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I write extensively about technology resumes and careers. I see other resume writers providing the same advice, so I decided to focus on practical “no fluff” information that you can put to immediate use. I won’t waste your time trying to market to you. Enjoy!
We work with clients from the geekiest software developers to IT Directors. We have posted resumes for many job titles including Architects, Analysts, Project Managers, Program Managers, IT Managers, CIOs, CTOs, Support Specialists, Developers, etc. Typically only the first page is provided.
In recent months, I have seen an increasing interest in career shifts to data engineering. This is not surprising given … Continue reading →
Ilan Uzan transitioned from being a DBA and ETL developer to a Data Engineer. His combination of skills included data pipeline management, data quality, and database development so data engineering was a natural fit for him.
Jessica Elm was a software engineer who was bored to tears and was worried that her skills were getting outdated. The combination of her open source contributions and recent classes helped her skill set shine through so she was able to move on to a Lead Software Engineer using Python.
As a Data Scientist, Alexander Mecca built a successful data science team. The company transitioned to an innovative mindset and adopted good data practices enterprise wide. He was ready to advance his career by becoming a senior leader in an analytics driven organization. We worked together to enable him to move forward with his career.
Many job seekers flood their IT resumes with so many deep technical details, tools, and technologies that it’s difficult to distinguish their achievements separate from the technology they used. While it’s important to include your technical capabilities, you’ll want both technical hiring managers and nontechnical HR managers to understand what you’ve done. A good practice is to select your top 5-6 tools that are most important in your job search and then integrate those tools into your professional development section. Add your remaining tools and technologies to a section titled “Technical Profile” or “Technology Skills.”
Here are examples of robust achievement statements.
♦ Developed a hybrid strategy to keep costs down; used data center hardware with SAN deployment for high-availability data, and cloud-based storage with Amazon S3 and Box.com for backup and archival.
♦ Applied analytical process, as Site Manager, to plan and design new components for complex, multi-tier application suite with $1.6 million annual budget. Enabled administrative staff to perform technical activities such as data manipulation, data management, and data exchange.
Mistake #2: Resume Length
When writing their resume, IT professionals will often rely on the advice they read for nontechnical resumes, advice that doesn’t necessarily relate to their circumstances. One case in point relates to the length of their resume. For IT professionals, it’s often not realistic to limit a resume to 2 pages.
Technical Detail: Your resume needs to appeal to both HR managers and technical hiring managers. For HR, you should include what you did and why you did it. For technical hiring managers, you should include how you did the work, and the technical processes that you used.
Certifications and Professional Development: There are few industries where ongoing certifications and professional development are as crucial.
Technology Profile: Hiring managers want to know with which technologies you have current skills and recent experience. Even if you remove the old technologies, most IT professionals still have a long list of tools, processes, and methodologies to include.
Career Directors International , a noted career association, found that 3 pages are fine as long as the content is valid. If the reader likes what they read on page 1, they’ll move on page 2, and so on. You may irritate a small minority of resume readers but you can’t make everyone happy. Furthermore, applicant tracking systems don’t care about the length of your resume.
Mistake #3: A Dated Career Brand in Your IT Resume
All too often, I see technical resumes that still focus around the theme of saving time, money, and other resources. Although this might have been a persuasive way of branding yourself several years ago, that is no longer the case. IT is “expected” to save money, and lots of it, by streamlining processes, consolidating databases, and eliminating redundancies. So why would you want to make it the primary theme in your resume?
Within the current competitive marketplace, businesses want to be agile and responsive to rapid change. They want IT to be a partner in enabling them to identify new market opportunities, identify new innovations, and develop a competitive strategy. This means that an IT professional who can go beyond the standard value statements — improve business processes, fix hardware and software issues, and improve security to mitigate threats — differentiates themselves from the pack.
To stay at the forefront of the IT industry, job seekers need to continually reevaluate their career brand. Now, more than ever before, their resume needs to demonstrate how they provide the value that truly matters to a business.
Mistake #4: Outdated Tools and Technologies in Your IT Resume
One of the most common mistakes I see is when IT professionals leave really old technology in their resume because they aren’t sure what to remove. The obvious answer is to remove anything that is no longer used. After that, it becomes less obvious.
There are 3 primary career paths for IT professionals:
♦ those that focus on emerging or very current technologies
♦ those that focus on high-legacy technologies, such as COBOL
♦ those that are somewhere in between, bridging the gap between high legacy and emerging.
The technologies that you include in your resume depend on your current path. Some older technologies are still widely used today. Where these technologies overlap with your experience and ability, you’ll need to give it some careful thought. There are employers who do care about your ability to program in COBOL. But do you want to be a COBOL programmer again? Most companies have legacy systems that someone has to operate, maintain, and enhance. If you decide to stop chasing technologies and step back from technology’s leading edge, that someone could be you. It’s a choice, but be clear about your motivations. It will impact your career.
Mistake #5: The Wrong Format for Your IT Resume
There are two resume formats that can be used for technical resumes — chronological and hybrid. IT hiring managers want to know what you did, for whom, and during what time frame, and they’re typically focused on the last 7-8 years of employment. They want to understand the technical environment in which you worked, including the size and complexity of the IT department. This means that functional resume formats that are designed to minimize any existing job and skills gaps are not a good choice for technical positions.
The reasoning behind this is that there are few industries that have changed as radically as technology, so describing an achievement in 2013 has a completely different technical and business context than something that was achieved years earlier. For those of us who remember Y2K, it was about bit sizes for storing dates; nowadays, we’re taking about the real-time analysis of big data with the velocity and volume of unstructured data in the gigabits.
Mistake #6: Discount Important Business Knowledge
IT professionals tend to discount their business applications knowledge. They see their value in terms of expertise with tools and technologies, with only a brief mention of aligning the outcome of their project with business goals.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Knowledge of business applications is every bit as important as your technical knowledge. It should command space on your resume.
Consider, for example, a healthcare employer who is seeking a database developer for their claims management systems. You have lots of Oracle experience, but the employer uses SQL Server. If you only mention technology, your resume will be lost in the crowd. However, when your resume also describes your claims processing experience, including the fact that you have worked extensively with Common Electronic Data Interchange (CEDI) for Medicare claims, you now stand out from the crowd. The wise employer knows that it is much faster, easier, and cheaper to teach an Oracle developer to work with SQL Server, than to teach a SQL developer about the healthcare industry.
Mistake #7: Too Modest About Achievements
Many professionals in IT are quite modest about their achievements so they tend to include only the barest details on their resumes, which are typically just about the technical results. With so many projects being implemented by thousands of other IT professionals, this does not make them stand out from the crowd.
When an IT professional goes beyond just the end result and instead thinks in terms of how they were able to achieve the results within a challenging business and technical context, then they become unique. IT resumes that tell a straightforward story that connects with both the value to the business and the value to the technical environment, and to team efforts, are memorable. Oftentimes, this story begins with why the project was funded.
Mistake #8: Doesn’t Describe Your Actual Job Role
IT departments have never done a very good job of using titles that actually relate to what a person does, and they certainly haven’t kept up with all the changes in technology. I frequently see IT professionals trying to “live” with the title they were given, despite the fact that it is a complete mismatch for their actual responsibilities.
For example, the title of IT director can cover a wide range of responsibilities depending on the size of the organization and their technical initiatives. One IT director might have a small 2-person shop and perform the role of a Systems Administrator and IT Project Manager, while the other person might manage 30+ staff members and work at the CIO level. This conflict needs to be resolved in the resume, without misrepresenting the facts.