IT Resumes: Think Twice About the Advice You've Been Given

A recruiting manager with an IT staffing firm warns IT professionals to use the resume advice they get from the local employment office, outplacement firms and professional resume writers at their own risk.

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Thu, July 01, 2010

CIO — Recruiters, professional resume writers and other career experts give out tons of advice on how best to write a resume that will stand out from the competition. Their intentions are noble—they want to help people land jobs—but the problem with their advice is that it doesn't always apply to IT professionals and the nature of the work they do, says Shana Westerman, a recruiting manager with IT staffing firm Sapphire Technologies.

"People go to the unemployment office or they go to outplacement resume writers who don't give advice that is applicable to the IT field," she says.

Westerman notes that IT resumes are different from resumes for professionals in other fields because IT workers have to capture a range of skills—both technical and functional—on their resumes. Because technology changes so rapidly and because so much IT work is project-based and involves "so many moving parts," generic resume writing advice can do a great disservice to IT professionals, says Westerman.

Westerman sees first-hand how generic resume writing tips play out on IT professionals' resumes. She screens, on average, 300 resumes per day searching for IT workers to place with her clients, who are IT line managers and executives at large and midsize companies looking for contract and permanent employees. Westerman says many of the IT resumes she gets from job seekers are too short on specifics for her and her clients' needs. When she finds a candidate whom she thinks would be a good match for a client, she says she often has to ask the candidate to beef up his resume with more information about his skills and experience.

"You're not going to meet with a [hiring] manager if your resume doesn't get you the meeting. Your resume is the one and only tool that gets you an interview," says Westerman.

She adds that even when she advocates for a particular candidate, the client still wants to see on the candidate's resume all of the capabilities she's mentioned. "If they don't see what I say on the candidate's resume, their interest will wane," Westerman notes.

Here, she shares the generic resume advice IT professionals should run from.

1. Your resume should not exceed two pages.

Westerman's views on IT resumes are as much influenced by the complex nature of IT jobs as they are by the competitive labor market. She believes that the recession and the multitudes vying for tech jobs has changed the nature of IT resumes. The IT hiring managers Westerman serves aren't interested in short summary documents, she says. They want details, details, details, and often that means a three- or more page resume.

With so many people applying for IT jobs, Westerman says her clients want to be able to make informed decisions about which candidates are worth interviewing based on a resume that communicates the technologies with which an IT professional has worked, the depth of experience they have with each technology, the size and scope of the projects on which they've worked, and how they achieved various accomplishments, she says.

"They look for details so they don't have to make assumptions about what people did," Westerman says of her clients. "They want to see in black and white that certain skill sets are definitely held by this person. They want to be crystal clear on what this person is capable of doing and what they've done in the past."

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