9 common tech resume mistakes—and how to avoid them


Hiring managers see loads of resumes each week. And in tech’s competitive landscape, it’s easy to have your resume dismissed. The smallest typo can put you at a disadvantage against other tech professionals with comparable skill sets, so it’s important you learn to catch every minuscule mistake.

To help you be at your resume-best, we’re sharing the most common mistakes on tech resumes—and how you can to avoid them.

1. Your resume’s format is too complicated

Format your resume as simply as you can. Candidates can get caught up in creating an overly designed resume in an attempt to stand out, but this really isn’t worth the trouble and is ultimately too easy to mess up.

Save yourself some time and keep it simple. Utilize different font sizes and indentations in order to denote a change in section. You might even use horizontal lines to break things up more. But as far as using crazy colors, weird fonts, and unique clipart, you’re better off without.

2. Your resume is too long

As a general rule, your resume should only be a page. This can be a challenge, and only gets more difficult the more years you have in your career. Keep your resume as concise as you can — this is easier when you learn how to include only the projects and accomplishments that matter.

You don’t need to go all the way back to your first post-college job if you are 15 years into your career. Include the most recent 3 or so jobs, and explain each in detail. If you have previous experience beyond those last 3 positions that you’d like to highlight, you can include that in your special skills section, but don’t leave an unexplained employment gap.

3. Your contact info is outdated

If you wow your hiring manager in every single way, but you messed up your contact information, you can say goodbye to that job. How will they know how to contact this star applicant with an incorrect phone number or email address?

Make sure your email is accurate and in a readable font (Times, Arial, usually size 11 or 12). You phone number should include the area code in this format: (xxx) xxx-xxxx. You might also consider including your Twitter handle or other social media information, as long as you keep those profiles professional and relevant to the tech industry.

(Be aware that you don’t need to include your physical address. This information is not that important anymore, now that everything is done online and over the phone.)

4. You included confidential information

There are certain details you shouldn’t include, as they can automatically disqualify you from the hiring pool. A good hiring manager doesn’t want to know your age, your religious or political affiliation, or your marital status, as this can lead to unconscious bias, which could get them into trouble. It’s best to leave this type of information off of the page.

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5. You lied about your work history or education

Don’t lie on your resume. It’s a sticky situation that almost never works out. Reference checks make it too easy to bust someone who is lying about their technical skills and experience, and if there is one thing that looks worse than a poor work history, it’s a lying candidate. This major faux pas of the professional world doesn’t just disqualify you from the job you’re applying to, it’ll also follow you for the rest of your career. That’s not something you can afford to risk, even if your work history is on the lighter side.

6. You included the wrong projects and skills

Don’t waste your valuable resume real estate on projects the hiring manager doesn’t care about. Only include projects that either show off your technical skills or demonstrate your ability to carry out a challenging project through its entire lifecycle. If it’s not relevant to the job to which you’re applying, omit it.

On a similar note, you should be sure to cater your skill set to the job you’re applying to. If you’re applying to a DevOps position, make sure your skills that are relevant to this position take precedence on your resume over your other skills. In this scenario, you might include your skills in Chef, Jenkins, or Puppet. If you are applying to be a Back-end Developer, be sure to write about your skills in Python, PHP, and LAMP.

7. You listed your duties instead of your accomplishments

This is a common and critical mistake that is so easy to make. The person who will be reading your resume and evaluating your work experience doesn’t care what your current job description is — instead, they want to know why you made that such a valuable position. You should describe how your technical contributions helped the company grow and improve, not just list your day-to-day duties.

8. You use the same resume for every job application

A generic, one-size-fits-all resume is more obvious to the hiring manager than you might think, and they will likely not be very impressed to know that you put no special effort into applying to their particular job posting.

This goes back to catering your skill set to the job in question. Make sure your read and reread the job posting to ensure that you are addressing each skill they are looking for in a candidate and highlighting it on your tech resume.

9. You skipped proofreading

Finally, take the time to proofread! Have a friend or colleague read over your resume after you’ve finalized it to ensure there are no spelling or grammatical errors. Do not rely solely on spell check, especially when it comes to those pesky developer tools that have odd capitalizations and spellings. Remember, it’s “JUnit,” but it’s also “jQuery.” You can utilize tools such as Stack Overflow to ensure you are spelling these technologies correctly.

There are a couple of tricks you can use to ensure you avoid spelling or grammatical errors. One is to read your resume in reverse. This forces you to read each word individually, which helps your brain catch any mistakes that you might have otherwise overlooked. Similarly, you could also try turning your resume paper upside down and attempting to read it this way as well.

By making it more of a task to read your writing, you’re making your brain work harder to comprehend each and every word, which helps you do a more thorough job of proofreading.

Your resume is the hiring manager’s first look at who you are—don’t let it be the last. By taking the time to perfect your resume and avoiding common mistakes, you’ll increase your chances of making it to the next round of the hiring process, and one step closer to your dream job.

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