Software Development

Five resume tips for IT consultants

One of the best ways to communicate your reputation to prospective new clients is to let your resume speak for you. These tips will help you create an IT consultant resume that will open doors.

Whether you spell it resume, résumé, resumé, or curriculum vitae, you need to craft a document that summarizes your IT consulting skills and experience. For one thing, you might be asked to produce a resume when you're meeting a prospective client. It's also a good idea to keep a record of this information. When you've been in the business as long as I have, you may start to forget some of your accomplishments if you don't write them down.

Whatever you do, make sure your resume is well written. It sounds obvious, but you would be surprised what passes for a professional resume. Here are five tips that will help you effectively present your accomplishments.

Note: These tips are based on an entry in our IT Consultant blog.

1: Keep your audience in mind

Before anything else can happen, you must connect with your reader. Visualize the people who will read your resume and think about what they're looking for in an IT consultant. You should have different versions of your resume. A lengthy, complete narrative will help you keep track of all your accomplishments. Then, you can choose from that version to create a resume that is targeted for each prospect. Yes, I think you should rewrite your resume for each prospect and emphasize the points that are meaningful to the specific audience. For instance, if I'm seeking a client who needs help with Synergy/DE, I'll put my lengthy experience with that technology front and center. When I'm going after a Ruby project, Synergy/DE becomes a bullet point somewhere down the list.

2: Focus on your results

You're trying to communicate, "Hire me!" so how do you make that case? You need to demonstrate that you're the best choice among the client's list of candidates. You not only need to decrease the perceived risk:benefit ratio, but you must also increase the perceived bang:buck ratio. When considering cost, your prospect should take into account both your fee and the opportunity cost of not hiring someone else. The client will probably have a checklist of specific required skills; if you know the requirements, feature your relevant experience.

Remember to focus on how you helped previous clients succeed rather than on how much you know. Besides being more tuned in to what the prospect really wants, it allows you to broaden the range of what's acceptable. "Eight years' experience in the .NET Framework" can easily be trumped by "Converted application X to the .NET Framework and released three months ahead of schedule," even if the latter applicant has only one year of experience with the .NET Framework. Don't offer clients potential -- give them results.

3: Be brief

Before I went into consulting, I worked in an upper management position in which I was constantly looking for new people. I always had a hundred resumes on my desk for every position I needed to fill. If one of those resumes was six pages long, I'd scan the front page for what I was looking for and then toss it if those words didn't reach out from the page and grab my eyeballs. A two-page resume would get both pages scanned. A one-page resume would actually get read.

It's much more effective to be brief -- but be sure to pack a lot of meat into those few words. Don't repeat yourself. Some resumes include separate sections for skills, experience, languages, frameworks, and platforms; these sections include the same information reheated and served on different kinds of toast.

4: Include concrete details

One secret to making every word count is to be specific. Avoid generalities like "insured the success of Project Ingolstadt throughout its lifecycle." What did you do while you were "insuring success" -- underwriting? If you were the PM, say "managed a project of five developers, two testers, and a documentation specialist." If you were a developer, say what parts you were responsible for designing and coding. And for goodness sake, tell them what Project Ingolstadt actually accomplished -- and whether it was on schedule, under budget, and met with a reaction from users that was at least friendlier than torches and pitchforks. The more you can quantify the benefit, the better: "saved the company $40,000 a year" ... "was instrumental in attracting at least 12 new customers," etc. Be sure you can back up the numbers you quote.

5: Be honest

Erik Eckel references a study of background checks by ADP Payroll in which it found that 44 percent of job applications contained fabricated work experience, 41 percent padded their education, and 23 percent lied about licenses or other credentials. While many candidates may get away with it, the cost of exposure is high: You could lose the engagement and be sued.

Furthermore, even if you aren't found out, you never want to oversell yourself. You'll end up in a project you can't handle, paranoid about being discovered, and making decisions that are designed to make you look smart instead of contributing to the project's success. Sure, you should embrace challenges, but only if your client knows how much you're being challenged and embraces that as well.

Writing a resume that lands you an interview

Many resume authors seem to forget that any form of writing has one overarching goal: communication. By giving ample consideration to who might be asking the questions, what you're trying to tell them, and how to get the message across, you can build a resume that grabs your prospect's attention and gets you to the next step: the interview.

