10 Tips to Writing an IT Resume that Sells

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Your IT resume may be good; it may even be great, but there are several ways you can fine tune your resume to make it stand out to recruiters and hiring managers.

An important thing to remember when applying for a position is that your resume is usually first looked at by some sort of human resources rep or an administrative clerk. These individuals are looking for specific "buzz words" that show you may be qualified to get an interview.

Remember, they could go through hundreds of resumes in a day so you want to make sure you have the right information that will make them put yours in the hiring manager's inbox.

I'm going to explore some techniques in this article that will get your resume noticed right off the bat.

Once you get pass human resources, you need to make sure your resume will pass the second test, which is the scrutiny of the hiring manager.

"Buzz words" won't cut it when it comes to the hiring manager because this is the individual that is going to take a good long look at your resume.

Now, when I say long, I mean longer than human resources but not an excessive amount of time, because the hiring manager is probably just as pressed for time too.

So, you want to make sure you get the most relevant information and convey it in a way that makes the hiring manager say: "I need to get this person an interview."

The two things I want you to keep in mind when writing your resume are:

  • what should I include in my resume to get it passed on to the hiring manager, and
  • what should I include in my resume so that the hiring manager gives me an interview?

With that in mind, let's examine my 10 best tips to make your IT resume sell.

1. Use an Eye Catching Resume Design

You have to get your resume looked at and the best way to do it is to have an eye catching design.

For most of the article I will be deferring to my own resume as I recently was looking for a job in the IT field, and obviously have attained one with Train Signal. The headings on my resume are listed in bold.

I've included a brief description of what should be covered under these headings.

OBJECTIVE: To obtain a full-time position in the area of information technology.

The objective section is short and to the point. Just make sure that it applies to whatever job you are trying to get. If you are applying for a tech support position your objective shouldn't say “A position in sales or a related field.”

EDUCATION: Where and When I went to school and the degree I obtained

Now a lot of people don't think that the education section is as important as other sections, but I feel that you want to let a potential employer know what your education level is.

Simply putting where and when you went to school and the degree you obtained is short and to the point. A hiring manager can glance at that and realize you have enough training or education to be considered for the job.

Even if you haven't been in school for quite some time, it is still important to show your education level. It should look something like this:

Fake University, Rolling Meadows, Illinois (August 2004 – May 2008)

B.S. in Management Information Systems, May 2008

That's just two lines but it gets your point across.

The information in the last three headings should all be bulleted and you should try to keep each bit of information to no more than two lines to maintain a consist format and to stay concise.

PROJECTS, ACCOMPLISHMENTS, SKILLS: Software expertise, projects I've worked on that would translate well to the position I'm applying for, any work related awards that accentuate my qualifications

LICENSES and CERTIFICATIONS: Certifications I've obtained that would be beneficial to the job I'm applying for

WORK EXPERIENCE: Company and position name. Brief description of the responsibilities of my position.

Under your Work Experience heading you should start with your current position or your most recent job if you are not currently employed. Your first entry should look like this:

10 Tips to Write an IT Resume that Sells - 1

Subsequent entries should look the same way.

Notice that the headings are bold and in all capital letters. This helps anyone scanning the resume to quickly locate specific information. Also, the bullet points are a must to make your resume professional and easy to read.

You should also make sure your formatting is error free. Are you using consistent fonts? Does everything align correctly? Is there anything that looks odd? Every small detail must be taken care of.

2. Create a Quality Page Header

I definitely could have put this under the eye catching category, but I feel like this is such an important part of formatting your resume that I wanted it to be a category unto itself.

A header is easy to create and it is a great way to include all of your pertinent contact information without taking up much space.

To create your header in Microsoft Word 2007 you want to go to the Insert tab and select Header.

10 Tips to Write an IT Resume that Sells - 2

Once you are in the page header you can choose the style you want to use and type in your information. This tab has a lot of interesting options for you to use, but the only thing I'll use it for is to edit the page header.

I just want to put certain information in here. Here is what my header looks like:

10 Tips to Write an IT Resume that Sells - 3

This only takes up a single line and shows how you can be contacted by mail, phone, and email. Again, this is just one more technique you can use to get your pertinent information in your resume in the most efficient way possible.

3. Detailed and Efficient Content

The biggest problem I've encountered when creating my resume is not compromising detail, while at the same time remaining as efficient as possible.

If you've read any of my articles (including this one) it's pretty apparent that I'm incredibly long winded, so it's difficult for me to condense everything I need to say. However, this is essential when it comes to building your IT resume.

