10 Ways to Tweak Your Tech Résumé

According a new study, nearly half of the U.S. IT workforce plans to change jobs in the next year. Is your résumé ready?

A study released May 31 by Spherion Pacific Enterprises, a recruiting and staffing firm based in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., found that nearly half of the U.S. IT work force plans to change jobs in the next year.

While this means great things for techies—the same study found that IT workers beat the overall work force in job-seeking confidence—it also means that thousands now have résumés to polish and tighten.

If members of the IT work force are like most Americans, the thought of trying to get their résumés into such a form that their desired jobs will simply flutter into their laps sends them into a spiral of panic. How can I fit all this on a page? How do I know what they really want to see? Why do I never get callbacks?

As it turns out, most résumé writers are committing the same types of blunders: fussing over outdated rules, spending hours on a cover letter that might never be seen by human eyes, and leaving out essential keywords and supporting evidence.

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eWEEK spoke to experts from recruitment firms and job boards and picked their brains for as much résumé-writing advice as they would dish out, rounding it up below. The best thing we learned: With the right advice, writing a top-notch resume can be a breeze.

  1. ATS: The most important letters you need to know

    "IT recruiters almost all use ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) to review résumés. They parse what they receive and throw it into a database and search against it via keywords, such as MS Exchange or Java. They dont always instantaneously look at your résumé," Michael Turner, vice president of marketing at Atlanta-based ComputerJobs.com, told eWEEK.

    The most important thing to understand about ATS, Turner said, is that the only time most recruiters will see your résumé in full is when they pull it up in a search.

    To ensure that your résumé will get pulled up in as many relevant searches as possible, its important that job seekers use skills keywords.

  2. Skills section keywords

    So, what are skills keywords? They can be anything from industry buzzwords to specific skills. Turner summarized the importance in language techies understand well: "Its a lot like trying to get your site listed on Google. Keywords are just as important when trying to get your résumé picked up by third-party recruiters on ATS systems. Even when you apply for a job, a lot of times your résumé goes right into their system," he said.

    The best type of skills summary is thorough and maximizes the number of applicable keywords.

    "You should have a skill summary with the number of years of experience you have with each. A lot of people use a three-column table. Again, keywords count," Turner said.

    Kate Lorenz, advice editor at CareerBuilder.com, of Chicago, told eWEEK that you should put as much as you can in writing.

    "List your specific IT certifications accurately and clearly to communicate what expertise it has given you, including technology focus, specific skills and unique abilities," Lorenz said.

    Monster.com offers even more specific advice on choosing keywords.

    "A good way to determine keywords is to read job descriptions for positions that interest you. If you see industry buzzwords, incorporate them into your résumé," wrote Monster.com résumé expert Kim Isaacs.

  3. Dont use a template

    Still using Microsoft Words "Elegant" or "Professional" résumé template? Dont, said Turner.

    The reason for this is twofold: one, these templates are overused and inspire ennui when you want to grab attention, and two, many templates leave out one of the most important elements, the aforementioned skills summary.

    "Theyre too traditional. IT résumés need to highlight objective first, skills second (a summary of skills and years of experience for each), then experience, and education last. The Word templates Ive seen almost always start out with education or work experience, but with no place for a skills summary. The first thing a recruiter or hiring manager wants to know when reviewing a résumé is, Does this candidate have the skills we need to get the job done?" Turner said.

  4. A good objectives section counts

    Now that you have written the information in such a way that someone typing your skill set into an ATS will pull up your résumé, your next focus should be on creating a sharp profile or objectives section, leaving out the tired jargon.

    "Objectives should be at the top of a résumé: It is the first thing that theyll see. You should customize your objectives section as best as you can, targeting it to the job you want. Nobody wants to read, I want a career that will utilize my skills," Turner said.

  5. Lose the one-page-only rule

    What happens when your skills and experience are extensive enough that they spill onto a second page? Dont be distressed, Turner said.

    "Theres a myth out there that you need to keep your résumé down to one page, and its just not true … I wouldnt mind seeing two pages of really solid work history [that] will add more words to the ATS system. You dont need to tell us everything you did at every job, but its good to have a solid history. Tell us more than Used C++ to create applications—tell us how you put it to work."

Next Page: Put common sense to work.