You have the skills, but you’re having difficulty putting it into words. Don’t stunt your job search because you can’t accurately convey who you are on your resume.
Impressing the hiring manager is the first step to getting your foot in the door with a company, so it’s important to put effort into your resume. However, it’s difficult to generalize and create a one-size-fits-all for resume writing tips. Luckily, there are certain details hiring managers in the tech field pay close attention to, and this information can be used to improve your resume and application.
One thing you are trying to accomplish with your resume is accurately expressing your desired career trajectory. Your resume helps paint a picture of where you have been and where you would like to go. If done correctly, the hiring manager will quickly recognize your forward momentum and hopefully find a place for you to help catalyze your progression.
Below, we’ve outlined the six areas to include on your tech resume so that you stand out.
1. Nailing your header and personal summary
The first thing that many people choose to put on their resume is an informative header, followed by a personal summary. If you do it right, this information can serve as a major boon to your job application. However, if you don’t utilize this function in the correct way, you risk souring your name before you ever shake hands with the hiring manager.
Crafting a header
The informative header is the first thing the hiring manager sees, so make it accurate. It should include the following details:
- Your full name.
- Your phone number.
- Your email address.
- Your location (City, ST).
(Keep in mind that you can leave off your physical address, as this is not as important in the digital age.)
Your professional summary
Did you know that candidates that include a personal summary are almost twice as likely to be contacted by a hiring manager? You should always include this short paragraph summarizing your professional progression, making sure to highlight workplace achievements and notable skills.
If bullet points are easier for you to craft, then that’s fine too! Consider adding:
- The job you’re seeking.
- Experience level.
- Relevant qualifications.
Customization and standing out in a crowd
You don’t want to create a boring resume that gets lost in the stack. Depending on where you’re applying, you might be just one of hundreds of applications, so it is important to do all you can to make your name stick in the hiring manager’s mind.
One way to ensure that you stand out is to customize your resume to the company. It seems tempting and convenient to send the exact same resume to every job you apply for, but it can really serve you to spend the extra time catering your resume to each individual job. This can simply mean listing skills that you’d use as a front-end developer and changing them if applying for a DevOps position.
What programs, platforms, databases, and coding tools are you comfortable with? Include an easy-to-locate list on your resume that includes tools that are relevant to the position in which you are applying.
Here is an example of what a skills list should look like:
Expert: C#, C/C++, VB.NET, ASP.NET, HTML, CSS, SQL, REST, SOAP, Visual Studio, TFS
Intermediate: Java, J2EE, Spring, Hibernate, JDBC, Eclipse, Jenkins, Hudson
Learning: Python, Ruby on Rails
Read the job listing! Are there specific skills that are listed in the description of the position? Be sure to include these in your resume. Hopefully you’re applying to a company that doesn’t use keyword scanning tools to pare down their resume volume, but assume that you are and be sure to include all of the key skills that you think they will be looking for, just in case.
2. Making the most of your work experience
As you know, your work experience is the most important part of your resume, so be thorough. Your work history is what shows your potential future employer of your skills as well as your ability to remain in a role for an extended period of time.
Write about your achievements
Too often, candidates like to include information about the company itself in their work experience section of the resume. This is simply not necessary, because your future job employer doesn’t care about what the other company did. What they do care about is what you did. When listing your work experience, leave out the summary of the company and spend that precious white space on your page talking about your own accomplishments and skills gained instead.
When creating your professional experience summaries, try to use real data and numbers. This is easier for a hiring manager to digest because you are offering verifiable information.
Try to begin every sentence or bullet point with a powerful verb. A few examples of this include:
- “Mentored a team of 10 developers.”
- “Developed RESTful APIs in Python.”
- “Spearheaded web UI application.”
Leave out certain details
Don’t include your complete work history, especially if it isn’t relevant. The most recent three to five jobs is fine, or stick within the last ten years of employment history.
If you happen to have an irrelevant job in the middle of the pool of jobs you’re hoping to list, don’t leave it out. Gaps in your job history look worse than a job that doesn’t contribute to the position in which you are applying.
Don’t include links to your social media if there is absolutely anything on there that you’d be embarrassed for an employer to see. You should also refrain from including your Twitter handle if it has nothing to do with your intended field of work. Some things are best kept personal.
Relevant personal details
Do you code in your free time? Did you teach yourself any advanced software? This is all very impressive and relevant on your resume. Don’t shy away from including a little personality on your resume—it’ll make you stand out more.
That being said, make sure it’s relevant. Your potential future employer probably doesn’t care if you are an ultra-marathon runner or a world-class chess player, but just might be interested if you coded a chess program online!
Awards and certifications
If you have any special awards, recognitions, accolades, special skills, or certifications, you should absolutely include them on your resume. Not only do these show off your abilities and professional history, but they show that you are willing to go above and beyond for your career. The inclusion of special awards and recognitions are one of things that can take your resume from good to great.
Include this information even if you doubt the hiring manager has any idea what you are talking about. For one, they can always Google it (if you ensure that it is Google-able), and two, remember that having any extra innovation or achievement looks impressive, no matter what your field is.
3. How to incorporate your education
You should always include your education information, whether you went to school online or at an Ivy League University. An advanced degree is required ninety-nine times out of one hundred in the technical industry, so your degree is often assumed, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t highlight it.
