15 Tips to Create an Impressive Tech Resume

Blog Barista: Jess Carnacchi | Jan 23, 2019 | Career Hacks | Brew time: 7 min

According to LinkedIn, the average recruiter spends six seconds reviewing a resume. SIX SECONDS. That’s just enough time to pour yourself a cup of coffee, let alone convey your entire work history to a complete stranger. For folks working in the tech industry (such as developers, business analysts, and project managers), effectively communicating your experience can be even trickier. So, how do you make sure your resume stands out in six second or less?

With the bulk of my experience as an HR Rep/Recruiter taking place within the technical industry, I’ve seen it all when it comes to resumes–resumes addressed and written for a different company, some written in size six font with margins at 0.25”, and even some that have a grand total of 50 words. While these resumes stood out, they’ve done so in the wrong way. While I’m sure every recruiter or HR representative will tell you something different, here are the top 15 items we pay attention to when hiring for technical positions.

1.  The One-Page Myth

Thinking back to when you needed to create your very first resume, what was the number one thing you were taught? Keep it to one page, right? Wrong. Unless you’re a fresh college graduate, limiting your resume to one page could potentially hinder you. And even then, to properly convey all the experience gained by participating in academic projects and work history is difficult to do in one page. With that said, try not to create an eight-page novel either. If you have 10 or less years of experience, try sticking to a two-page resume.

2.  Presentation Matters

One of the simplest things you can do is make sure your resume is easy to read. The last thing an HR rep or hiring manager wants to do when sorting through dozens (if not hundreds) of resumes is search for the necessary information. So, make sure that you have an appropriate amount of white space, all sections are properly identified, and the font is easy to read. Also, old trendy fonts lack originality, so please refrain from using Comic Sans. Not only will these changes make it easy for the person reviewing your resume, it also demonstrates your wicked awesome organizational skills.

3.  Bullets vs Paragraphs

If you were handed two pieces of paper, one formatted primarily with bullets and the other formatted in only paragraphs, which one would you grab first to read? Probably the one with the bullets, right? Of course! Bullets are way easier and quicker to read. So, with only a few seconds to make an impression, why not make your (hopefully) future manager’s job a little easier. Bullets provide for better skimmability allowing hiring managers to get as much information as possible in as little time as possible.

4.  Reverse Chronological Order

An oldie, but still important goodie. Organizing work experience in reverse chronological order (most recent experience first) is the most commonly used format in resumes. Therefore, hiring managers and recruiters are used to seeing it this way which means by not organizing it this way could throw them off. Also, your most recent experience will usually have the most relevant information to the job posting which is what they are looking for.

Side note: Reverse chronological order is based on the end date of employment, not the start date. Which means if you have two projects running simultaneously, the project that ends last will be listed closer to the top of your resume.

5.  Education

Whether you place the education section of your resume at the beginning or end of your resume, is up to you. Just as long as it’s easily spotted.

Despite what most of us were taught at the college career center, there’s no need to put in the year(s) in which you graduated. Recruiters care more about your degree/graduation than the date. Plus, the date can “age” you, which can unknowingly set you up for age discrimination. That said, an exception to the rule would be if you’re currently enrolled at a college or university. If that’s the case, I’d recommend adding an expected graduation date, i.e., “Expected Graduation May 2019.”

When it comes to GPA, there’s also no need to add that to your education section. The longer it’s been since you graduated, the less important it becomes. Hiring managers value hands-on experience over grade point average.

6.  Follow Suit

Keep it consistent, especially when it comes to past/present tense. If your previous job experiences are described in past tense, then make sure to do that with your most recent position, even if you are currently employed there.  Also, once you choose whether to format your resume in bullets or paragraphs, pick one and stick to it. Alternating between the two can make the resume look sloppy.

7.  One Size Doesn’t Fit All

When recruiters and hiring managers are viewing resumes, they’re looking for specific experience that relates to the required qualifications in the job postings. Customizing your resume to include the experience that specifically fulfills the qualifications makes the recruiter’s job even easier and takes the guesswork out of it. Plus, it helps identify you as a more qualified candidate and a person that does their research.

8.  Lead with Your Strengths

Under each position, order your accomplishments and responsibilities by significance and relevancy. In general, recruiters typically don’t read past the first five or six bullets, so placing that information at the top will mean it’s more likely to be read.

9.  Show Me the Data!

Numbers and data speak volumes. If the data is available, try adding it to your bullet points. Stating, “decreased processing time by 40% for all daily runs” is much more description (and impressive) than simply, “decreased processing time.”

10.  Don’t Spare Me the Details

When describing a technical project, it’s helpful to provide a brief, 1-2 sentence description of the overall project objective prior to listing responsibilities and objectives. This will also help the recruiter understand your role on the project a little better.

11.  Let the Tech Talk

Provide a list of the technologies used for each project/job experience. Especially if you’re a developer; be descriptive and list the languages, frameworks, libraries, tools, etc. This helps hiring managers understand the experience you bring to the table, as well as how much experience with each technology you may have.

12.  The Cover Letter Debate

While not mandatory in most cases, cover letters are a great opportunity to provide more information about yourself, explain any employment gaps, and showcase your personality. Plus, a good cover letter can give candidates a slight edge over the others. BUT, if you are going to submit a cover letter, make sure it’s not boilerplate content that is submitted to every employer. Recruiters can smell that from a mile away, and it could even penalize you.

13.  Proofread, proofread, proofread.

I’ll say it again, proofread. And edit. I’ve seen resumes get pushed aside for simple grammar mistakes such as “lead” vs “led,” missing words, and run-on sentences. Even if you’re in a hurry, don’t skip this ever-important step.

14.  Submit a PDF

There are countless applicant tracking systems out there, and each one’s resume intake is slightly different. To make sure the recruiter isn’t staring at wonky formatting and unable to find the content you worked so diligently on, save your document as a PDF prior to submission.

15.  Choose Your Words Wisely

If you were to look in my “Downloads” folder on my computer, you’d find separate documents entitled “resume (1)” through about “resume (20).” Remember, every detail counts. Should a recruiter or HR rep need to download your resume, make sure they can identify it as yours rather than blending in with the 20 other folks saved in their files.

Time to Take Action

With just six seconds to make an impression, all the little details make a big difference. And while I could spend hours discussing the nitty gritty of resumes, the above list compiles the items that will carry the most impact. Master these items and you’ll be on your way to getting noticed in five seconds, instead of six.

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