IT Employment

Your resume will be tossed if...

Want to avoid getting your resume tossed in the trash right off the bat? Here are some tips.

What if you only had 30 seconds to convince a virtual stranger to give you a job? That might seem like the plot of some surreal suspense movie, but it is actually what you are doing every time you send out your resume. And that may even be a generous estimate.

In fact, a recruiter or a hiring manager will most likely do a 10-second glance at your resume just to look for reasons to throw it in the trash. That's disheartening I know, but there are ways to avoid getting your resume "typecasted" before it has a chance to sway someone to your favor.

A recruiter will toss your resume if...

  • It's too long. Resumes should be one page, two pages at the most. It's not about making sure you have listed every accomplishment -- it's about listing the accomplishments that will be relevant to the position for which you're applying.
  • The manager can't easily discern your list of skills on the front page. Time is short, especially for a person who is tasked with sifting through hundreds of resumes. It's not realistic to expect that person to "seek and find" your skills and achievements.
  • If it is written in paragraphs or lengthy sentences that do not lend themselves to a quick glance. Bulleted lists are your friends.
  • If it contains too many formatting tricks and a load of different fonts. It's exhausting to wade through italics and underlining and bold.

So, given the fact that you have a few seconds to get your point across -- the point being that you're qualified for the job at hand -- make sure the most relevant information is up front and in bite-sized chunks. Relevant information includes skills that fit the job for which you're appplying, and accomplishments that show you used those skills to better the companies for which you used to work.

List your education near the end. Harvard may be impressive, but what is relevant to the recruiter is if you have the proven skills to do the job he has in mind.

A good test would be to set a timer to 30 seconds and see what information you can glean from your own resume in that short time period.

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About

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.

79 comments
Sara1234
Sara1234

Lovely stuff. Many thanks for sharing this. Professional Career Change Resume Samples

Quintious
Quintious

1-2 pages? You do realize you're writing for a TECH blog, not some "fresh out of college" site, right? A veteran IT professional will use the entire first page just to list qualifications without even getting into job history. Mine is 3 pages, and I had to cut a lot out of it to get it down to that. Do better research lady. In the meantime, hopefully you'll have to be sending your resume out in the near future, as techrepublic should fire you.

jrhawk42
jrhawk42

Remember that far too many HR reps do not have much experience w/ terminology in your field. It's usually best to have your resume reflect what's asked for in the job posting. So hypothetically your resume should never be much longer than the job posting... hypothetically. Also I'm totally against the "1 strike, you're out" polices for hiring also. It seems too many good employees are weeded out due to trivial matters. So a long resume shouldn't get pitched though it's not a good reflection on the employees ability to be concise.

Brenton Keegan
Brenton Keegan

"If it contains too many formatting tricks and a load of different fonts. It?s exhausting to wade through italics and underlining and bold." What's 'too many' in this case? It you don't use enough, your resume can be hard to read.

jnewsom
jnewsom

I am an I.T. Director for a small company. We don't have an HR dept. and do not use recruiters. I read stacks of resumes myself. Prospective applicants should understand that when reading resumes, I look for reasons to reject them. This is necessary to strip the pile to manageable numbers. Off the top of my head, here are some things that make me throw out a resume: 1. Any spelling or grammar errors. 2. Any crappy, confusing or cutesy formatting. 3. Unreadable fonts. After formatting issues, 4. The person does not have the required education, skillset, or experience. Many people ignore the job description we spent a number of hours concocting and send in their resume anyway. (No, it does not say 20 years of server 2003) 5. If I cannot tell whether the person has the required education, skills, or experience. At this point, the pile is smaller. I then narrow it down to a few strong candidates to call for phone screens and that's it. By way of example, strong candidates do not say stuff like this: "Responsible for daily backup and recovery operations." Reading this sentence tells me nothing about how they carried out that responsibility. A strong candidate says something like this: "Researched, advocated and implemented new backup procedures which shrank the backup window by 50%, saved 10 hours per week and improved our ability to recover from catastrophic failures."

