Your résumé is the first document a recruiter or prospective employer will see when reviewing your job application. It is key to being selected for an interview or declined. Recruiters normally have hundreds of résumés to screen for any one job vacancy, and spend just a few seconds on each.
You almost literally have but an instant to create a strong first impression with your résumé. It is crucial that it stands out and indicates high suitability for the role you are applying to fill.
Your résumé should demonstrate at a glance that you are perfectly qualified for the job. Highlight the most relevant skills and experience. Read the employer’s description of required skills, experience, and accountabilities carefully.
You need to show the hiring manager how you can contribute to the company’s business objectives.
Key elements of a professional IT résumé
Your résumé should be concise and on point. Try to include all pertinent information in one page.
Craft a résumé that’s relevant to the job description. This includes customizing your résumé. Avoid a boilerplate document. Employers like original work. Even if you refer to a template, use it only to get a sense of structure. Design your own to highlight your strengths and include all relevant information. Include metrics to describe your work and indicate the value you brought to the companies you worked with.
Use the right résumé format. Commonly used ones include reverse-chronological, functional, and combination, which combines reverse-chronological and functional. According to professional résumé writers, the reverse-chronological format is suitable for tech specialists, preferably employed at the time of submitting an application.
If you have gaps in your work history, there’s no need to hide them. The functional résumé is suitable for those who have relevant qualifications and no work experience or gaps. The combination résumé would suit experienced professionals applying for a managerial position. One can emphasize both relevant skills and professional experience.
Six tips to bear in mind
Write a brief summary of your career: This should appear near the top of your résumé, and should not extend beyond two sentences. Before you draft the summary, read the job description carefully. Emphasize your unique strengths, and qualifications and experience most relevant to the role. Ask yourself, “What would I want to know about a candidate for this position?”
Quantify your achievements, using numbers: Provide data to describe your work experience. Prospective employers want to know what you accomplished in your previous roles. Figures are a far better indicator of previous accomplishments than phrases such as “Worked in tech support for 2 years,” or “Was a product manager for six years.”
Examples of data-specific descriptions include, “Managed a team of six support specialists, and developed 80 new client accounts,” or “Reduced network costs by 18 percent in a span of six months.”
Use specific language: Don’t use hackneyed terms, such as “team player” or “results-oriented” or other stale general phrases. Instead, specify that you achieved a target, or enhanced network security, or made a process more efficient, and describe your actions in brief.
Include role-specific keywords: Many companies sort through résumés, using Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). An ATS scans each résumé for keywords and tags, and arranges them according to relevance. This is why you need to ensure that you include words specified in the job description as well as those relevant to your field and industry. If you don’t, then your résumé may not get past the ATS screening.
Include soft skills: While relevant technical skills and credentials are essential for IT roles, soft skills are also important because tech professionals work as part of a team. Hiring managers want to know whether applicants have good interpersonal and communication skills.
The ability to work with others and communicate well is required for most tech roles, so remember to mention these and give examples from your work experience, if possible. If you have trained people at your organization, made presentations, and created technical reports, user manuals, internal technical memos, proposals, and press releases, remember to include these.
For executive roles, it’s good to have examples of leadership skills, such as empathy, strategic thinking, self-awareness, and flexibility.
Proofread your résumé: Check your résumé for errors at least twice over. It’s very unlikely that a résumé with grammatical or spelling errors will be accepted. Sloppy résumés are unprofessional and can make the applicant appear lazy and careless.
When writing your résumé, think of user experience. A résumé should be readable. Language is important. You also need to pay attention to formatting. Use appropriate font type and size, margins, and alignment.
Most résumés carry contact details at the top of the document. Include your full name, the job title you’re applying for, phone number, and your professional e-mail address — which would ideally be your name, not firstname.lastname@example.org or something similar from your student days.
You could include non-professional experience that you’ve gained in your spare time if it is related to your specialization. IT specialists normally love their work, so it’s not uncommon for hardware engineers, developers, and others to work on non-professional projects in their spare time.
For example, a large number of programmers and developers are active on GitHub. It’s worthwhile including GitHub on your résumé if you have one or more good projects. It’s important that you don’t list personal social media accounts on your résumé. Ensure that your personal profiles are set to private.
It’s important that you focus on education, skills, and experience that are relevant to the role you are applying for. Don’t use the same résumé for every job application. Include links to LinkedIn and other professional social accounts if you have any.
Remember that employers prefer brief résumés. Avoid a detailed account of all positions held. It’s best to list relevant experiences only and highlight applicable skills that you developed in those roles. As part of your skillset, include hands-on experience with related apps, platforms, and software.
Get some feedback
Sincere feedback from a knowledgeable professional is invaluable. It’s advisable to show your résumé to a peer or mentor before you send in your application. That person should have knowledge of your strengths and expertise, be able to assess your résumé objectively, and advise you about presentation of your skills and experience vis-à-vis the role applied for. If you’ve missed out on something or included extraneous data or details, a peer, mentor, or colleague would likely be the best person to point that out.
If you don’t have a mentor, then you can consult trusted managers at organizations where you’ve worked previously. Close friends and peers you trust in the industry might also be able to offer guidance. Don’t overwhelm yourself with feedback — it’s prudent to restrict the review and feedback process to just a few experienced and reliable professionals.