After Hours

10 things you should know about creating a resume for a high-level IT position


This list is based on the article "Eight resume tips for the experienced IT pro." It's also available as a PDF download.

Building a resume that targets an upper-level IT position, such as architect or consultant, requires a different approach than creating a resume to land an entry-level tech job. Although many of the standard rules still apply, you need to follow some more specialized guidelines. In fact, a few of these tips may actually contradict your previous notions of what your resume should include (and exclude).

#1: Keep your list of "core skills" short and sweet

When you've worked with a lot of technologies, you want to show the world all you've done. However, having a long list of core skills actually gives the impression that you know only a little bit about most of those things and that you're a generalist, not the specialist that the potential client/employer needs. Keep this list to a handful of key skills or possibly eliminate the list altogether.

#2: Don't list certification exams

At the very least, minimize the impact of a cert list. The average IT pro might want to list exams passed to build up a resume, but for the IT veteran, this actually marginalizes real-world experience and accomplishments.

#3: Quantify projects and results

For example, if you do an Active Directory implementation, specify how many sites, domains, and servers were involved. If you designed an e-commerce system, specify the increased percentage of sales that resulted from the project. Tell the potential client/employer exactly how you helped a previous company you worked for.

#4: Take advantage of bullets

Don't use paragraph style writing to describe your projects, tasks, and duties. Bullet-point every major accomplishment or project and leave out the minor things. (Your resume is already going to be too big anyway.)

#5: Include examples of work, if possible

For instance, maybe you've written articles for an online magazine or built an e-commerce site. Include links to pertinent examples so that potential clients/employers can see firsthand what you do.

#6: Highlight major accomplishments

If you're a high-tech consultant, you may have a lot of smaller projects and clients. Maybe you were hired as a "grunt" for a couple of short-term assignments but had a major project last year. You can't exclude the small stuff or potential clients/employers will question what you've been doing. But you can minimize the impact by focusing attention on the bigger things. Some ways of doing this include using a slightly larger font, boldface, or italics, or even drawing a thin border around the major accomplishments. But don't go overboard -- subtlety is still key.

#7: Seek advice from actual managers

Recruiters, agents, brokers, and human resource personnel are all different from managers. Managers want to see results, and they usually know how to spot a weak candidate. If managers think your resume reflects someone who can't do the job, you'll never get anywhere. Run your resume by some managers you know and have them critique it for you.

#8: Know when to stop

If you list all your experience from all the jobs, contracts, or projects you've handled, your resume will be more like a book. Find a place to stop listing your experience. If you feel you must at least acknowledge previous experience, try making a separate section and just bullet-point where you worked and what your title/function was. Of course, you'll usually want to do this only for the less-accomplished jobs that you don't want to highlight on your resume.

#9: Make sure your design is simple, attractive, and readable

As with any resume, you should use a clean font such as Times New Roman or Arial. Be consistent in your use of boldface, underline, or italics to help lead the reader through the document and avoid contrived graphical elements.

#10: Edit, revise, and proofread

Experts suggest that a resume should go through three to seven drafts before it begins to reflect the multidimensional individual on a piece of paper. Be grammatically correct, spell-check the document, and have someone else proofread your resume carefully.

3 comments
rbhaskher
rbhaskher

Very Good. But you could have added one sample resume format which can exemplify the article.

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

The first thing in your list should be "KNOW YOUR MARKET" ..... Item number 7 (Seek advise from managers ...) is the key item. I'll use Toronto as an example. As you've hinted ... managers and headhunters (internal or otherwise) ... are looking for different things. You've explained what managers are looking for quite clearly. However, the headhunters are looking for tag words and the RIGHT format (read my way or the highway) and most of all - a little (predetermined) box they can slot you into. Unless, you can bypass the headhunters and deal directly with the managers, writing a resume for the managers will bring nothing but heartache as the gatekeepers rip your hard work to shreds and demand that you rewrite to their format. Now, 10 years ago, I would have said that your advice would work in Toronto. 20 years ago I would have said that was the only way. If you could get the resume on a manager's desk it would be scanned and if interesting, forwarded to HR for contact. If you couldn't get it on a manager's desk, there were always external headhunters who could. These people handled both sides of the market and were often former managers and/or technicians. A good one understood the market, the technology relationships and the duties of different jobs. Today, in Toronto, it won't work. Why? Today, the manager will just send it over to HR. Effectively, the process has reversed. HR scans the resume, decides who is interesting and then forwards their best guess to the manager. And the external headhunters have been gobbled by the big companies. Now, you'll contact a person who deals only with hiring and they'll come out of an HR background. They won't understand the market, won't know the technology beyond the buzzword let alone the relationships and believe that a job title accurately describes the position. All of which means that if your resume doesn't fit into the buzz-word list and isn't in the format they think is best then it'll never get to the manager's desk. Not a good thing for any one ... but that's the reality in the Toronto market (I'm not going to go into the why but there are reasons for the change). In short, you need to be aware of your audience before taking advice like this. And your audience is determined by the market you are in. You may need multiple resumes ... one that you send to the HR types and one to hand to the manager. Only by knowing your market will you know what you really need.

Wayne M.
Wayne M.

As a slight variation on PMP'sicle's advice, write a new resume for every job applied for. Make sure the resume addresses every skill, technology, or experience level raised in the job description. The job description will serve as the checklist for HR to get your resume passed on to a real reviewer. As long your work history provides a reasonable validation of your stated skill set, it is likely you will get to an interview.