mjstelly
mjstelly

... you don't stand out. Period. I've talked with many people: hiring managers, recruiters, industry pundits. I was a hiring manager at one time. One thing I found is certain - people are fickle. What they want to see in a resume' varies with the individual. I've floated so many styles of the same content to so many different folks and not one of them agreed on any particular one. Here is an example of what I call the "extreme Reader's Digest condensed version" resume from Manager's Tools http://www.manager-tools.com/2005/10/your-resume-stinks. Mark and Mike swear by it. I did it, then ran it by some local recruiters who hated it. The best one can do is to hit a generic middle ground, which of course does nothing to help you stand out, and hope it catches the person on a good day. Especially now that the labor statistics show an average of 6 people available for every job opening in the US.

davee106
davee106

Mine has always been 2 pages. Page one should be your 30 second commercial. Give a 2-3 line summary of your qualities. Then a bullet list of your skills. then your most recent position. The bullet list should not be one line per skill and it doesn't need descriptions. I do this list with a simple heading... TECHNICAL EXPERTISE O Certifications: MSCE, MCITP, CISSP, etc. o Programming: C++, TCL, Perl, etc. o Desktop Tools: Unix, Linux, Windows, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. If you bullet list one item per line then your resume will be way tool long Page 2 can list all your other positions with brief descriptions of your duties. This has worked very well for me. I am sure my resume is TOSSED when I don't meet at least 90% of the requirements. But I have had many calls from recruiters and HR managers asking for more details based on my bullet list alone. 2 pages is the perfect length. But the first page is most important.

MacAdvisor
MacAdvisor

Toni, I think you meant "display" not "discern."

cascella.mark
cascella.mark

I wish I could make my resume 2 pages, but cannot. After 30+ years, 16 jobs, and several degrees and publications, I can only squeeze it down to 3 1/2 pages. Problem is: (1) Some of my best and three longest jobs (over 5 years each) were before 1999. (2) My most relevant work is after 1999, but that is 10 jobs with 8 firms that since went bust. What is a guy over 50 supposed to do?

songdoctor9
songdoctor9

I feel that a resume is like a commercial or song, you only have a few seconds to tantalize the employers interest! Thank you for this educational awareness ! This helps continued sharpening of communication insight in writing. Respectfully, Carlos

sboverie
sboverie

I had the opportunity to go through a large stack of resumes. It is very educational to see how quickly you can be turned off by poor grammar, bad formatting and too many pages. If you were looking at less than 5 resumes, then the extra pages are helpful for the reviewer. Targetted resume is the best way to get through HRT to the hiring manager. You should also use the cover letter to highlight your qualities in comparison with the posted job requirements. Keep the cover letter to one page and be succinct. A lot of resumes are sent via email, choose a simple format that can tolerate being interpreted by different systems. It helps to print out your resume using rich text word processor followed by a bare bones text editor. A resume should be thought of as a personal business card and avoid reading like an obituary (here lies John Doe, he was a good worker and beloved by his coworkers...). A resume is to get an interview.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Most of us have to go through agencies, to get past the cut with them (often erroneously), you need to be pretty general. Mine is three pages I think (for twenty+ years) Contact info, a huge skill list, and my current employment on page one, previous listed after, less detail as they go further back. And if I did a bullet point list it would be much longer. If business wants targeted to the point resumes then they need to get one heck of a lot better at providing material to make the effort worthwhile. That's much much more than the corporate web site, which is near useless to job seekers in most cases. In the UK, there are very few that trawl through a pile of cvs, that's what they have recruiters for, and the last thing you want to do with them is cut yourself out of the picture with omissions, and over emphasis.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

My 'Twilight' note paper probably isn't going to cut it either. It's all 'Team Edward', and if the recruiter is 'Team Jacob'; boy, would that be trouble.

