Assuming you have not already been introduced, your resume is the first impression that any potential employer has of you. For people applying for jobs in high-tech industries, attention to detail and nuance may be more important than in any other sector. If you’re putting together a technical resume, here are a few tips that will help yours stand out from the competition.
The Keys to a Good Technical Resume
Know Your Audience
Research the company and the job listing very carefully. Pay attention to the details of how it is worded, what the qualifications for the job are, and what information they want to be included with your application. This is really your first test; if you don’t follow application instructions, it’s a red flag to most employers that you won’t follow directions on the job, and you will be screened out.
Don’t Make it too Long
When you apply for a job, it is essentially an exercise in persuasion, and one of the keys to persuading any person or group to take the desired action is removing barriers for them. If your technical resume is seven pages long and filled with irrelevant information, guess what? That’s a barrier between you and landing that job because no HR director wants to read it. You should not need any more than 3 pages at the maximum for a good technical resume.
Start with a Summary
In the past, job applicants would write an “Objective” (ex. “Seeking a position as IT Director at Such-and-Such, Inc”) at the top of their resume. But in general, companies care a lot more about how you can help them than what your objective is. Instead, include a summary statement at the beginning of your technical resume. This should consist of 2 or 3 sentences about your experience, skills and why you’re a great fit for the position.
A technical resume can be prepared using a chronological layout or a functional layout. The chronological version is simply listing your previous positions in reverse order, along with mention of your achievements and responsibilities at that job. The functional layout begins by emphasizing your knowledge, skills, and experience that would beneficial to the company, and lists your work history afterward. There are pros and cons to each, so you should research both formats to see which is a better fit for you.
Your Experience and What You Bring to the Table
It is important to keep in mind how relevant the work you did at a previous job may be to the one you’re applying for now. If you go with a chronological layout and you’re listing a job from the early 90s, odds are a lot has changed since then, so you don’t need to include as much detail. Instead, go into a little more detail about your responsibilities and accomplishments on recent jobs. For the functional layout, list those first as discussed above.
Either way, a good technical resume should include metrics and quantifiable language to describe how you solved a specific problem, improved performance and benefitted your company in a previous role. If for example, you helped get a delayed project back on schedule, or suggested a new approach on a project that reduced costs by 20%, that would be a smart thing to include. And of course, include separate sections for your educational background and technical certifications as well.
In terms of language, it is important to use “action verbs”. Saying “Developed software” sounds more powerful than “I helped with software development”. This may not seem like a big deal but these are the kind of qualities that make you stand out and can really make a difference in how the person reading your resume perceives you.
Cover Letters: Yea or Nay?
There is some debate about whether cover letters are still relevant. It is true that a lot of HR personnel and others involved with hiring are so overwhelmed with documents that they simply don’t bother reading them. A good rule of thumb is that you should write one if the job listing specifically says that a cover letter should be included. As we alluded to at the beginning of the article, instructions like this are sometimes included as a test to see if you can follow directions. In these cases, a technical resume that didn’t include a cover letter would be immediately rejected. If the listing does not ask for it, then it is not necessary to include it.
As with the main document, keep it short, just a few paragraphs. Here’s a guide that will help point you in the right direction.
Follow these steps and you’ll have a technical resume that will help you stand out from the pack and give you a competitive edge in the job market. At Riverside, we receive technical resumes from talent all over the country, and only the best make the cut. Read more about us here to learn about the high-quality technical talent we welcome as part of our incredible team.