Tech & Work

Cut the fluff from your resume

When composing a resume, IT pros with a lot of experience seem to get carried away. Your resume should be brief and highlight experience that is directly related to the job you're applying for.

Over the next couple of days, we'll be going over some resume tips. (Later this week, I'll also run the results of our poll for IT managers as to whether they read the Summary/Objectives part at the top of resumes.)

Resumes can be difficult to get right, especially if you fall into one of two groups:

  • Those with so much experience that it's hard to focus the resume.
  • Those with too little experience who need a way to disguise it.

Today, we'll give tips for the former -- the IT pro with too much experience who needs help with putting it all in the right light. Tomorrow, we'll cover how to write a resume that downplays lack of experience.

Since the attention span of resume reviewers is notoriously short, you need to make sure your resume is not too long. Your resume's goal is to bring your expertise to the attention of the person looking at it. Make sure information like companies worked for, job titles, and timelines are prominently displayed. Bulleted points that briefly describe duties and results are better than long paragraphs. You should keep each bulleted graph to two or three lines.

A resume rule-of-thumb is to limit it to two pages as a maximum length. If you feel that you must provide extensive details about a job, put them on a separate piece of paper and present them at the interview.

Fight resume fluff. Everything needs to build toward something, and you should be prepared to defend anything you've committed to print.

With your resume, 80 percent should focus on results produced in each job, with the remaining 20 percent dedicated to duties and responsibilities. For example, this statement:

Reorganized and restructured the mid and back office support teams resulting in a 20% reduction in personnel.

Could be rewritten like this:

Saved $235,000 annually ($705,000 since 1999) with 20% headcount reduction by reorganizing and restructuring the mid- and back-office support teams.

Always try to add quantifiers when you can. If your project saved the company money, mention it. If it finished weeks early, mention it. Any time the results of your actions can be mentioned, do it.

Last, always tweak your resume for the position you're applying for. If you're an IT generalist but you're applying for a sys admin job, you don't need to spend a lot of time describing desktop publishing skills.


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

to the last paragraph, well pretty much. Always tweak your resume however ignores the reality of job boards. Love them or hate them, there you are not targetting a particular job but a recruiter muppet. They don't understand most of it, what they do, they are usually wrong about. For a job board, you want inclusive statements. Omissions of 'irrelevant' experience and skills, will simply mean you don't come up in the word search and you'll have to do all the targtetting yourself. That doesn't sound too bad, but they don't put the thing on there until they've gone through their current crop of cv/resumes. If they get enough 'hits' you won't see it, to aim at it. I do recomend tweaking but only to get a newer version on their radar as they simply cut older ones out of the search. Oh and before anyone says anything daft like I shouldn't use job boards. I don't, employers do as soon as they use recruiters....


You are in the unique position of being a college student who has been able to obtain jobs (not interns or workstudy) and have been able to take on many duties and responsibilities? And that's my issue of sorts. So, literally, I have a 5 page resume, that was narrowed down from a 6 page resume. And because my jobs have been varied in different work environments, I can't really see a way to narrow it down to a max of 2 pages; there's just no way for me.


Having a 5 page resume is useless if the prospective employer only reads the first 2 pages. I skim over history throwing in relevant acronyms and successes along the way. Then I follow up with training classes attended. A custom cover letter showcases how parts of your experience fit the requirements in the posting. For instance, if the req seeks enterprise network experience, throw in relevant history in similar environments. Make sure that this cover letter hits on a group of particularly strong matches that will separate you from the 450 other candidates shotgunning resumes at two or three keyword hits.


My CV has a list of skills, grouped into such categories as "languages", followed by highlights of my work history, then a quick list of qualifications. The list of skills takes up most of the first page, and the whole comes to just about two pages.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

at five pages especially if you still haven't got your first post grad job, cut is what you must do though. You resume servers two purposes, it get's flagged as containing some buzzwords by the recruiter muppets, and it hopefully get's read by a hiring manager. Very very very few of them are going to go through five or six pages, to get to the meat. If they haven't seen something of note, by page three, your well worded, well laid out report of your activities will go directly into the trash. Just as an indicator I've been employed since 81, and my cv/resume just creeps over to four pages. Can't say without seeing it, but you might want to cut a bit of the how out. Shift Records Clerk Scunthorpe Rod Mill 14/01/1981 - 31/07/1987 The company manufactures coils of various diameter wires. Initially taken on a YTS scheme which gave me a basic understanding of general clerical work in a heavy industry environment, I was employed as a shift based VDU operator, entering despatch & production information to the computer systems. I was chosen as a ?super user? when the new HP Business system was implemented replacing the existing ICL one. This along with beginning an under graduate program with the Open University resulted in my next appointment within the business in the IT department. The above is the waffle for my oldest and therefore in principle in IT, least relevant role. if you have had several similar small roles, lump them up. Target what you say about them, towards the sort of thing you are aiming at. If you haven't, daren't or can't really zero in on a career choice, do a few versions and emphasise the relevant. Chapter and verse should be reserved for interviews. Try a version, see how many hits you get, if it doesn't get many, change it. This is not a science, there's no right answer, I can say for definite, that expecting a hiring manager to read The Life and Times of RayJeff may be a dream too far. HtHs Note some impractical fools will tell you to target each individual job opportunity. That can work given preparation, but it's utterly useless on something like a job board such as Monster. After all if you've specificlly targetted employer A role B, then you've missed everything else.

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