spencermills
spencermills

I hate this. I will be happy to reduce my resume when recruiters reduce the job description!!! "We want someone who has experience in these 12 different applications including all aspects of network management PLUS MSCE, MCITP, CISSP, etc. etc. etc." So how do you put down your experience for all the different applications and network management tasks and certifications and training sessions and presentations in 2 pages or less? If you want JC walking on water, then excuse me for attempting to demonstrate I have the knowledge and experience you want.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

My master resume runs 7 or 8 pages at present. It contains EVERYTHING from day one, and I add to it periodically. It never leaves my possession. There is no "generic" resume for me. Every resume given out is specifically tailored for the job I'm applying for. Statistical Analyst, Excavator and Heavy Equipment Operator, Accident Investigator, Computer Repair Technician, Sniper, Network Administrator, DBA, Boy Scout Leader? Only those accomplishments relevant to the position desired.

VTVagabond
VTVagabond

Everything is a sound bite now - even the printed word.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Just to show us that you can't disagree with somebody without belittling them or deciding they are incompetent? A veteran IT professional wouldn't have wasted the bits.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Or, three inches? I suggest you replace what you have with your post. See how far you get.

JamesRL
JamesRL

And we know from experience that 2 pages is the norm, and 5 will get your resume trashed. First off, I would bet all your qualifications are not relevant to every job you apply for. Do better research yourself. I know many people who will toss a 3 page resume on sight. James

stevex_1999
stevex_1999

I too used to have a very long resume. I brought it down to two full pages with bullets simply by only keeping the last seven years of employment. You may have 25+ years of experience but no one is really interested in anything other than the last five. I have summarized jobs in one line - years, company, title, location. That's it. Those of you who think your 25+ years of experience are buying you anythng but age discrimination are in a sad fantasy world. Experience, as measured in years, does not always help but can more frequently hinder. I also drop graduation dates to avoid the same age discrimination which is rampant.

Mad Mole
Mad Mole

and supply a magnifying glass free-of-charge. How about a rearrangement. Say the bulleted summary of you in 1-2 pages and a separate job history appendicised at the end. Some clever cross referencing later (usable but not distruptive to reading) and your reader should get a great overview that entices them to read the history should they need it. A suggestion - not tried and tested! I am still able to use 2 pages myself. One of the best resumes I've read was constructed with a left margin to contain factual details (qualifications etc) while the main body of page 1 was a third-person description of how the person would benefit the prospective employer citing brief examples of past achievements. Page 2 was almost totally given over to work history with any details that did not suit the margin footing that page. It was beautifully written and made me keen as mustard to employ the bloke!

JamesRL
JamesRL

Some of your best and longest jobs may or may not be relevant for the job you are applying for. As a hiring manager, I don't need the ins and outs of 30 years of employment. When applying for my current job, I didn't give 20 years of history though I could have. I provided what was relevant to what they were hiring for. Focus on your relevant work. Summarize the skillset your bring to the new employer, and skip lightly over the names of the companies, especially if the jobs you did there were essentially the same. Here is a site of a professional resume writer who is famous in his field: http://aneliteresume.com/ You can gets lots of great information there even if you don't use his services. He even gives out free consultations. He has some good resume samples. He helped me turn my resume around and get me an interview. James

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Team player who can work by himself, required skills six years in VS2010, and SLQ Server. So I should highlight schizophrenia, time travel ability, dyslexia, and any ladies competing should mention their sex change. Targetted at what is a bit of a problem isn't it?