Here is an example of a possible skill set you may have:

  • I am able to create a database in Microsoft Access
  • I can create and use Excel spreadsheets
  • I can create documents using Microsoft Word
  • I've used Microsoft Outlook quite a bit

You definitely want to represent the fact that you are able to use these applications but you need to be able to condense this information into one line. The best way to show this information is:

  • Expert knowledge of Microsoft Access, Excel, Word, and Outlook

It's important to note the wording I've used here. "Expert knowledge" is two words that completely convey that "I know how to use these programs as good as anybody".

This brings me to the next section …

4. Beef Up Your Verbiage

It's important to make sure you say things in a way that conveys your information in the most attention grabbing way possible.

Here's an example of a project you may have worked on:

  • In charge of making an Oracle database

This is a great piece of information but it just isn't conveyed in a way that jumps out at you. Here's what I think stands out a little more:

  • Spearheaded the creation of an Oracle database for business use

To me, this just sounds so much stronger than the previous line. You really took charge by "spearheading" the project and you give some insight into the project by showing it was for business use.

Again, it's all about putting down the best information possible without taking up too much space.

Some other great descriptive words you can use include:

  • Efficiently …
  • Well acquainted …
  • Proficient in …
  • Actively worked to …

5. Prioritize Content

This is something that you have to do if you want your resume to make it past the human resources department.

Study everything you can about the job you are applying for, the company itself, and think about what the people doing the hiring will be looking for. Then tailor your resume to fit this profile by prioritizing your content.

If the job you are applying for is a Junior Administrator position with a company using Windows Server 2003, then make sure the first thing listed under the Skills section is the work you've done with Server 2003.

If you list this information at the bottom then it may not even be seen! Don't lose out on a shot at an interview because the skills that would help you get the job are buried at the bottom of your resume.

You should constantly tweak your resume to make sure what you have at the top is the most relevant information to the job you are applying for.

6. Tell the Truth!

You'd think I wouldn't need to put this in here, but it's got to be said. You have to tell the truth!

Do not put that you spearheaded a project if you watched everyone else do the work and put your name on it. Do not say you are an expert with Windows 2003 Server if you're not even sure what it is.

There is a difference between tweaking your resume to remain current and viable, and lying to get a job. Don't even tell a little fib because it will eventually come back to haunt you.

7. No More than 1 Page (If Possible)

This is pretty self explanatory but I want to qualify what I mean.

Even if you are just entering the work force it is difficult to keep your resume condensed to one page. But, if you follow the above formatting steps you will have a much better chance of having a one page resume.

Hiring managers don't have time to rifle through two or more pages and a lot of times you will get your resume tossed out without so much as a look if it is more than one page.

There is an exception to every rule and this rule is no exception (read that again, I'm pretty sure it makes sense).

If you've been in the work force for, say, 20 years, you're going to be hard pressed to condense your entire career into one page. At that point two or more pages may be the only solution to make sure you don't leave anything important out.

Just make sure you do everything you can to keep the size of your resume manageable.

8. Don't Sell Yourself Short!

I think this is one of the biggest problems that people have when creating a resume.

Have confidence in yourself. I'm sure at some point when you were growing up, a parent or a teacher told you that it's not polite to brag.

On your IT resume you have to brag about yourself a little bit.

You need to show all of your relevant strengths and abilities, and you need to come across strong and confident. If you can't show how good you really are, then how will you be able to help the company you're trying to be a part of?

9. Keep Out the Stuff You Don't Need

Let me give you a quick rundown of what I mean. You do not need to list:

  • Marital Status
  • Age
  • Irrelevant associations and memberships
  • Previous pay rates
  • Irrelevant recreational activities
  • Etc.

Make sure your content falls under the above headings and keep everything else out. You probably don't have room for this unnecessary information anyway.

10. Proofread! Proofread! Proofread!

Proofread your resume until you know it is perfect. Then, proofread it again.

Have a trusted friend proofread it too. Someone you know who will pay close attention to the details and will make suggestions to you. Don't give it to that friend that's going to glance at it and say, "Yeah I love it."

Also, if you can, have someone that has recently gone through an IT job search take a look at your resume and give you suggestions. They can proofread it and give you ideas on formatting that may work better for you.

Bonus Tip: Make It Your Own

Remember, these tips are things that have worked for me and others, and are just suggestions.

You have to put a little bit of your own style into your resume, while adhering to the basic format of what a professional resume should look like.

With that in mind, good luck with your IT job search!

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Zach Monroe

Zach Monroe has a B.S. in Business with an emphasis in Computer Information Systems and a Pre-Law minor from Eastern Illinois University. He has experience in many different areas, including construction of large scale Oracle databases, coauthoring and publishing business plans, and working as a licensed insurance agent, senior customer service representative and trainer for a major insurance company. He was also involved in nonprofit work for Big Brothers Big Sisters, designing and implementing databases and front end software using Visual Basic. (A+, MCTS)