6 Tips For A Standout IT Resume
The keys to making a mark with your IT resumé are outlining your skills well, demonstrating them through experience, optimizing for keywords, refining your professional online presence, preparing for remote work and leaving out the unnecessary.
Your resumé is your professional first impression. So, it’s important for job seekers in any industry to keep theirs accurate, sleek and up-to-date.
But for technical IT types, writing a resumé can be a unique challenge. Some might find it easier writing code than good things about themselves.
That’s why Techopedia sat down with expert technical recruiters -- to find out what makes an IT resumé stand out from the pile. We spoke to:
- Hera Tahir, Senior People Partner at AltaML.
- Kerry Shackett, Assistant Director of Network and Talent Development at Champlain College.
Here’s what they identified as the top attributes that set an IT resumé apart:
1. Don’t Skimp on Skills
“Resumés for the tech field are often highly focused on industry skills,” Shackett says. “This can include highlighting specific software expertise, programming languages and systems, troubleshooting experience or key tech tools that may separate you from other candidates. Make these stand out! They should be listed in the top quarter of your resumé.”
Tahir also says a "soft skills" section is one of the most important things to include on an IT resumé.
"[Soft skills are] often neglected and candidates forget to talk about the soft skills they bring to the table," Tahir says. "A section that not only lists skills but provides concrete examples of how those skills have been demonstrated goes a long way in getting noticed."
2. Show; Don’t Tell
Shackett stresses that IT resumés should focus on "tangible experiences that directly relate to the job at hand.”
In other words, a good IT resumé doesn’t just outline the skills you have; it shows how you’ve used them.
If you have past experiences working in tech, your resumé is the place to highlight them. But if you don’t, Shackett says, “Course work, whether from a formal classroom or an online course, can absolutely count as experience. In your resumé, create a ‘Project Work’ or ‘Course Work’ section, highlight the course, then expand on what you learned, what challenged you [and] what you learned and achieved. Including this type of work can be just as impressive as a professional experience to a tech recruiter.” (Also read: 9 Reasons to Go for a Data Science Course.)
3. Consider Your Keywords
Three out of four resumés never reach human eyes, according to CNBC. Instead, they’re filtered out by an “applicant tracking system” or “ATS,” a widely used type of software that often employs artificial intelligence to automate resumé scanning.
To get past the ATS, you’ll want to ensure your IT resumé is scannable and optimized to keywords in the job description. Tailoring your resumé according to SEO best practices can help with this. (Also read: A Step By Step Guide to SEO for Web Devs.)
But keywords aren't just important to beat bots -- they're also key for when a human is reading your resumé.
"Most recruiters jump-read IT -- and even non-IT -- resumés," Tahir says. "This means that instead of reading information as sentences, they jump from keyword to keyword, looking to see if the candidate has the relevant skills and experience the hiring manager is looking for. It's a good idea to bold your keywords to make it easier for the reader."
4. Go Digital
LinkedIn profiles have become their own form of IT resumé. It’s widely cited that six people are hired every minute on the platform, and since “Information Technology and Services” has been the most popular industry on LinkedIn since 2019, there’s more opportunity -- and more competition -- than ever for IT pros online.
So, spruce up your LinkedIn profile according to best practices and be sure to link to it at the top of your IT resumé. Shackett also recommends prominently featuring your “...virtual portfolio, blog, or other web based-location [where] you host any of your work or projects.”
5. Get Camera-Ready
By now, it's no secret remote work is here to stay.
A 2022 study by The Conference Board of Canada found only four percent of organizations are requiring employees to return to the office full-time, so it stands to reason that virtually any role you apply for will entail some level of working from home. (Also read: Bye Bye Boss, Hello Office of the Future: 2022 Coronavirus Edition.)
This workplace evolution extends to the hiring process as well. Eighty-two percent of employers now conduct interviews virtually, according to Indeed's 2021 Hiring Trends Report.
The gist? Polishing up your Zoom interview skills and outlining examples of asynchronous collaboration capabilities on your IT resumé is invaluable.
6. Leave Out the Unnecessary
"Less is more" absolutely applies to your IT resumé.
Although it can be tricky determining what counts as "relevant information" for your recruiter, Shackett urges you to "Save the interpersonal skills for your achievement statements or cover letter."
"While it may be great to tell an employer that you have strong 'problem-solving skills,'" she continues, "they are going to want to see these skills in action -- whether that be in a description of a project you worked on or a time that you worked with a challenging team."
Moreover, the following information are seldom required in the contemporary recruitment landscape:
- Marital status.
- Mailing address.
- Postal/ZIP code.
- Salary history (unless requested).
And finally, you can leave off skills pertinent to obsolete technologies or processes. DOS programming and GWBasic are not as valuable skills today as they used to be, and highlighting them might make you look behind the times.
The Benefits of Having an IT Resume
"Essentially, all IT jobs require an IT-specific resumé," Tahir says.
Because recruiters will likely spend less than 10 seconds scanning your document (if it reaches them at all), the skills and experiences you choose to highlight should be tailored directly to the industry -- or, better yet, the job -- you want to work in.
"Make sure to use your resumé space wisely," says Shackett. "Highlight skills, experiences, and directly correlated elements versus generic experiences such as, for instance, an unrelated summer position."
Shackett goes on, "For example, if the job requirements ask for a candidate with skills in system administration, and you have direct skills and experience in that realm, create a category called 'System Administration Experience.' This can help alleviate a clunky and long-winded 'Professional Experience' section."
When done right, your IT resumé will call to attention the necessary skills you have to land the job instead of burying them in unrelated clutter.
Why IT Resumes Are Different
IT skills can be a little harder to translate into words than skills relevant to other industries. Luckily, though, they are often easier to quantify -- an important feature of well-done IT resumés, according to Isabel Nyo, senior software engineering manager and author of "Nail That Interview: Tips on Nailing Remote Interviews at a Tech Company."
"For example," Tahir says, "instead of describing an achievement as, 'resolved help desk tickets,' you might say 'reduced help desk ticket solution time by 20 percent.' The latter has a greater impact and highlights your contributions."
Tahir also underscores the importance of making your IT resumé readable -- and impressive -- to technical and non-technical types. (Also read: The Work of a Technical Writer.)
"IT resumés typically consist of more technical information. Because of this, it's important to have both technical as well as non-technical language on the resumés as the resumé will likely be read first by non-IT folks."
Plus, Shackett encourages you to underscore why you want to work in tech.
"Recruiters, especially in the tech industry, want to see that you enjoy the industry," she says. "Can you highlight any passion projects -- perhaps you build computers for fun or developed a software or automation system that makes scheduling your homework assignments easier -- or perhaps project experience from a class?"
A great IT resumé substantiates, with data, all of your relevant skills and shows you care about the field you're in. Yes, that means writing one can be complex -- but getting it right is worth the effort.
IT is a competitive field, and that can make harder to stand out from the crowd. Your IT resumé can help you do that -- if you do it right.
The keys to making a mark with your IT resumé listed above are an ideal place to start. But the bottom line, Shackett says, is this:
"Think of your resumé as a chapter book. How can you create strategic category titles to help the reader naturally follow along to your experiences and skills?"