LouCed
LouCed

Reminds me of the scene where she turns in a pink perfumed resume in purple ink. Since it's a movie, it works.

highlander718
highlander718

nevertheless, we are not reading your resume :-)

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

Show me a job description these days that isn't an alphabet soup of every buzzword and acronym in existence and I'll trim down my resume.

neale.dowling
neale.dowling

It is the recruiters perogative to write a full description to try to entice only suitable candidates. This limits the (already huge) number of resum?s that they receive, allowing them the time to maybe read one or two in full. If you don't like the long description, don't apply. If you do, and really WANT the job, better play by the rules... or risk having your remuse thrown straight to the trash. Buy hey, that's YOUR perogative.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Every job application is different, and so your resume should be tweaked to address the needs and requirements of the job description. James

drbayer
drbayer

Yes resumes are a very abbreviated list of skills and accomplishments, but that's nothing new. The 2 page resume has been recommended for at least 20 years. Think of your resume as an advertisement. You want to generate enough interest in the product (you) that the buyer (employer) wants more information. The prospective employer generally gets more information by way of an interview, at which point there is plenty of time to discuss all the information you want to put in a 5 page resume. In IT terms, you don't use a white paper to announce a technology launch - you use a press release, and those who want detailed information will seek out the white paper.

toni.bowers
toni.bowers

Everything is a sound bite or an elevator pitch. Unfortunately, no one has time for anything but the abbreviated. It's a Twitter state of mind.

steelergal00
steelergal00

If there's one thing we have little tolerance for, it's people that act like experts when they aren't. We're OK with stupidity, so long as the person realizes they're stupid. This lady here with her decades old "two pages" nonsense (in this day and age of all resumes being sent through electronic scanning first) is not only breaking that rule, but providing advice that could potentially hamper someone from getting a job. That's inexcusable.

NexS
NexS

Sure, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but there is no need for abuse...

steelergal00
steelergal00

Look at the jobs in IT these days (on the hardware side). Everybody wants a guru in Windows/Linux/Cisco/Juniper/Sonicwall/scripting/security/VoIP/wireless/providing medical care/etc. The friggin' job descriptions are almost 3 pages these days. And let's say you're looking for a job, and you have about a dozen certifications. There's 12 lines of a page right there. And then you have to list your individual proficiencies with each individual aspect of the job (ie a bullet point for security BP's, a point for systems administration, a point for firewalls, etc.). There's a whole page. And then when you get to job history, you have to not only list what you did, but start listing brand names and model numbers of the devices you worked on. Why? Because if you don't, you don't get called back. IT resumes grow very large, very quickly if you've been in the industry for a while. My resume breaks all of this author's rules, and it works spectacularly. On that same note, my S/O has a 5 page resume as an executive assistant, and got plenty of responses as well.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

of the career. Four iffy, five, instant suspicion of padding and such. It's an advert, no one sits through half an hour adverts unless it's for a selection of nymphomaniacs and contact details are on the last frame.

PurpleSkys
PurpleSkys

I'm currently enrolled in Office Administration (with a two page resume from 20+ yrs work experience that will have to be tailored when I return to the workforce) and we've been told in college not to go beyond two pages if it can be helped. Today's managers don't have the time to be reading 100+ resumes that are 3 or more pages long. In addition, I've spoken to some managers that agree with what James has said, more than a 3-pager and it won't even get a glance, straight to the trash bin.

aandruli
aandruli

Since IT managers are not 20-somethings, a tiny font is totally out. Probably a good idea to do the entire resume in bold with something like Arial to be easy to read for some managers. If a near-sighted manager is automatically tossing out any unreadable resumes, he'll look at yours.

Alvarito_UY
Alvarito_UY

Do you find a god idea to send a short resume with a link to an updated online resume? Maybe you'll read the printed version, but that's saying.. 'if you want more detail is at your fingertips' without bothering with a long, time consuming lecture. It could even help you in a 'second stage' selection process...

LouCed
LouCed

In 2003, got sent to a Jr Java programmer position. "Sorry, we want a minimum of 8 years experience in Java."

JamesRL
JamesRL

The place for every acronym and buzzword is the online job search engines. When you are applying for a job with a description, the screeners only care that you match their criteria. Your "other" experience may help in the interview, but not likely in the screening process. But you have to get picked to get the interview. James

Observant
Observant

It may the the recruiter's perogative to write a full description but it is NOT their perogative to PAD the description! I can't tell you how many times I've read "Must have 12 years experience in Windows Server 2003." ... etc. Please don't suggest that this is a typo either. I can forgive a little mistake but if the organization doesn't care enough to review their requirements (this falls on both the HR department and the hiring manager to get their story straight) they probably aren't on the ball in other areas and therefore should be avoided.

