Your resume is important for one key reason: It's your first chance to make an impression – or fail to impress. It's your introduction to a potential employer, and it should be the equivalent of a firm handshake and a snappy business suit.
But while most people are aware of the importance of their resume, getting this part of the hiring process right can be tough for technical IT types, who are more likely to shine at writing code than writing good things about themselves. Here we'll take a look at seven can't-miss elements of a killer IT resume. (For more career tips, check out our IT Careers section.)
Why IT Resumes Are Different
IT is very competitive field, and the industry is a very different arena from others such as marketing and human resources. The problem is that IT skills can be a little harder to translate.
That's why resume writing tips for IT professionals are quite different. An IT resume has to exhibit an applicant's technical, functional and even managerial skills. Programming languages, skills and completed projects also need to stand out.
Because these elements tend to evolve over the course of a career, an IT resume must be both very comprehensive, and very flexible and easy to modify.
A great IT resume lists all of an applicant's skills without any fluff. It should also be tailored for the particular job it is being used to apply for. That means reworking it to highlight the most relevant elements.
Clearly, an IT resume is a complicated thing. But getting it right is worth the effort.
The Benefits of Having an IT Resume
Having a well-written IT resume is a great way to make your potential employers sit up and take notice of your skills, career achievements, characteristics and experience.
When done right, it will call the necessary skills that you have to get the job to attention, instead of burying them in all kinds of unrelated clutter. Remember that most recruiters and IT managers don't have much extra time, so a concise and to-the-point IT resume is more likely to be read and absorbed, rather than scanned and canned.
7 Key Elements to a Killer IT Resume
So what should a killer resume look like? Stick to the following tips:
- Sell the Soft Skills
Clear, concise and to-the-point; this is what an IT resume should be, but if you are thinking of cutting out the soft skills, you might be short-changing yourself. Soft skills are non-technical characteristics you may have that are essential for your position, such as skills in project management, presentation, communication, selling, problem solving, customer service, self-direction, and the ability to work with a team. In a rapidly evolving and increasingly social industry such as IT, these soft skills might be what set you apart from other applicants. (Find out how Greg Miliates used soft skills to get a career in IT in How I Got an IT Job Without a Tech Background.)
- Know Your Audience
Hiring managers and your own potential bosses are looking for someone with existing skills who is also highly trainable and receptive to new ideas and new methods. Make sure that you make it clear that you'll go the distance to learn and grow in your job.
What's more, understand that you are writing for very busy people and they may have limited attention spans. Most managers read the top part of your resume and then just scan the rest. Therefore, make sure that you are able to put the most significant achievements, most sought-after skills and all other relevant information in the first few paragraphs.
You should also make sure that your resume is easy to read. Infographic and other fancy resumes are popular now, but feedback from hiring managers about this is mixed. Whatever you go with, make sure your message is clear.
- Forget One Size Fits All
Resist the temptation to use just one version of your resume. Remember that your IT resume should highlight your skills, knowledge, experience and achievements, but you should also customize your resume to the particular job you are applying for. Does this mean that you should write and rewrite your resume for every job you apply to? Not necessarily. Just be sure you're willing to move things around so that your resume fits with the job you want today, not the last one you applied for.
- Leave Out the Unnecessary
There are a lot of resume writing tips telling you to include everything that's relevant. This isn't easy to define, but rest assured it doesn't include the following:
- Marital status
- Salary history (unless it's requested)
- Your life story
- Live In the Now
When listing your skills, make sure that you remove all outdated information. For example, DOS programming or GWBasic are not such valuable skills nowadays (and highlighting them might make you look behind the times). Unless outdated skills have some specific relevance, leave them out.
And with any skill you highlight, you should detail how you can use it right now, today, to do the job required.
- Keep It Error-Free
As with any business communication, quality writing is very important. Make sure that you are able to present your portfolio in an easy-to-read and flowing manner. What’s more, be sure to get rid of spelling and grammar mistakes. Typos suggest a lack of care and attention, and that's not the first impression you want to make.
IT is a competitive field, and higher unemployment rates can make it even harder to get noticed. That's why it's important to stand out from the crowd. Your resume can help you do that – if you do it right. Otherwise, you're just one of a bunch of clones, marching in step from one job application to the next, and never landing the job.