It is not a secret that employers seek different things when making hiring decisions and that the standard formats of chronological, functional, or combination resumes are nothing more nothing less than light guidelines for your resume.
Depending on your profession, your personal style, or even the country in which you’re trying to get the job, your resumes may vary significantly.
In this article, I will not go over what the basic styles are and how they differ; nor will I tell you that the tips I’m giving you will guarantee you a job. Instead, I will provide you with guidelines to put together a great technical resume- that is perfect for our recruiters and probably most recruiters in the Information Technologies fields.
A few points to remember:
*“It is no longer enough to be a talented technologist! Now, you must be a strategic marketer, able to package and promote your experience.” 1
*In technical fields, the emphasis of your CV should be on your technical skills- not your personality, not yourself. In other words, you should want your resume to be a marketing communication of your skillset and technical background.
*A computer finds your resume, people read it. Optimize it for computerized databases and electronic scans, like you would a website: simple, clear, precise, targeted keywords. Make it easy for a recruiter or a hiring manager (who has to read hundreds of them a day) to look at and see all that you have to offer: DON’T use tiny fonts, unnecessary text or explanations; DO- organize, format (use bold, italics, underline, bullet points, etc.).
*I cannot stress enough the importance of keywords! In most instances, “just by describing your work experience, projects, technical qualifications, and the like, you will naturally include most of the terms that are important in your field.”2 However, do make sure that all keywords representative of your skill set are included.
*While your resume should by no means be a book, it is okay to have it longer than just on page in length. There is no right or wrong length, but if you have had plenty of experience, do not try to fit everything into just one page.
*Remember, that in today’s job market, you most likely want the employer more than the employer wants you. You have to make yourself stand out from the rest and show in your resume that you are a one of a kind candidate. One of the easiest ways to do that is to include numbers, stats about your performers, and titles, when applicable. In other words, “Sell it to me…Don’t tell it to me.”3 Use specifics. If, as a Senior Software Architect, you also managed a team of 25 people, say so. If you completed a project 7 days before deadline and $7000 under budget, say so as well. As a technical professional, you must pay attention to those details and specifics.
*The below should give you a good idea how to sell yourself to a perspective employer. 4
Tells What and How
Focuses on What You Did
Sells Why the “What and “How” are Important
Details how What you did Benefited the Company, Department, Team Members, Customers, and so on.
*“Be sure your greatest ‘selling points’ are featured prominently, not buried within the resume. Conversely, don’t devote lots of space and attention to areas of your background that are irrelevant or about which you feel less than positive; you’ll only invite questions about things you really don’t want to discuss.”5
*Proof-read your resume! Make sure it is free of errors and mistakes! “Consider your resume an example of the quality of work you will produce on a company’s behalf.”6
Your Resume, by Section
“For most of you in technology, writing may not be your primary skill. In fact, writing is a right-brain skill, the exact opposite of what you do when you use your left brain to develop theory, analyze, synthesize, extrapolate, plan a process, or handle a variety of other functions related to the technology industry.
Therefore, to make the writing process easier, more finite, and more ‘analytical,’ we’ve consolidated it into five discrete sections.
*Career Summary. Think of your Career Summary as the architecture of your resume. It is the accumulation of everything that allows the system (you) to work. It is the backbone, the foundation of your resume.
*Technical Qualifications. Your technical qualifications are equivalent to the functionality, the underlying foundation of the system and of your career. This section is a consolidation of the comprehensive summary of your specific technical qualifications and expertise.
*Professional Experience. Professional Experience is much like the software and applications of your system. It shows how you put all of your capabilities to work… in ways that benefit ‘users’ (employers).
*Education, Credentials, and Certifications. Think of this section as the system specifications, the specific qualifications of the system and of your career.
*The ‘Extras’ (Professional Affiliations, Civic Affiliations, Publications, Public Speaking, Honors and Awards, Personal Information, and so on). These are the bits and bytes of your resume, the ‘extra stuff’ that helps distinguish you from others with similar technical qualifications.”7
At the top of your resume, in plain sight, type your full name (First and Last), contact information (phone numbers, emails, address, website [if you have one]). If you have active clearance, you can mention that at the very top, right under your address.
The objective section is optional and only has a great impact when you are applying for a specific position. When uploading your CV to a database, to be found, objective is not necessary.
Also a good idea, though not necessary, to place at the top, is your availability. If you are ready to start working as soon as possible, you could include a line such as “available immediately.”
Right underneath the contact information you should place your Career Summary, which comprises you’re your career highlights, major accomplishments, greatest responsibilities and abilities, and specific skills related to the position you are applying for or your overall objective. Anything that truly makes you stand out from other candidates or especially notable about you, you should include in this section, including noteworthy certifications, awards, published materials, etc.
Somewhere at the top of your resume, should be a list of your technical skills, programming languages, familiar applications, operating systems, special certifications, etc.
*If your list turns out to be extremely long, insert a table or a chart and organize it by categories
*Next to each skillset, write how many years of experience you have with the particular application or language, or your level of proficiency. This makes the recruiter’s job a lot easier and given that you have the qualifying skills, it makes your resume stand out.
Now, it’s time to write out your employment history. Use the standard accepted format for this section. Make sure to include your Position/ Job Title, Dates employed, Which company you are employed by AND the client where you performed the job, the Project that you worked on, Job Description, Project Description, Your Duties, Tools and Skills used, etc. This section should be one short paragraph in length.
*Within the employment history section, omit jobs that have nothing to do with the position for which you are applying and bring no value to your resume. For example, the part time job delivering pizzas to supplement your income, or your retail and waitressing experience in college- nobody cares about that when looking for a seasoned software engineer.
*If you have gaps in employment, you may write a short explanatory note about why that gap exists. For the most part, employers like to see candidates that show a steady career progression, and gaps are sometimes interpreted that you are not a worthy candidate. If you took maternity leave, or took that time to do volunteer work in Guatemala, say so. If, however, your gap exists because it took you a whole year to grieve the death of your dog, do not mention that in your resume… or at the interview for that matter.
*Are you a habitual job hopper? Good luck finding your next employer! If, on the other hand, you frequently switched employers, or haven’t stayed at any one company for very long because you do contract, per project, work- do include project length and in your description state that you left because the project came to an end.
After your professional experience section, you should place your education section. Please list the following: which school you attended, the location of the school (city, state or city, country), years attended OR year of graduation, major of study, and the degree received. Do not list your high school; only list college and beyond
Since, in your technical field, your continuing education is as important as your initial degree, list all other out of college programs that you have participated in. Any classes that led to certifications, refresher courses and seminars in updated software, any other training that helped you acquire your technical skills.
If your educational background is especially impressive, or if you are recent college graduate and your education outweighs actual work experience, place your education section at the very top of your resume, above the work experience. For example, you have a PhD in computer sciences form MIT or you’re only 25 years old and your greatest accomplishment thus far is your degree, you want your potential employer to be impressed by presenting that information first.
Towards the bottom of your CV, include another section with skills, but this time list skills and talents that have less to do with your technical expertise and more so with what else you can contribute to your new job. For example, other languages that you speak, your incredible team-leading abilities, or your self-published book of poetry.
Finally, at the very bottom of your resume, you might wish to include your U.S. employment status, such as U.S. Citizen, Alien Resident, “Authorized to work in the U.S. for any Employer,” or “Require H1B sponsorship to work.” While these statements are by no means a necessity, and given that everything else in your resume looks good, a recruiter will contact you regardless, it does help the recruiter out to know exactly the package that you come with.
I am once again going to reiterate that the guidelines above are nothing more, nothing less, than just guidelines. Nobody expects your resume to follow this exact format. However, following those guidelines while writing your resume might just help out the recruiters in sorting you out to the top of their “to call” pile. Good Luck and Happy Job Hunting!
For More Information, read Expert Resumes for Computer and Web Jobs by Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark
Quotes and information excerpted from Expert Resumes for Computer and Web Jobs by Wendy Enelow and Louise Kursmark (© JIST Publishing)
The following page numbers correspond to the quotes in the article:
© 2010 by Kira Victoria Portnaya and USTAS Technologies, Inc. Do not reproduce without permission from the authors.