As an expert in a professional field, you face very different challenges than most other job seekers. Advice that you have been given by anyone outside of your industry could be misguided. If you are going to invest time and/or money in your résumé, you might as well know if what you are doing is going to get you results. We will examine the various ways your résumé can be received and the best ways to maximize the appeal of your résumé since there are many different kinds of individuals that will be reviewing it.
Here are some guidelines specific to IT résumés:
“Big” is relative
When it comes to your experience, start with what you accomplished. What were the challenges you and/or your department were facing? If this was an official initiative, what is the size and scope of the project? How many users were affected? Detail what you used and how you used it to conquer the challenge. Include the result in quantifiable means whenever possible.
Do not enforce the usual page limits on an expert-level résumé. Hiring managers and recruiters need to know exactly what a candidate has done. Vague résumés will often get passed over for “lower hanging fruit.” Adding these details can make a résumé longer, but a non-technical recruiter, sourcing specialist or administrator would find it difficult to locate you among applicants and qualify you otherwise. Mid-level professionals, especially consultants can very acceptably have a 2-3 page résumé and executive or senior professionals can acceptably have a 3-5-page résumé, so long as the experience is relevant and written concisely. There is no need to add or subtract content strictly based on outdated length “rules.” As a caveat, you have to know your audience, too. If your audience wants the facts and only the facts, get to the point!
It’s all in the details
Any application/suite/module, database, language, tool, server, operating system, protocol, switch/router, etc. that you wish to continue working with should be included in the résumé. When a potential employer reviews your résumé, they want to know more than that you have worked with X technology. They want to know how much and how in-depth your experience is. The technology should occur proportionally as frequently in your résumé as you had worked with it. Frequency of keywords increases your relevance in the results of a keyword search making you further up on the list of candidates to call for further qualification. Include versions.
Some companies require a résumé to include 80% of the requirements listed in their posted job description. The initial gatekeeper has a checklist that includes the number of months/years of experience for each requirement. They systematically divide how many boxes are checked by the total number of requirements to see if you make it to the next round. In order for a skill to be considered a valid qualification, it must be substantiated. This doesn’t mean that your potential employment is always measured by these methods. It is evident that you should always include all details of your experience that are specifically requested in a job description.
As you write your job descriptions, think about the step-by-step processes. Include tools, methodologies, applications that you involved and any corresponding acronyms. Scan job descriptions posted by employers to see what variation of terms they use. For example, M is a common way to refer to MUMPS. Caché is a version of Mumps (which is a language and a database, so make sure that is clear). When applicable, add the alternate term in parenthesis a couple of times throughout the résumé. This will ensure that keyword searches will extract your résumé regardless of which variation the individual is using to search.
Placing this section at the top of your résumé versus the bottom is dependent on how much these qualifications are going to generate interest in an interview. Some certifications are very sought-after. Certain schools produce alumni that are highly recruited. If you know that this applies to you, make your credential obvious as an acronym next to your name or somewhere in a concise executive summary. Include a section at the bottom with the name of the establishments from which you received any training/certification/degree, even if it is a foreign university. Omitting it automatically generates doubt in the reputation of the establishment.
A lot of candidates put the logo for the certification they have received on their résumé, which looks great. However, applicant tracking systems usually do not store graphics or formatting because it takes up too much space/memory. The certifications should also be listed in text form (Acronym + full spelling).
It is not as important to a recruiter what your team or manager accomplished as what YOU had to do with it. Give yourself credit for your contributions. Avoid phrases like “involved in,” “contributed to,” and “attended.” These phrases communicate that things happen around you. If your résumé does not show off HOW you contributed, what your involvement was, it may have the opposite effect you want it to. It may make you look like an observer rather than an achiever. Conversely, do not take credit for other’s accomplishments. I often had candidates explain things in “we” terms. For example, “We reviewed the code, identified errors, and worked with the developers to remediate the problem.” What was really meant was that the individual reviewed the code, identified the errors, and the project manager worked with the developers.
Tell them what YOU did, not what the team or manager did, or you may wind up in a role that you are not qualified to do. Gaining employment by misrepresenting your abilities and experience can be the most detrimental career move. It ruins your credibility in a small world where recruiters move around and warn each other about the people that ruined THEIR reputation. Remember, résumé rules forbid the use of pronouns. In most cases, you can remove the pronoun or replace it by specifying who is meant by the pronoun without losing meaning or comprehension.
Most transition resources will tell you that networking is the best way to gain new employment. It is true what they say, “It’s all about who you know.” This can be discouraging for people who are not lucky enough to have family connections, but you can always go out and meet people. The good news is that there are new ways to introduce yourself completely virtually.
Online methods of networking include e-lists, user groups, LinkedIn, Facebook, Quora, and many more. Whomever you do not know now, you can meet in cyberspace. The point of networking is to generate leads and referrals for employment. Referrals are recruiters’ favorite way to find new candidates, so an e-mail subject stating “John Smith referred me” is GOING to be opened and given priority! Remember that you can also introduce other people and the more you do it, the more it will be done for you. If you want to know the best way to present yourself to strangers, read How to Guerilla Market Yourself, Get What You Deserve! by Jay Levinson and Seth Godin.
Remember, too, that once you make an online connection, the most effective and efficient way to further it is through voice-to-voice communication, whenever face-to-face communication isn’t possible. Pick up the phone and convert online relationships to offline relationships.
Unfortunately, the résumé you send may never reach a person. Sometimes applicants number in the hundreds to thousands and it is not humanly possible to review that many résumés, let alone send a response. What can you do to make sure that your résumé doesn’t sit in a dummy inbox? Call! Follow up.
Your résumé displays experience, skills, accomplishments, education, and certifications. What is not evident is your motivation. Your dedication to finding a job is an indication of how motivated you will be to bring value to your next position.
Your value and your ability to mesh with a company’s culture is what gets you a job offer. If you reach voice mail, leave a polite invitation to learn more about what you can bring to this position. Say your number S-L-O-W-L-Y and spell your name so the recruiter or hiring manager can locate your résumé prior to returning your call.
Now, if the return call does not come, leave another message the following week reinforcing your enthusiasm for the job. Try a different venue, like LinkedIn or Twitter.
It is okay to keep trying. Sometimes, it can take four or five calls. You would probably be surprised how often the person called THANKED me or my client for diligence in following up. Most people don’t want to or mean to be unresponsive. So many of us experience time poverty. Empathize.
DO NOT leave any trace of a guilt trip. Understand that “Drop everything! This is HOT!” is the nature of a recruiter’s day. Priorities flip-flop and zig-zag. Plus, few people would be motivated by undue guilt, and do you want that to be their reason for calling you? Out of guilt? Be patiently persistent. It may not get you a job, but it will most likely get you a response and a chance to introduce yourself.
Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a corporate consulting and career management firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play.
While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales.
Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot.
She is an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and previously was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business She is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where her students won the 2018 national competition and were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs.