or three pages long, up from 26 percent a decade ago. For those applying for management-level positions, the figure is even higher: 92 percent of respondents prefer resumes that are more than one page.

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So, if you’re having trouble deciding which certification or competency to omit from your document, consider including them both. Just be careful not to go overboard; if a skill or proficiency is irrelevant to the job, leave it off. Employers still want to see that applicants can prioritize information and concisely convey the depth of their experience.

Sweat the small stuff. Eighty-four percent of executives polled by our company said it takes just one or two typographical errors in a resume to remove a candidate from consideration for a job opening; 47 percent said a single typo can be the deciding factor. Because many IT jobs require a keen eye for detail, a seemingly trivial mistake can signal to a hiring manager you lack the precision required for the role. In addition to proofreading your document several times, ask a few close friends to review your resume before sending it out; they may spot problems your spell-check function missed.

Project the right image. Having a quirky e-mail address that you distribute to family and friends is fine, but you shouldn’t ask potential employers to use it when contacting you. An address like “Gamer4Life@example.com” or “CyborgSid@example.com,” for instance, is not only unprofessional but may also reveal personal information that could cloud a hiring manager’s opinion of you.

Instead, create a separate account for professional purposes. Choose an address that is simple, obvious and easy to remember, such as your name or a variation of it. Along the same lines, don’t include personal information – such as your height or hobbies – which some job seekers have been known to do. These details will take up valuable space that should be dedicated to your professional background. Putting together an outstanding resume is no easy task. But the time and effort you spend in creating an eye-catching and error-free document just might persuade a potential employer that you’re the perfect candidate for the job.

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