Additional resources

Much has been written over the years on crafting resumes. You can find some excellent resources right here on TechRepublic:

About

Chip Camden has been programming since 1978, and he's still not done. An independent consultant since 1991, Chip specializes in software development tools, languages, and migration to new technology. Besides writing for TechRepublic's IT Consultant b...

28 comments
jacobus57
jacobus57

How the devil do we (assuming we are all paragons of virtue) compete against the almost HALF of lying SOS applicants??? I actually write my own resumes and cover letters, rather than hiring someone to crib them for me. I do not hide under s bushel, but I also NEVER pad. I have not had an interview in almost three years, and as a start-up consultant, I struggle to get bigger gigs because I don't lowball bids or lie about prior work. It is a conundrum...

LewSauder
LewSauder

Consulting firms hiring IT Consultants want technicians that understand business concepts. Listing all of your technical abilities without showing the business value will tend to label you a techie rather than a consultant. By following Chip's advice and focusing on results, you will be following #1-Keep Your Audience in Mind, and improving your chances of getting the interview. Lew Sauder, Author, Consulting 101: 101 Tips For Success in Consulting (www.Consulting101Book.com)

Nick Rodriquez
Nick Rodriquez

Nice. I had been told by my career teacher countless times that a resume of more than 3 pages is only useful for the trash can. Your article sums it up!

Audiblenod
Audiblenod

I've been including dollar amounts in terms of cost savings in my work history. As an example I'll write 'spearheaded software upgrade that saved the company $30,000.00 over two years and came in under budget.' Every place I interviewed has mentioned they like my inclusion of the dollar amounts in my resume (even if I didn't get the job). I told my wife this tip and it's worked for her too. My recommendation is to tally all you cost-saving/making measures if you have that information and include one or two of the best instances within your overall job history. It helps sell yourself (pun intended) when you show potential employers that you are looking out for their bottom line and are capable of seeing the financial impact of your own work.

thomas_w_bowman
thomas_w_bowman

1) Keep a 'Super Resume' that goes into too much detail for anyone - but you...it's fast and easy to delete to size (focusing on each opportunity while doing so), thus eliminate irrelevant details while including everything that matters for the job. 2) When posting a Resume on the Web, remember that a Human is unlikely to ever see it if a Web-Resume-Selection Engine likes the 'Keywords' it finds. In my Skills section is a list of Keywords designed to attract a search engine. narrative is sketchy on the Web Resume, and many will request a current one from you - that's where you tailor the Super-Resume and send it (with narratives for human use).

reisen55
reisen55

But will do so. My efforts have been more pure marketing based efforts and the formal resume I always considered for "job hunting" per se. Thank you Chip.

Billy Newsome
Billy Newsome

This analysis presents very interesting areas of necessary to stenghten the consultant and clear away issue's that might be of major concern with the potential client. I think to that these very same point can be of transferable to other professional skill levels. I am graphic designer attempting to get up and running more successfully and the questions explained in this article are similar to those that are asked of me when I interview with a potential client. This was a great piece of information. Thank you for sharing with us.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

I haven't had to present a resume to anyone in years, so mine is in serious need of revision. How about yours?

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

1) Absolutely. I mentioned in the article maintaining a version for your own use -- that's what I was referring to. 2) Search Engine Optimization could be a topic all on its own. In fact, there are people who write online every day about only that topic. Google them -- the good ones will be at the top.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Yes, I agree that these principles aren't restricted to IT consultants. Thanks for the kind words.

reisen55
reisen55

My resume is in a unique format. It was the one single benefit from being fired by Aon in 2005 (outsourced) when Drake, Beam and Moran had a website with a terrific template. My resume first lists a statement under the contact info (Luncinda Sans Unicode is a great font) and then just technical chinese menu of what I have used, hardware and software categories which changes and THEN I go into my work experience. Secondly, do not describe a job but then say WHAT YOU HAVE DONE at the job. Like this... I was a manager of a 150,000 square foot warehouse in Central Valley, NY. ok, fine, now what did you DO there? Oh, well I guided the installation of an IBM AS/400 system with bar code readers... Good, now what did that do? Oh, well it increased shipping throughput by 37% and increased racking space by 15%. THAT'S IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

