Resume dos and don'ts for IT pros

Tips for creating a resume employers will notice.

The key to creating a resume that will catch the eye of beleaguered IT employers is to avoid the natural inclination to provide an exhaustive list of technical credentials. Instead, focus on the business benefits those skills could bring to a prospective employer.

Human resources professionals overwhelmingly agree that explaining in clear, quantifiable terms how specific technical skills could benefit an employer is one of the most crucial aspects to designing an effective resume in today's stagnant job market.

"The first page of a technical professional's resume is often devoted to a laundry list of every technology that person ever touched," says Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of staffing firm Robert Half Technology, in Menlo Park, Calif. "The person who is getting the job is the person who can say what they can do with those technologies. You've got to be as focused on what you can do for them as what you expect them to do for you."

For example, a career objective stating that a candidate is interested in "a challenging career with a dynamic company with potential to grow" is ineffective; it does not detail what the applicant can do for the company, says Robbie Miller Kaplan, author of How to Say It in Your Job Search.

Instead, the resume should explain how the applicant can develop or deploy technologies that will cut costs, boost revenue or otherwise contribute to the company's bottom line, Kaplan says. Then, the applicant should explain in an achievement statement how his unique experience and skills can help a company meet those goals. This can be done by detailing career achievements that had quantifiable benefits, such as "designed and supervised the deployment of a VPN that connected 50 offices and saved $500,000 per year in telecommunications costs."

"[Companies that are hiring] have problems, and they want to know you can solve them," Kaplan says. "They want to know you can come into the organization and hit the ground running. Resumes are still the primary tool that employers use to screen potential candidates. If they receive a resume, and they cannot tell whether the applicant has the qualifications that match their requirements, they are not going to look for [evidence of those qualifications]."

Although it may be painful for applicants, they only should list experience and technical skills relevant to the job they are seeking, as opposed to including every project ever worked on and all jobs since high school, Kaplan added.

For applicants seeking IT management jobs, it is crucial to include detailed, quantifiable descriptions of management experience obtained at previous jobs, said Joseph Terach, partner and co-founder of resume development company Resume Deli, which is based in New York.

"Don't say, 'wrote computer program.' How large was the program? How many people did you manage? By what percentage did you improve efficiency?" Terach says. "You need to think about what did I really do on a day-to-day basis? Did I do all of it, or did I delegate? Did I hire people, or did I train people?"

Finally, applicants need to be sure they follow directions given by the potential employer for submitting a resume. Not following directions is a sure way for a resume to be quickly discarded, according to recruiters.

"If I put up a job posting for a network system analyst Windows 2000 Active Directory position and say, 'Please include a [Microsoft] Word attachment with a brief description of your background and your salary requirements' -- most people can't even do that. They'll put it in a different format," says Jason Kreuser, corporate technical recruiter at New York-based business intelligence and integration vendor Information Builders. "The first step is getting through the resume door -- if you can't do certain things to make us interested, you won't … even get a chance to interview."

Consider the following tips, suggested by career experts, to help your resume stand out from the rest:

  • List your skills in order from strongest to weakest.
  • Use bullet points to break up text-heavy sections.
  • Use numbers as much as possible to quantify results, as opposed to demonstrative adjectives.
  • Avoid phrases such as "served as" or "responsible for."
  • Be brief and to the point about your educational background.
  • List professional affiliations, career awards and authored papers.
  • Use two different fonts in the resume, one for name and address and major headings and another for the body of the resume.
  • Use a 10-, 11- or 12-point font for the body text.
  • Unless you're seeking a job in academia, keep your resume to one or two pages.

MORE ON THIS TOPIC:

>> Katherine Spencer Lee is speaking at Data Center Futures 2003 June 4-6 in Chicago.

>> Recruiters can help you in your job search – if you pick the right one.

>> While you're waiting for that interview, heed this advice for making due with your less-than-perfect job.


This was first published in May 2003

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