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Need a job? Rsum tips for techies

Tom Kaneshige | Jan. 4, 2010
Avoid the common mistakes that torpedo many IT pros' job searches

SAN FRANCISCO, 31 DECEMBER 2009 - Tech résumés are piling up faster than the local landfill. It's more important than ever to have a strong résumé that is sure to stand out from the crowd. Unfortunately, techies are notorious for producing résumés as dense and inaccessible as a secure coding manual, volume one.

In the hot job market of yesteryear, techies could get away with it: Poor résumés didn't matter much, only a pulse. In today's crappy environment, though, a well-written résumé can make all the difference between being able to pay that mortgage or not.

The five essential tips for a good tech résumé

That's why InfoWorld has compiled a list of five essential tips for writing the perfect tech résumé:

1. Drop the detail. "The No. 1 problem with most technical résumés is that they are way too long," says Martha Heller, managing director and recruiter at search firm ZRG, who sifts through more than a dozen résumés daily. Résumés often come in at six pages when they should be only two pages. (You can get away with three if you're covering a decade's worth of multiple job stints.) Remember, "résumé" is French for "summary"!

So why do techies tend to write résumé tomes? The reason is that good technical people understand the value of documentation and detail. After all, Heller says, "The mentality is 'If you don't document your work, does it really exist?'" No doubt this kind of thinking has made its way on to the résumé.

There's also a fear that the technology important to a potential employer just might be a DEC PDP-11 minicomputer, which you worked on in the 1980s but failed to mention on your résumé. Driven by this unfounded fear, nervous techies fatten up their résumés with every technical detail since the dawn of computers.

Rest easy, advises Heller. "With the pace of technology change, there is no way that a piece of technology that you have not touched since 1985 is going to help you get a job right now," she says, "so just leave it off the résumé."

2. Abolish your objective. "Don't put an objective on your résumé," says Carole Schlocker, who runs iSpace, a technical staffing firm. How to put this gently? No one cares what you want. Companies want to know what you can do for them.

An all-too-common résumé starter: "Objective: To use my technical skills in an enterprise-wide environment to grow with the organization and help them to be competitive and profitable." The objective starts with the desires of the applicant and plays into the rotten stereotype of the me-first, prima donna techie.

In lieu of an objective, try a summary with a maximum of four bulleted points. If it runs longer, then it's really not a summary but the exposition itself. Here's an example of a two-bulleted summary:

 

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