Each market is different ... in my main one, a resume is mandatory. In some of the others an intro or profile sheet is all that's needed (see my profile). The problem I'm finding with resumes is that you need three versions ... one for the hiring manager, one for the gatekeepers and one for the computer. And yet you can only send one ... I'm actually wondering if we've managed to kill the resume as a marketing tool. Glen Ford, PMP http://www.trainingnow.ca P.S. If you haven't used a resume in years ... how come you can speak authoritatively on creating resumes? ;-) ]:)

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

I guess having an updated resume is not a universal requirement. Hopefully my post will help some of those who do need it.

ssharkins
ssharkins

Seriously -- I did just redo mine and I ended up with two -- as suggested in #1. But, I still revise them as needed. I am totally floored by those liar statistics. Totally... use of appropriate language can make even basic skills sound good.

apotheon
apotheon

Yeah -- same here. My resume is a shambles at the moment.

OH Smeg
OH Smeg

Hum AR Yea I don't think that I have looked at mine in at least the time I have had this business going and that is 15 years now. So overall I would have to say that mine is at least 20 years out of date if not considerably more. :8} Col

Sara.tripp
Sara.tripp

How I present myself is dependent on my audience and my intent. If I am looking for a job (as an employee) I use a 3-page resume; if presenting consulting services I use a 1-page Bio on me, and then focus on the benefits of the services. Now I am creating a web portfolio to link to which will have work samples, my values, etc, for if they want to get to know more. It will allow me to add a sample chapter of a book I?m writing, so it adds a whole different dimension. Thoughts?

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

In other words, make sure your Chinese menu doesn't include "mystery meat".

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Most of my new clients never even need to speak with me on the phone. We conclude everything via email, including contracts. Most of my resume advice comes from being on the receiving end, years ago. I suppose it's possible that I've become a little stale in that department, but I think the principles I outlined still apply.

ssharkins
ssharkins

Putting together a resume or two is definitely a good way to review yourself differently -- the way prospective clients will. And, it'll probably expose a few weaknesses. So, even if you think you don't need one, putting one together would be a good exercise.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Being well represented on the web is now a requirement in order to be taken seriously. Actual work and publications say a whole lot more than any summary of skills and experience.

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

We're becoming a rare breed -- I reached my 30th year in computing last September. Interesting -- I haven't run into these types yet myself. But my conversation usually starts with the technical folks, and then they cut through the red tape to get me on board.

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

The quick answer is those who don't know their jobs. I do much of my work for big business (mostly banks) who tend to hire through HR and headhunters (some masquerade as consulting companies but really they're recruiters). These groups generally don't understand the purpose of having approved supplier lists so they automatically presume they need them (meaning they make it difficult to deal with them directly). Making it worse these companies often forget that Canada is a separate country from the U.S.A. and apply American rules rather than the Canadian rules. In short, getting around them is a major pain. And convincing them using a 3rd party is an exposure is impossible. Even with a copy of the CRA policy! So the gatekeepers I find most troublesome are the brand-spanking-new twenty-three year old recruiters who think they are doing something useful as they try to convince me that the $50/hr they are offering translates to $110,000/year. And of course, their resume advice is based on a newbie hardware repairer with less than 2 years of experience (I'm pushing 40 years in management, 30 in IT). I think the best example is the recruiter who told me her account manager said I didn't have enough experience ... turns out she had printed less than half my resume. Why would I have more than two pages? Duh!

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

.. but responded anyway. ;) Who are the most troublesome gatekeepers from your perspective?

PMPsicle
PMPsicle

That was a razz Chip ... I wasn't serious. That's why the devil's face! :p Although I am seriously beginning to wonder if what you and I learned (from both sides of the desk) is out of date. Not because our client's needs have changed but because the combination of computer scan/query/retrieval and increased involvement of increasingly unqualified gatekeepers have resulted in an unresolvable disparity in needs. It's nice to say summarize and reduce but when the gatekeepers are saying repeat keyword, repeat keyword, repeat keyword it becomes increasingly difficult to hit the balance point. Glen

ssharkins
ssharkins

I haven't even talked to a client on the phone since the summer of 07. Everything's via email. I have talked to a colleague on the phone in the last few weeks and he in turn talked with our client. We have a very specialized piece of software that's just about ready for market, so we'll probably talk to a people directly then.

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