15 Tips for Creating the Perfect Tech Resume
The following was adapted from the new Vault Career Guide to the Internet and Social Media.
“A powerful resume should leap off the page saying, ‘Me! I’m the one you want to hire!’” advises software engineer Gayle Laakmann McDowell in her book The Google Resume: How to Prepare for a Career and Land a Job at Apple, Microsoft, Google, or Any Top Tech Company. She says that every line in these documents should have value and contribute to convincing the employer to hire you. That said, below are 15 tips from McDowell and others on creating the perfect tech resume.
1. Focus on accomplishments. Focus less on your job duties in your last job and more on what you actually accomplished, with an emphasis on tangible results (increased app sales revenues by 20 percent, developed software that reduced costs by 10 percent, etc.).
2. Quantify results. Avoid saying general things like “improved customer satisfaction,” “increased company profits,” or “reduced number of bugs.” Instead, provide quantifiable metrics that demonstrate how your work helped your company save money, reduce costs, improve customer service, etc.
3. Target your resume. Gone are the days of sending one generic resume to hundreds of companies. You should target each resume to the specific job listing and company.
4. Don’t get too technical. Technical terms, sales and marketing slang, and acronyms that are commonly used at one company may be like a foreign language to recruiters or hiring managers at other companies. Make your resume universally understood by using industry-recognized terminology and explaining anything that recruiters might find confusing.
5. Be concise. We’ve all heard the stats about hiring managers tossing resumes that have just one typo. Although tech companies tend to be more forgiving, that’s no reason to submit a grammatically incorrect, misspelled, and otherwise poorly presented resume.
6. Be clear, and structure your resume well. Try to think like a recruiter when creating your resume. Provide the information recruiters want so that they don’t throw your resume in the trash pile. For example, if you worked as a software engineer at a top company such as Microsoft or Intel, stress the company name rather than your job title, since that will impress the recruiter the most.
7. Ditch the “objective.” Use an Objective in your resume only if you are straight out of college or want to bring attention to the fact that you want to transition to a new role (for example, moving from a position in software engineering to one in sales). An Objective can also be a drawback because your stated job interest (mobile software developer) might convince the recruiter that you’re not interested in other lucrative and rewarding positions (user interface engineer, Web developer, etc.) he or she needs to fill.
8. Don’t be vague in your “summary.” If you use a Summary section, be sure that it’s filled with key accomplishments (backed up by hard numbers), not vague pronouncements about your detail-oriented personality, strong work ethic, etc. Some people rename this section “Summary and Key Accomplishments.”
9. Think accomplishments over duties. Work experience is a key component of your resume, but it should not feature a comprehensive list of all the jobs that you’ve held (especially if you’ve worked in the industry for years or had many jobs). List the most important positions that will show the hiring manager that you’re qualified for the new job. Provide the largest amount of detail for your current or most recent job (or the one that is most applicable to showing that you’re qualified for the new position). Be sure to list your accomplishments, rather than just job duties. Again, think about what the hiring manager wants to see to convince him or her to call you in for an interview.
10. Minimize your “education” as you gain experience. Professional experience matters more than education in the tech industry, but it’s important that the Education section effectively conveys your educational background. If you have a nontraditional degree that recruiters may not be familiar with, be sure to offer a one- or two-sentence description of the major. Recent graduates should list their GPA only if it’s at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale (of course, omitting your GPA may raise a red flag with the recruiter). Recent graduates should also list any college activities or awards that they believe will help them land the job, but they shouldn’t list everything they did while in school. Finally, the rule of thumb is that the Education section shrinks as you gain experience. Eventually, it will simply list the bare essentials such as university name, location, dates attended, degree earned, etc.
11. Don’t forget the skills. Tech workers should be sure to include a Skills section on their resume. This section should list software expertise, programming languages, foreign languages, and other applicable skills, but it’s a good idea to skip basic skills (such as Microsoft Word) that many applicants have. The key is to list skills that will help you land the job.
12. Go big, and keep the little for later. When considering what to include on your resume, focus on the “big,” and save the “little” for the job interview. This means you should detail big, eye-catching accomplishments such as new products and technologies that you helped develop, major employers (such as Google or Amazon) that you worked for, major customers that you interacted with, and increases in sales, profits, or productivity that you contributed to. Be ready to provide the details regarding these accomplishments and background information during the actual interview.
13. Use keywords. At its employment web site, Microsoft advises applicants to detail on their resume how their experiences (leadership roles, work duties, school activities, etc.) helped them to grow as a person and as a professional. This is a good approach, since you always want to show that you are evolving as a person and eager to learn new skills. Also, use keywords that match those listed in the job announcement. For example, if you’re applying for a position in e-marketing and search engine optimization, then your resume should include these terms. This will help you get noticed by resume-scanning software and advance past the first screening stage.
14. Use your name. If you send your resume as an attachment, don’t name it “resume.doc” or “resume.pdf.” That’s the surest way for your resume to get lost among the thousands of other submissions. Instead, name the file starting with your last name, then your first name, then the date. And add the job identification number if one is available.
15. Use tools and follow the directions. Some companies such as Microsoft offer resume-building tools for job applicants at their web sites. These tools will help you determine what you should and should not include in your resume. Be sure to use these tools, if offered. And follow instructions to the letter. Google, for example, requires applicants to submit their resumes in PDF, Microsoft Word, or text formats. It also requires that all application materials for U.S. jobs be submitted in English.
To read more about tech resumes (as well as cover letters and how to find a job in the tech industry), check out the Vault Career Guide to the Internet and Social Media.