Answerfactory
Answerfactory

After 3 months of job hunting, and many many interviews( phone and in person) , I've gotten quite a bit of feedback from hiring managers and recruiters. Buzzwords related to the job description - good because you get picked up by keyword filters. Skill summary up front - big plus for the screening phase. Human eyes get tired fast. Give them what they want now. Tailor to the job requirements - Not exactly. At least in my case, it was experience not related to the job requirements that caught their eye and got me hired. Don't misunderstand me, you have to get through keyword and requirements steps first, but after that, how are you different than the 200 other people who met the requirements? Education - It's important enough to have it on your resume. Associations/Clubs - I'd leave it off. Only once did a hiring manager ask me about by Java users group membership. Work history - important, besides specific skills, going through my work history was the most common section of my resume that got attention. It's sad that on a few occasions I was set to be hired, but then go beat out by a local candidate on remote jobs, or hiring freeze( killed 3 jobs ) , or government spending cuts ( killed the opportunity that I wanted the most ) . Life isn't fair,that is for sure. Leverage everything you've got, and then some, to get the word out that you are in the market and interested in certain positions.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

But unless you're applying at Twitter, please don't write it in so-called 'l33t spe@k'.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

For every job you miss because you can't fit in the claim that would swing you an interview, you are as likely to miss one because they can't find (or can't be arsed to find it in a five pager. The real problem is focus. How can you write one cv/resume that will appeal to a recuiter, then a HR type , then hopefully an IT professional? Given the latter is probably the last person in the should I shouldn't I chain, we are quite f'ed. Seeing as I rarely know enough to accurately target a resume, I go for short and sweet, but with enough hooks to make them want to find out more. It's worked up to press.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I can condense my 35 years of hardware experience down to a single page; it doesn't take much more than that to point out that I have a degree in actual electronics (as opposed to digital electronics) with a minor in English. I can install, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair pretty much any electronic equipment, regardless of the application: computers, printers, switches, routers, scales, radios, etc., are all the same to me. That I can condense that experience into a page or two also goes far in demonstrating my communications skills. My problem is not that I don't get called, but that I am considered "overqualified", meaning, of course, that rather than hire the one person who can do the whole job, they would rather hire two people to do parts of the job. There are several other responses in this thread from different managers, most of whom agree with Toni that 2 pages is optimum. Did you read any of them? IMO, if you can't submit a resume for a particular job that condenses your qualifications for that job into two pages, it's time to retake English 101. etu

JamesRL
JamesRL

I didn't say I would throw them out, but I know people who have and do. When I was job hunting, we developed and practised the elevator speech - tell me in thirty seconds who you are and what you can do. A five page resume is like hitting the stop button on the elevator. You don't have to tell your life story on your resume. You have to tell us why we should hire you. And 5 pages says, I don't know how to focus my communications. James

Alvarito_UY
Alvarito_UY

James, thats's why i said 'second stage'...if resumes are not enough to choose between pre-selected ones, i think it woud be easier to check some online complete resumes than arranging interviews and such.

JamesRL
JamesRL

You have to have a compelling enough 2 pager to get them to go to the website. I would not be going to a detailled website unless you were already on a short list. James

JamesRL
JamesRL

I was working on a project with Sun as a partner, and they had given us extensive Java demos. They had seen a job ad for someone with 4 years of Java. At that point, since it had been in development in 1991, only two people in the world would have qualified, and both of them worked at Sun. 8 Years for a junior position? Thats a good one. James

nhahajn
nhahajn

I think most job descriptions that are long and list so many skills you would need decades of experience are the result of HR managers writing the desriptions. Usually followed by Pay rate of $20K a year! That's why I try to avoid HR and get it straight to the IT manager whenever possible.