Resume Tips for Technical People

Presentation by Steve Palmer, IT Recruiter with Babich & Associates

First, let’s start by breaking the delusions surrounding resumes.  Resumes are grossly overrated. The average resume gets read in 10 to 15 seconds and 100’s of resumes are routinely submitted for each posted position.  A common mistake is to confuse productivity with activity.  Instead of spending days agonizing over crafting a resume, write an effective resume and concentrate your efforts on personally getting in front of a decision maker.

In most situations, HR will review your resume before it ever gets to a hiring authority.  So, it is critical that you thoroughly detail your technical skills and experience so that HR will catch the requisite  keywords in their screening process or all that work will be for nought.  The current market is extremely challenging and many resumes never get opened.  We had a recent posting where the employer received over 500 applicants.  HR only screened the first 75.  The hiring department wanted someone to start right away, so they just took four or five out of that initial 75 that they wanted to interview.

A few tips on resumes:

Always use reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent job.  Be sure to have inclusive dates of employment and education.  If you have gaps in your employment history, your resume will probably get tossed. For non-IT people, I recommend that resumes be no more than two pages.  However, for IT positions, four or five pages are OK if needed to have an adequate picture of your skills and experiences. Keep key word searches in mind and be specific about how you used each technology in each position.

Eliminate the “Objective” and instead tailor your resume to each job.  The “Summary” also needs to be tailored to that particular position.  Have it mirror, as closely as possible, those portions of your experience that respond directly to the skill set the employer is looking for.  Then, employers will can read further and get confirmation of your qualifications from the resume.

A word about job titles.  Make sure that your resume has clear and understandable job titles and  that they correctly state what you did at your past employers.  Insure that the job titles match the position you’re applying for.  If all of your job titles read “Project Manager”, the hiring authority probably won’t consider you for a “Database Developer” position regardless of your actual skills and experience.  Remember, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck and flies like a duck, it’s probably a duck.

The most effective resumes offer descriptions of experience and success.  The quickest way for you to sell yourself to a hiring authority is through succinct stories of how you tackled past problems and turned them into successes.  Although IT poses some special challenges, a high school senior must be able to understand any resume that you submit.

Tailor your resume to HR since they will be your initial audience. Leave off personal stuff unless it directly relates to something in the job. Avoid any “dumb” statements;  ask yourself, “Would this statement make me want to speak with you if I were the hiring authority?”  Do not include why you left each job.

People ask about including references in a resume.  Don’t do it.  There is a time and place for references.  If you put them on your resume, and your resume is available on the the internet, people  – often recruiters – may call your references looking for contacts or opportunities.  After a while, you will wear out your references with inquiries that don’t lead anywhere.  References should also be hand picked for a particular position.  Sometimes you’ll need vendors or outside parties who have particular credibility with the prospective employer who can attest to your abilities.  Keep track of former associates and acquaintances by adding them to your social network and updating them on your status from time to time.

Some people craft a global or galactic resume that says they can do anything.  Avoid them as they are usually counterproductive unless the position requires all of those skills.  It is much better to have at least two resumes and tailor them to the particular skill set the employer is seeking.  For some positions, you might want to have a resume that will understate your skills.  This does not mean lying on your resume and you should always be honest with the employer.  It just means that you deemphasize some of your experience so that you don’t overwhelm a hiring manager or appear grossly overqualified for the position.  For example, if you are a Senior IT Director managing 100 people and a $50MM budget, you may be better off to present it as 25 people and $10MM if it more closely fits the particular position that you attempting to land.

In selling yourself to the company, always keep in mind : FAB.  This stands for Features, Advantages, and Benefits.   Attempt to demonstrate how your skills and experience “features” have benefited your prior employers “advantages”, in order to show the prospective employer how you will “benefit” them.

Always call the hiring authority first and tell them why they need to look for your resume.  It’s amazing how rarely this happens.  I’ll receive 200 resumes , but only have three or four people call to follow up. Even if you can’t get through, a short 15-30 second message asking them to look at your resume will often trigger their looking for yours over someone else’s. If you are fortunate enough to have a conversation, state why you are a good fit, then email a concise, bulleted cover letter with your resume reiterating those points and asking for the interview.


Steve is an IT recruiter with Babich & Associates, Texas’ most experienced full service professional recruitment and placement firm service (since 1952).