While certifications pale in comparison with work experience, having the right certification can tip the scales in favor of an applicant. According to Foote Partners' fall 2008 survey of more than 22,000 IT professionals, which covers some 170 certifications, the most valuable certificates today settle mainly into two camps: architecture and security. Microsoft and Cisco certifications also got good grades.
5. Balance tech and business. Describing your prior job descriptions in only a couple of paragraphs is more art than science -- that is, there are no hard and fast rules. Yet there are some helpful guidelines.
For starters, a prior job description should start with a general statement similar to a summary bullet. For example, "Financial services technical expert with a specialty in large-scale networks with excellent uptime."
The body should have technical detail that, critically, shows the technology's impact on business. Both the hiring manager and the CIO want workers who understand technology's role in the business, especially in times of financial stress. The most recent previous jobs should contain the most detail, while older jobs require only company name and job role.
With prior job descriptions, techies often make two glaring mistakes. The first one is writing in excruciating detail the basic job description of, say, a network admin. The hiring manager may not understand it, and the CIO already knows it. "Don't waste the space," says Schlocker.
The second mistake is describing technical projects, challenges, and relationships without any context. Metrics can provide this context. As a lead systems admin, for instance, how many people did you manage? If you built a network, point out the number of people it supports.
Conversely, while it sounds cool to say you reported directly to the CIO, the recruiter may feel duped after finding out it was at a five-person company. "I don't know anything about you and your technical skills if I don't know anything about the environment," Heller says.
More do's and don'ts
You should also make sure you take care of the basics, since lack of attention to these details leaves a bad impression. And in this environment, you can't afford that.
Make sure to put your name and page numbers on your résumé, such as "Jane Jones, page 1 of 3," since a résumé will change hands and be shuffled with other résumés.
If your formal education and certifications are impressive, go ahead and put them on the first page.
Tech résumés tend to be dense, like lines of code on a computer screen, yet it will help to have some white space in your résumé to make it easier on human eyes.
Present your résumé as a Microsoft Word document. "It's standard in the industry," says Schlocker.
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