Wednesday, May 10, 2006

tech resume tips

By Justin Silverton

Here are some tips that may help you when you apply for your next tech job:

Top Ten Technical Resume Writing Tips

  • List your technical knowledge first, in an organized way. Your technical strengths must stand out clearly at the beginning of your resume. Ultimately, your resume is going to be read by a thoughtful human being, but before it gets to that point it often has to be categorized by an administrative clerk, and make its way past various sorts of key word searches. Therefore, you should list as many directly relevant buzz words as you can which reflect your knowledge and experience. List all operating systems and UNIX flavors you know. List all programming languages and platforms with which you're experienced. List all software you are skilled with. Make it obvious at a glance where your strengths lie - whether the glance is from a hiring manager, a clerk, or a machine.
  • List your qualifications in order of relevance, from most to least. Only list your degree and educational qualifications first if they are truly relevant to the job for which you are applying. If you've already done what you want to do in a new job, by all means, list it first, even if it wasn't your most recent job. Abandon any strict adherence to a chronological ordering of your experience.
  • Quantify your experience wherever possible. Cite numerical figures, such as monetary budgets/funds saved, time periods/efficiency improved, lines of code written/debugged, numbers of machines administered/fixed, etc. which demonstrate progress or accomplishments due directly to your work.
  • Begin sentences with action verbs. Portray yourself as someone who is active, uses their brain, and gets things done. Stick with the past tense, even for descriptions of currently held positions, to avoid confusion.
  • Don't sell yourself short. This is by far the biggest mistake of all resumes, technical and otherwise. Your experiences are worthy for review by hiring managers. Treat your resume as an advertisement for you. Be sure to thoroughly "sell" yourself by highlighting all of your strengths. If you've got a valuable asset which doesn't seem to fit into any existing components of your resume, list it anyway as its own resume segment.
  • Be concise. As a rule of thumb, resumes reflecting five years or less experience should fit on one page. More extensive experience can justify usage of a second page. Consider three pages (about 15 years or more experience) an absolute limit. Avoid lengthy descriptions of whole projects of which you were only a part. Consolidate action verbs where one task or responsibility encompasses other tasks and duties. Minimize usage of articles (the, an, a) and never use "I" or other pronouns to identify yourself.
  • Omit needless items. Leave all these things off your resume: social security number, marital status, health, citizenship, age, scholarships, irrelevant awards, irrelevant associations and memberships, irrelevant publications, irrelevant recreational activities, a second mailing address ("permanent address" is confusing and never used), references, reference of references ("available upon request"), travel history, previous pay rates, previous supervisor names, and components of your name which you really never use (i.e. middle names).
  • Have a trusted friend review your resume. Be sure to pick someone who is attentive to details, can effectively critique your writing, and will give an honest and objective opinion. Seriously consider their advice. Get a third and fourth opinion if you can.
  • Proofread, proofread, proofread. Be sure to catch all spelling errors, grammatical weaknesses, unusual punctuation, and inconsistent capitalizations. Proofread it numerous times over at least two days to allow a fresh eye to catch any hidden mistakes.
  • Laser print it on plain, white paper. Handwriting, typing, dot matrix printing, and even ink jet printing look pretty cheesy. Stick with laser prints. Don't waste your money on special bond paper, matching envelopes, or any color deviances away from plain white. Your resume will be photocopied, faxed, and scanned numerous times, defeating any special paper efforts, assuming your original resume doesn't first end up in the circular file
Finalizing Your Resume
  • Resumes should be concise and in a manageable document length.
  • Your Name and Page Number should be located on every page, just in case pages become separated while in the hands of the prospective employer.
    (The Name and Page number can be in the Header or Footer part of the resume, or at the top of the page using a smaller font size, to avoid distracting the reader. Page Numbers can be written as: Page 2, Page Two, Page 2 of 3, or Page Two of Three.)
  • Do not put a photograph of yourself on the resume. Potential employers will not be hiring you based on your looks! However, International candidates will need to send their scanned photograph to the Systems Integration Solutions, Inc. International Department representative along with the final formatted resume.
  • Type your resume in a word processing document and back it up on a disk. Updating your resume then becomes easy. If you are not a typist, ask a professional to type it.
  • Use one typeface such as Times New Roman, Arial, or other traditional typeface. The standard font size is 11 point. Headers may be increased to 12 point.
  • Margins should be no less than one inch on sides, top, and bottom. The white space serves as a border and keeps the resume from looking cluttered.
  • Avoid underlining within the resume narrative. If you have written the statements well, they will need no further emphasis.
  • Always do a print preview of each page of your resume, to view the layout and spacing.
  • E-mail your resume document, with a short introduction letter to your Systems Integration Solutions, Inc. contact. The document can then be opened, printed, and distributed to clients.
  • Laser-print your completed resume or have it professionally typeset.
  • Give or mail an interviewer your resume printed on an off-white, tan, or light gray quality bond paper. Never give them a photocopy of your resume.


  • Great tips! :)

    By Anonymous Ivan Minic, at 4:45 AM  

  • Why is it bad to use 'I' in a resume? I know nobody does it but most people are also poor writers. Using 'I' can often help clarify or make what's being said more forceful. I bet if someone actually read a resume with first person pronouns it would read better and get some more attention. Running around with subject-less sentences is just going with the flow of mediocrity. Ever take an English class in college? Fear of first-person pronouns is mocked and recommended only for government documents. No exaggeration.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:34 PM  

  • No picture? Are you an ugly guy or what? ;)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:34 AM  

  • I'm such a stud that if I did put a picture on my profile..it would melt your monitor. I'm only protecting my readers.

    By Blogger justin silverton, at 9:03 AM  

  • These tips might be OK for a purely technical résumé, but normally the other details like marital status and hobbies can provide insight into your personality. E.g. If you're married with children, you're probably more interested in sticking with one employer for the next 5 years, whereas young single people are more likely to leave after 12 months to try out something else more interesting. If your weekend hobby is playing classical piano, that tells me you're probably very self-disciplined. If your weekend hobby is WoW, you're probably ADD.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:54 PM  

  • "E.g. If you're married with children, you're probably more interested in sticking with one employer for the next 5 years, whereas young single people are more likely to leave after 12 months to try out something else more interesting."

    You realize that this form of discrimination is illegal in most states, right?

    By Anonymous Eric B, at 11:47 AM  

  • His comment is purely an abstract of human behavior. Families tend to project the notion of being more "settled". You can also tell the single guy "Listen, I'm looking for somebody who's going to be here for at least a few years, not just get another notch in his belt and jump ship right after the Christmas bonus"-- is this a form of discrimiation or are you just passing on expectations?

    Also, how about "BS in Electrical Engineering Required" ... Is it right to discriminate based on lack of education? Maybe there's a secret handshake you learn when you get your diploma and the only way into the building is to do this handshake.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:20 AM  

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