Writing a resume isn’t easy, especially if you have a unique work history, employment gaps or if you lack a cohesive career story. If you struggle to land an interview, keep your resume concise or if you can’t figure out which skills to leave off your resume, you aren’t alone. Here are 10 tips for helping your IT resume stand out.
1. Hone your cover letter
You might not consider your cover letter as part of your resume, but it’s just as important. Your cover letter complements your resume, giving you another avenue for cohesively conveying the value you can add to the hiring organization. A thoughtfully crafted cover letter can help shed more light on your resume and experience before your interview, while also introducing your communication skills and personality to hiring managers and recruiters.
“A cover letter is a candidate’s chance to tell the story behind the standard resume that hiring managers see all day, every day. It’s where you can connect with the hiring manager, and display interest in the role and the organization,” says Kevin McCarty, CEO of West Monroe Partners. “Most importantly, show how your skills and experiences will benefit the company.” Doing so will help frame your resume in the most favorable light.
2. Craft your resume to match
The job description and the resume form a kind of call and response. So, before you fire off your resume, take time to make sure it answers what the job description seeks as an exemplary candidate. But to truly stand out, you’ll need to push further than simply the job description. You want to customize your resume for the company you’re applying to as well, says Mani Goulding, career coach and owner of Career Passion Limited.
“Research the company to get a good sense of their company culture and values and what their current business challenges are. Then go back over your work history to highlight the areas that directly connect to their challenges and showcase how you are a good fit for their business environment,” she says.
3. Navigate those gaps
Significant gaps between jobs can be difficult to explain on your resume. But you should never lie about the dates of your employment — instead, “reframe it in a positive light,” says Goulding.
“For example, if you left work — either voluntarily or otherwise — and have a gap in employment, you can discuss how you spent the time on personal development to upgrade your skills, or perhaps that you needed to attend to personal family matters,” she says.
If your gaps aren’t extreme and you have a bulk of work experience, Nate Masterson, HR manager for Maple Holistics, suggests focusing on your tenure, “which is more important anyway, since it highlights your experience.”
4. Make the most of your executive summary
If you struggle with being concise on your resume, take advantage of an executive summary, which you can include up top. An executive summary can help you avoid getting too in-depth on your technical expertise.
“Provide the highlights of your experience across a range of technical categories such as certifications, hardware, operating systems, networking and protocols, office productivity, programming languages, web applications and database applications. Be sure to highlight only those applications that are relevant for the position, and that you can comfortably expand on in an interview,” says Goulding.
An executive summary gets straight to the point by highlighting all your relevant skills and accolades in one spot at the top of your resume. Include your areas of specializations, a quick snapshot of your work history and your biggest accomplishments.
“Think of it as your business card and personal branding,” says Goulding.
5. Show, don’t tell
It’s a cliché for a reason. Demonstrating your expertise and experience is always more engaging and valuable than simply listing it. If you’re unsure how to “show not tell” your skills and experience on your resume, Goulding says to focus on your “impact and contributions.”
“When companies hire, they are looking for people to solve problems,” she says. “What problems have you solved, and what was the result?”
For example, if you led a software implementation and it resulted in a direct costs savings or productivity increase, include the numbers to showcase your direct contributions.
“It’s more effective to showcase the impact and contribution you have made through your work efforts over the years. Be as specific as possible in what you’ve achieved,” she says.
6. Keep your skills current
Skills change fast in the tech industry, so you want to make sure that the skills included on your resume are relevant. And you’ll need to continue growing your skills with your career, so you’re on top of job market trends.
“There are plenty of tech-related positions that need to be filled; however, many of them require mastery of specific skills and tools. For instance, if you know Python and Java, know the basics of web design, and understand data analysis, employers will jump at the opportunity to hire you. That being said, it’s important to continue your education and evolve alongside the market,” says Masterson.
If you notice job descriptions ask for skills you’re lacking, try finding an online class or look into getting a certification to update your resume. It will show hiring managers that you have a commitment to learning and advancing your IT career.
7. Back up your degree and skills with experience
If you are early in your career or are just entering the workforce, your degree alone isn’t enough, but internships and certifications can help boost your resume. If you’ve spent time working — whether in technology or outside of the industry — include all relevant skills and experience from past jobs or from your side projects and hobbies.
“Employers are constantly looking for workers who can keep up with the ever-changing market. If your skills can meet market needs, your experience can complement your abilities,” says Masterson.
8. Focus on the past five years, with some exceptions
Since technology changes fast, it’s more important to emphasize the past five years of your career, says Goulding. “Recruiters will pay close attention to the last five years of your work history, so provide more detail on your most recent job experience,” she says.
However, if the job you’re applying to requires more than 10 years’ experience, that’s a good reason to dig deep into your work history.
“If a job requires ten years of experience, then I like to see more than ten years of work history on your resume. I also want to look at positions from earlier in your career that applies to the job you are applying for,” says Ian McClarty, CEO and president of PhoenixNAP Global IT Solutions.
9. Don’t forget your soft skills
With companies constantly on the hunt for workers with the latest IT knowledge, it’s easy to get caught up in sharing your technical skills. But your soft skills are just as important, so don’t forget to emphasize your communication skills and your ability to collaborate, and to demonstrate your emotional intelligence.
“The biggest mistake tech workers make on their resume and during the interview is to not pay attention to the soft skills that they have acquired. In many cases demonstrating that you have a collaborative working style and have highly evolved EQ skills can trump technical skills to get you the job,” she says.
10. Show your personality
It might sound counterintuitive, but you want to avoid being overly professional on your resume. Inject a little of your personality into your resume or cover letter to stand out against other candidates. You can include hobbies or interests that show you’re a well-rounded candidate who can bring a fresh perspective to the company.
“Adding hobbies to your resume gives your profile personality which can be appealing to hiring managers. Blogging about your professional experience or hobbies is especially constructive and effectively illustrates your work ethic, creative ability, and positive personality — and who doesn’t want that in an employee?” says Masterson.