Sometimes your education is less important
If you went to an exceptionally good school, of course you should include that information. If your school isn’t especially well-known or that impressive, you might want to dedicate less of your resume real estate to describing this time in your life. Still include it, but don’t highlight it.
Consider leaving off your graduation year
The year in which you graduated can be more influential than you think, and not always in a good way. If you’re in the later-stages of your career, consider leaving off your graduation year in order to avoid any ageism bias.
4. Detailing your resume
Your resume is primarily your work and education experience, but there are ways to punch up the information to make it stand out even more. By using keywords and linking to your LinkedIn or personal website, you can polish your resume and extend the information beyond a single page.
There are certain keywords and key phrases that you should use instead of others, but sometimes it can be hard to determine which ones are best.
We recommend conducting a bit of your own keyword research about not only the position in which you are applying, but the company as well. What kind of company are they? Do they have a young, startup feel? Or are they a more suit-and-tie place of employment? Try to cater your word choice to the type of business, as this will likely help the hiring manager picture you as someone who will fit in with the culture.
As previously mentioned, you should be completely familiar with the top programs that people in your field use, and be sure to call out your proficiency in your resume. Be as specific as you can get. If you are a front-end developer, include information about your proficiency in front-end development tools. If you are a mobile developer, include information about your skills in iOS and Android application building.
That being said, don’t overstuff your resume with keywords and key skills, especially if you aren’t familiar with them. Not only are you blatantly lying, but your resume likely won’t read very organically. Your resume can very easily look like a spammy email if you sacrifice natural and easy-to-read language to fit in every possible keyword that comes to mind.
If you have an impressive website or a professional Twitter account that’s relevant to the position, include it! The great thing about the digital age is that your resume is not as limited with the use of links. Now you can painlessly extend your one-page resume with the inclusion of a link to your personal website or online portfolio, which is a good idea if you’ve developed a strong personal brand.
That being said, don’t count on the hiring manager to look at these extra links 100% of the time. This means that you should include all critical information that you want the hiring manager to know right away on your original resume. Additional details can be left in the links.
5. Finishing touches
Now that you have the data down on the page, don’t neglect the finishing touches. A finely polished application can make you stand out more than you may realize. Just remember, the more organized and easier to read your resume is, the more likely you will leave a positive impression on the hiring manager.
The format of your resume can play a significant part of your first impression. Make sure you have clear and defined sections for each of the required bits of information. Try to break it up into the following sections, in order: header, summary, technical skills, professional experience, education. This is pretty standard, which is a good thing when you want to make an impression on the hiring manager at a glance.
Keeping consistent with the formatting of your resume is key. Again, the format of your resume is very telling in that it can either demonstrate your acute attention to detail or your habit of creating sloppy work.
A couple of key things to keep in mind when adjusting the format are as follows:
- Capitalize your headers. If you bold or underline your headers, make sure they are ALL bolded or underlined.
- Make sure you adjust the line spacing of your whole document to be consistent. 1.5 line spacing can be easier to read, but single spacing your document might allot you more space to write if you are going over 2 pages.
- Make sure your punctuation is correct. Bulleted lists can have periods (as you can see here), but you can also leave them out. Just make sure you do the same thing on every bullet point.
- Use the same font and font size throughout your document. Headers can be a larger font size if you want, but again, keep it consistent.
The very last thing you do before you submit your resume to the hiring manager is to spell check. This is a simple tip, but so many people tend to forget before sending their resume off to the submission stack. However, a thoroughly proofread resume can take you a long way, especially in a highly competitive field.
Development software can be a little tricky to spell and capitalize correctly, so be sure your are double- and triple-checking your grammar before you submit your final application. You can use resources such as Stack Overflow to ensure you are using the industry standard spellings and capitalizations.
6. Red flags
Now that we’ve covered the things that you absolutely should include on your tech resume, we’re going to cover what you need to avoid. There are several red flags that hiring managers look for when reviewing candidates, and any of these red flags might fast-track your resume straight to the trash can.
If you are too vague with the descriptions, you risk sounding uninformed or even a little shady. Be clear about your work and education history, or else it might come across as if you are hiding something. Again, use assertive action verbs. Some of our favorites at Seen are:
Too much personal information
While we’ve basically already covered this, we’d like to reiterate: Don’t include every detail about your personal life. While a little personality is encouraged, you should avoid talking about irrelevant details and social activities that don’t influence your professional endeavors in any way.
A poorly organized resume is a sign of a poorly organized worker—at least, it is for the hiring manager. Take the time to craft easily-navigable sections of your resume. Consider the fact that the hiring manager isn’t going to spend any extra time attempting to decipher your resume, especially if you are just one in a pile of hundreds. A messy resume usually finds its way to the garbage can.
Finalization and submission
Once you’ve gone through and implemented each of these steps, you should be left with a sizzling resume that is sure to catch that hiring manager’s eye. Again, it is difficult to assume exactly what each individual hiring manager is looking for in the ever-evolving tech industry, but with a little research on your end, you’re set up to give it a pretty good shot.
Don’t be intimidated by the resume crafting process. While the last thing on many left-brained engineers and developers mind may be the process of creating a beautiful resume, do not take this valuable tool for granted. Spending a little bit of time taking your resume from bare-bones to a tight and structured form can make you stand out, and when the hiring manager has been sifting through countless resumes, standing out is never a bad thing.
Want to learn more about how to build a stellar resume? Check out these other guides: