If you’re an experienced IT pro, chances are your skills are in demand — somewhere. But your resume will determine whether you get the all-important opportunity to talk those skills up and show them off. Unfortunately, there are a few major mistakes common to information technology resumes that can kill your chances. If you haven’t been getting the response you want in your job search, take a look at these five big problems and their solutions. If you can root out just one, you’ll improve your odds substantially.
1) Don’t list your skills with obsolete technologies. There’s no quicker way to make yourself look dated than listing technologies that haven’t been used, even in legacy environments, for ten years or more. MS-DOS and any version of Windows earlier than 2000 are a few of the major culprits here. It’s also safe to skip software “everyone” uses, especially Microsoft Word.
2) Do save space for your special skills and put any recent certifications up front, even if “in progress.” Continuing education is the lifeblood of a focused, up-to-date IT pro. Putting your most important credentials close to the top sends the message that you’re devoted to honing and improving your skills, and that you’ll keep up the momentum after you get hired.
3) Don’t confuse your readers. Remember that even an information technology resume can be read by four or five people before you get the call back for an interview, and most readers won’t be IT savvy. The best way to hold their attention is to go light on acronyms and brand names (unless you’re discussing your major clients) and focus on results.
4) Do list out all your skills in an addendum. Most resumes are two pages long, no more, no less. But in IT, you can bring out the big guns with a third page full of all of your technical skills, including hardware, software, any special tools and suites pertinent to your specialties, and continuing education in every form. Just keep #1 above in mind.
5) Don’t be a jack-of-all-trades. It’s fine to show versatility, a trait that’s desirable in any job — especially fast-paced IT. But Fortune 500 companies are more likely to hire you for the things you do really well instead of what you just do competently. Targeting small biz? You know they won’t have a huge technical staff, so feel free to position yourself as the Swiss army knife of your field.
6) Do pick a strong brand and tie everything into it. Are you the master of “impossible” turnarounds? An implementation dynamo known for working 72 hours straight to get it all done flawlessly? A software dev who knows every life-cycle methodology there is? Frame your accomplishments in terms of your top skill, the one you want to use every day. Then pick a complementary skill or two, and show how each supports the others.
7) Don’t let yourself be boxed into the category of “just another” IT pro. Employers at non-IT firms sometimes have an unfair view of the field as full of people who don’t know how to communicate effectively. Having a strong resume with a combination of visual and textual impact is a good way to demonstrate how well you express yourself in writing.
8) Do emphasize team leadership and problem-solving skills. Every time you reached out to a client, a team outside of IT, or senior leadership, score yourself a point by putting these contributions at the start or end of a paragraph or bullet, where they’re likely to be remembered. The more you can back technical skills with people skills, the more you’ll be seen as executive material.
9) Don’t sweat the interview. Many employers treat this as a “gotcha,” but almost all are willing and eager to be pleasantly surprised. Like it or not, a major part of getting the job is making the interviewer like you; if you sound confident and competent, you’ve already gone a long way towards doing that. Remember, once you’ve reached the interview you’ve already outperformed 95% or more of the other candidates.
10) Do prepare yourself thoroughly. Treat your resume like a close friend and be ready to talk about anything and everything you put on it. Learn about the company: when you’re asked the inevitable “Why do you want to work here,” discuss their opportunities and challenges as you understand them, and describe how you can help. Last, but not least: always, always, always send a thank you letter to your interviewer. You’ll automatically make a stronger impression than the 99.95% of candidates who didn’t bother.
S. D. Farrell, CARW, CEIC is a Certified Advanced Resume Writer, career development author, and speaker. He has placed hundreds of job seekers during the recession, helping IT pros from entry to C-level achieve their career goals at Fortune 100 employers like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. Read more about information technology resumes from this author at his site, Career Excellence Advisors.