Tracy Cashman – Partner & General Manager, New England Information Technology Division
Everyone can use a little help with their resume. These ten tips can help technology professionals improve their resume and get that next job.
Understand Attention Spans
Remember that people read resumes about halfway down the page/screen before deciding if they are going to continue reading, save it for later or hit the delete button! Anything marketable about you should be in the top third of the resume.
Make It An Appropriate Length
Length of the resume will depend on your experience. A 1-year person with a 4-page resume is in trouble as is a 10-year person with a 1-page resume. Be concise and try to fit your resume into three pages. Need to cut down? You don’t need an objective! It’s a waste of precious space unless you are a career changer.
General Summaries Bad, Technical Summaries Good
General summaries can help if used sparingly and appropriately. Technical summaries are more helpful since the first person reading your resume could be non-technical and only knowledgeable enough to look for key words. However, they should not be a laundry list of every technology you have ever heard about.
Be clear about your dates of employment! Most companies want to see months, not just years, especially if you have some jumps or if you are currently unemployed (i.e. they want to see how long you have been out.) It’s better to be up front than to make them guess.
Highlight Accomplishments, Not Just Job Functions
The descriptions of your positions should ideally be a mix of overview and specific accomplishments. That way people know what you did day-to-day, but also what effect your activities had.
Quality Writing Still Matters
Long-winded paragraphs or bullets are mind numbing, but short choppy sentences can appear simplistic. The ideal resume should have a combination of short paragraphs and bullets or possibly just bullets. In terms of very short bullets, combine related activities into one bullet where appropriate.
Use Action Verbs!
The most overused phrases on resumes are “responsible for” or “participated in.” It’s hard to know if you were just a bystander or a true contributor or even a leader on a project. It’s OK to use those once or twice, but it’s much better to use something like “managed,” “completed,” “administered,” “developed,” etc. If you are having trouble coming up with action verbs, thesaurus.com should be your new best friend.
There Are No Rules About Education Placement
Education placement is variable. If you went to a particularly good school, have an advanced degree or have a very relevant degree to the types of roles you are pursuing, then it might be worth putting at the top, but it’s OK at the end too. The same goes with certifications; however, if you have many, then it will take too much space to have them at the top. Assuming your resume has the experience to back the certifications up, your prospective employer will be intrigued enough to get to them at the end!
Not That Interested
The ubiquitous “Interests” section isn’t really necessary; however, if there’s something you are particularly proud of and it’s short and at the end, then by all means feel free to include it. There is always the possibility that when you put “competitive running” on your resume that the person reading your resume is a marathoner and gives you an interview for that reason. However, you should obviously exclude any activities that could be seen as overly political or potentially offensive.
Be Prepared With A Versatile Resume Template
Sometimes it is valuable to have more than one version of your resume. For example, if your background could be applicable to manager or individual contributor positions, you don’t want to scare someone off with a heavy manager resume for a contributor role or vice versa. However, you should not make yourself crazy writing a new resume for every position that comes up! (This can be especially tempting if you are unemployed.) You should develop a resume template you feel comfortable with and then only make minor tweaks if necessary. Also, be sure to update your resume annually to avoid re-writing it in a panic when you really need it.
Tracy Cashman is a Partner & General Manager of WinterWyman’s New England Information Technology division. Tracy blogs to provide strategic job search advice for candidates as they make their next career move. To learn more about Tracy and the information technology jobs she is working on visit www.winterwyman.com. WinterWyman is one of the largest and most recognized staffing firms in the Northeast, currently serving clients in the New England and metropolitan New York job markets with additional technology contracting capabilities nationwide.