Looking for a new challenge in your tech career, you tap into your network connections and scroll through more job boards than you can count. Now, a collection of open tech roles calls your name. Faced with revising your (possibly outdated) resume, you wonder just how quickly you can press those apply buttons. Is there enough time to tailor your resume before you do?
Do you even need to tailor it?
Odds are, the first time a recruiter sees your resume is the first time they learn anything about you, from your name to latest accomplishment. And much like an in-person interview, first impressions matter—especially since you have mere seconds to grab the recruiter’s attention.
Likewise, in the case a resume-screening bot scans your resume before a person does, you’ll want to make sure it captures the most important details relevant to the role.
So, if you’re ready to take on a new role stat or pressed for time, we’ve got a few simple ways to make your resume pop and keep you competitive.
First, gather the most important info
Dig into job posting details
First things first: Read the job description closely before you start updating your resume. Take note of the language used as well as role-specific skills and technologies listed. Your goal is to tweak your resume to include these keywords (no bluffing allowed) to both show that you’re a good fit and let the employer know you understand what they’re looking for in a tech candidate.
For example, if a job description emphasizes building responsive web interfaces leading a team that owns end-to-end delivery, then you should draw attention to any related experience in your summary or work experience section.
Get familiar with the company
Research the company, from its website and social media to recent news mentions. Specific things to look for include company mission and values, culture, achievements and goals. Read over the career webpage to see how employees collaborate and celebrate successes as a team. Many companies even have dedicated career pages and blogs just for tech, like Atlassian’s engineering hiring page and technology blog.
More than picking up on its vibe as a whole, aim to uncover the philosophies and culture within engineering and product. For instance, WP Engine, a leading WordPress digital experience platform, stays true to a “fail fast and improve” methodology, which fuels a culture of testing. If you’re applying to a company with the same mindset, your resume is a great starting place to communicate how your approach aligns with its culture.
Know current industry trends
A quick search on tech job market trends, like recent Indeed research on tech labor market changes from 2014 to 2018, can lead you to making more impactful decisions that shape your job search journey for the better. Trends give insight into employer demands to help recruiters find you—a recruiter that’s sourcing tech talent could very well be running boolean searches using trending roles or skills.
By being aware of trends, and assuming you have the related experience, you can tailor your resume to include those keywords, thus increasing your visibility and landing you closer to the top of recruiter searches.
For example, Indeed data shows that employers are seeking fewer web developers from 2014 to 2018, however, full stack developer tops the list for employer demand. If you have both front-end and back-end development skills but have been calling yourself a web developer, maybe it’s time to claim the title of full stack developer.
Tailoring your resume where it counts the most
If you don’t write a cover letter to accompany your application, use the summary to communicate details that don’t pertain to any other section. Should you choose to include a summary, it can go immediately below your header (i.e., your name and contact information) and should be kept relatively short—three sentences, more or less. It allows you to touch on key points that can help you stand as a top choice and/or communicate what you’re looking for in your next role.
Are you a new computer science graduate launching your career in mobile app development? Have you grown into a hands-off technical management role and are looking to flex your coding muscles once again? Shifting from engineering to product management?
Know where you want to go in your tech career, and identify the skills and strengths you need to take you there. Of those skills, which are you most experienced with that align with the job requirements? What are your top strengths that tell the recruiter you’re a great fit for the role?
Then, tweak your summary to include the skills and strengths the employer wants most in a new hire. Meaning, just because you’re an expert Java coder doesn’t mean that’s what you should emphasize if you’re shifting to a role that doesn’t use Java.
For example, if you’re moving away from software development and applying for a game development role in C++, you might say: “Inventive software engineer with five years of extensive C/C++ experience developing high-performance web applications. Seeking an opportunity to build rich gaming solutions and engines from the ground up for engaging gameplay experiences.”
A list of your technical skills should go directly after your summary section or in a sidebar. These little nuggets of gold need to be prominent to help recruiters quickly connect the dots between role requirements and your expertise. After all, since a recruiter only has seconds to skim your resume, you want to make sure they pick up on what makes you qualified, and fast.
Keep in mind, your skills section is the perfect place to highlight technical (hard) skills, like programming languages and frameworks, software and databases—soft skills can be played up during the interview.
Pro tip: Start by creating a master list of all technical skills you have experience with, and jot down your proficiency level for each. Reference this list when reading over a job description to pinpoint which of your skills match the role’s required and preferred skills.
When it’s time to build out your skills section, avoid including every skill you’ve ever used. The idea behind tailoring your skills section is to include those you’re confident in that are most relevant to the role.
Once you know which skills to include in your resume, either rank your skill set to be clear and upfront about your expertise or categorize your skill set for easy readability. In ranking your skills, you can include your proficiency level for each (i.e., beginner, intermediate, expert) or incorporate visual aids, like bar or pie charts. Keep in mind, job-related skills (the skills absolutely needed to get the job done) should be at the top of the list.
For example, if you’re applying for a data scientist role and choose to categorize your skill set, your skill section could look something like:
Languages: Python, R, SQL, C/C++
Technologies: Hadoop, Hive
Skills: Machine learning, data modeling and visualization, statistical analysis, algorithms
The work experience section is where you can dive deeper into specific accomplishments to drive home the idea you’re a good match. And much like how you can create a master list of your technical skills, consider creating a list of your workplace experience to streamline the process of tailoring this section. That way, you can quickly pick and choose which bullet points to include based on each individual job description. You should also feel free to modify specific bullets from the job description with your metrics.
Ideally, quantify each bullet point to show how you’ve made a real impact, signaling you can do the same for your next employer. Use action verbs to maximize your impact. And as a general rule of thumb, organize your bullet points according to what will impress the most.
Now, look back at the job description. What does the company emphasize it wants in a candidate? Is it looking for a digital product UI designer, and (as a bonus) one with a client-first approach working on iOS apps? If you were to have this experience from a previous role, you would want to showcase it in your first bullet point using real numbers and figures.
Example: “Implemented push notifications for five enterprise iOS apps, increasing user retention 35% within six months.”
Including a cover letter with your application gives you the chance to emphasize high-level experience and how you would drive results as a great culture fit. For this reason, you should always customize your cover letter rather than rush through a choppy copy and paste job. Instead, fill it with meaningful details can take you from applicant to top candidate.
If you attach a cover letter to an application, skip adding a summary to your resume. This will save valuable space on your resume best reserved for additional skills, experience and education.
One application and expert resume advice—for free
Impressing the recruiter is the first step in landing your dream role, and breaking free from a cookie-cutter resume is key to showing what you’ll bring to the table. But a helping hand never hurts, which is why we offer free resume reviews and 1:1 technical career coaching sessions.
Seen helps you reach your potential with opportunities that meet your role, location and salary preferences, and you won’t even have to tailor your resume—one application to get matched to hundreds of companies across 90+ cities. Sign up today and connect with a career coach for resume reviews, mock interviews, salary negotiation tips and more to find your perfect match.