5 Resume Tips for the Aspiring IT Professional

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Whether you are looking for your first job, were recently laid off, or are content with your current employer, it is never a bad idea for individuals - particularly IT Professionals - to dust off their resume and make sure it is up-to-date. Employers today are pretty picky and want the most value for their dollar. To land that perfect gig, you really need to know what matters and what doesn't when trying to impress a potential future boss; because of this, I want to present you with some resume tips geared specifically to those in the tech industry.

Resume Tips for IT Professionals

I have been on both sides of the fence - the person sending out a resumes and the person reading them. I have seen every crazy thing you can imagine listed on a person's resume - everything from their life history (literally, starting at the age of seven on up to mid-life), their expertise as a kung-fu specialist (an ability not remotely related to the job), and even an entire paragraph about how well someone used a calculator. The latter was for a database architect job.

Relevancy

One of the most important resume tips I can give you is this: make sure every piece of information on your sheet is relevant to the position you are applying for.

Managers are busy people and the last thing they have time to do (or feel like doing) is rummaging through a stack of potential employees. Don't forget - you are not the only person applying for this job and reading resumes is, most likely, not the only job of the person reading yours.

Make sure everything on your resume shows that you are qualified and understand the job you are applying for. If you are applying for a programming role, do not list your many skills as a handyman and car detailer – they don't care. Don't mention your hobbies as a skateboarder – they're not that interested. You have maybe half a page or so to make yourself shine and stand out. Adding information that does not pertain to the job is a quick way to get passed over.

Size Matters

For all the reasons listed above, the length of your resume is very important. Too long, and the reader will lose interest. Too short, and you will appear as though you are either a poor communicator or have no skills, experience, or expertise to speak of.

There is no real measure of the exact length your resume should be - it can typically be measured by the amount of experience you have and the importance of the job you are applying for. A person applying for a CTO of a large tech firm, for instance, can afford to pad their document some. A junior programmer just starting out…not so much.

Skill versus Education

I have heard many times that you should put your education at the top of your resume - I have certainly seen this practice many times; however, during the times I have looked at resumes, the first thing I looked at when considering IT Professionals was their skill-set, then experience, and then education.

This is something unique to the IT world, I feel. Many of us were self-taught - especially techies who have been in the game a long time; the programs you may have learned on in school are probably antiquated by now. Even highly educated tech professionals are constantly teaching themselves new skills, and because of that, they tend to appreciate skills over education.

I always put skills first and cut straight to the chase. It is the easiest way to answer the question on any employer's mind: Is this individual capable of doing the job?

There are, of course, instances where you may want to put your education first. If you graduated from MIT, for example, you might want that to be a highlight. Otherwise, lead with your skills first.

Tailor Your Resume

I have several versions of my resume at hand at all times. IT Professionals have many skills, usually, and are capable of working in many capacities; because of this, you should prepare to customize your resume to the job you are applying for. For example, if you have worked as a computer tech and a network administrator, and the job you are applying for is a Technical Support Specialist, you might want to lead with your skills as a computer tech and make sure that is the prime focus of your resume. Add your network administrator abilities, as well (IT companies love multi-skilled employees after all), but have that be the icing on the cake and not the cake itself.

Tell Us What You Achieved, Not What You Did

When looking at resumes, the thing that always pops for me is when the writer tells me about their accomplishments. Look at these two sentences:

  • "Created and implemented a sales strategy for a newly developer digital media outlet."
  • "Created and implemented a sales strategy for our digital media vertical, increase sales year-over-year by 20%."

The second sentence clearly shows that you not only created and implemented a plan, but that the plan you did create worked - and pretty well I might add. This is more impressive than just telling me what you did on a day to day basis. Always show results when possible.

Importance of Education in a Job Search

One more point to consider when you are thinking of searching for a job. The tech world is ever-changing, and keeping up-to-date on your skill-set is a necessity. In addition to that, you really need to diversify your skills. Knowing one programming language is ok. Knowing three is great. The more the better.

You also want to make sure that your skills works together. If I am a web developer, then I want to know HTML, Javascript/jQuery, and CSS. I'll also want to know about databases and e-commerce, some PHP, and even how to work in a CMS (content management systems like Wordpress and Drupal). If I know graphic design, search engine optimization, and the basics of social media marketing, all the better. I've never seen an employer looking for an IT professional with only one specific skill or ability. It just doesn't happen.

You don't need to get a whole new college degree either. You can do a continuing education course or pick up a new book and start learning. The time you invest - even if only a few hours a week - will pay off big time in the future.

Happy hunting!

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