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Your Job Search: How To Create A Technology Resume, Part 1

Your Job Search: How To Create A Technology Resume, Part 1

By James Van, Director of Career Services and Professional Development at SoloLearn

A successful, compelling technology resume has a distinct anatomy with specific sections and features that capture the attention of recruiters and technical hiring managers. In this first part of a two-part series on writing a technology resume, we will focus on the elements of a resume, moving on in part 2 to a deep dive on crafting excellent achievement statements that demonstrate the impact you would have on an organization.

The purpose of a resume is to secure an interview at your target companies. A resume does not get you a job -- it is your entire interview process gets you a job. This distinction is an important one to make, and it should lift the burden of trying to tell your entire life story on one page. Here are a few commonly agreed upon guidelines, standards, and best practices that will be helpful to use when crafting and refining your resume.

Anatomy Of A Resume

6 Second Rule

You should assume recruiters and hiring managers are very busy and will likely make a decision on whether they are interested within six to ten seconds of opening your resume -- after that time, they will move on to the next resume. Recruiters often review hundreds of resumes and profiles each day. The majority of applications are not qualified for the job which is why they move through them rather quickly. Tech recruiters typically call back between one and five percent of all resumes reviewed on a daily basis. The recruiter must be able to find the information they are seeking quickly, and the content must be relevant to the role they are trying to fill.

One Page

Keep your resume to one page. Knowing that the recruiters have very limited time, it is unlikely that they will continue to the second page. Consider that the reader will make a yes/no decision based on the information on the first page. 

Prime Real Estate

Readers typically read content from top to bottom, and from left to right. The information presented in the top half of your resume is prime real estate. You must grab the attention of the reader in this section. The content in the second half of the resume supports assertions made in the top half, and bolsters your overall candidacy.

Bullet Points

Utilize bullet points in your experience section. Bullets create content that is more easily scanned. Each bullet should highlight a specific/important achievement. Try to keep each bullet point to no more than two or three lines. Content exceeding three lines looks like a paragraph and becomes difficult to scan quickly. 

Left To Right

Because readers read from left to right, the first few words in each bullet point should capture the attention of the reader and coax him to continue reading the entire bullet point before moving down the resume. Action oriented verbs should start each bullet, and we will cover those later in this article. 

PDF

PDF is the standard format for tech resumes. PDF documents look professional, they are difficult to edit/change by other users, and are universally accepted by companies and by Automated Tracking Systems (ATS). 

“Your

Know Your Audience

Relevant content is critical. Especially if you have prior work experience, you may need to edit some of your resume content to fit into one page. Your experience may be rich, and you may be rightfully proud of it and want to show it off. Be sure to ask yourself “how is this bullet relevant to the job I am applying to?” The answer to this question will help you decide which content stays, and which content is deleted or minimized. More on this later in this article.

Reverse Chronological Order

List your previous work experience in reverse chronological order (with the most recent work experience at the top, working your way back in time). This is the industry standard, as it puts your most recent experience at the top, which is often the most relevant to the employer. It also helps employers establish a pattern of stable work history -- so as to show if there are gaps in employment or you have had very short work stints, etc. 

Dates

Do includes dates of employment, with a minimum of the numerical value for the year, and potentially including months as well (12/2019 or December 2019 for example). 

Discriminatory Information

Do not include information that could enable employers to discriminate against you, including unintentionally. Age, race, religion, pictures, and visa status are all information that should be omitted from your resume. Do not include the date of undergraduate graduation, as this will help employers figure out your age. Pictures may be required in some countries, but they are not required in the United States. 

Multiple Resume Versions

Some candidates opt to have a few versions of their resume, depending on which industry, type of company, or flavor of job for which the resume is intended. 

Tech Skills Section

Your technology skills should be placed at the top of your resume. Organize your tech skills into groups so the reader can make sense of your tech knowledge easily and quickly. For example you might group your languages in one section, tools in another, and databases in yet another. 

Forward Facing

Your resume is a forward facing document. Your resume brands your candidacy for your target jobs. For example, if you are applying to full stack software jobs, you are presenting yourself as a software developer, even if you have not officially held that title in your past work experience. Your skills, projects, and education should all support your candidacy for your target roles. 

Numbers

Numbers are great. The more that you can support your claims by providing metrics that show how much you have increased a metric, saved money, made things run more efficiently, etc. the more impact your achievements will have. Numbers also stand out on a resume, the reader’s eyes will naturally be drawn to them. 

Avoid vague and cliche statements

Typically called “fluff” by recruiters and hiring managers, sweeping statements that are not supported by details often elicit an “eye roll” from recruiters. Many of those unsupported statements sound like cliches, such as “results-oriented”, “team player”, etc. Although it is desirable to be a person that works well in teams, find another way to state that you thrive in a collaborative environment. 

Online Resume Resources/Builders

Jobscan.co and Creddle.io are two resources that have resume builders to help you create a visually appealing format for your resume. Jobscan has a tool that will allow you to compare your resume draft to a target job description and tell you how well your resume matches. It will also tell you what key skills or content is missing, and give you tips on how to make your resume match to yield better results. Use this service to better optimize your resume for target jobs. Both are great tools to use, especially if you are building a resume on your own without help. 

Resume Formatting

Length

One page is almost always sufficient. Exceptions may include positions that require research and list of publications. These positions are typically reserved for Ph.D. candidates and occasionally Master’s degree holders. 

Margins

Begin writing your resume with standard 1” margins. If you are crunched for space, it is acceptable to shrink margins down to ¾”. Margins smaller than that risk getting cut off in ATS systems and also visually look very dense. 

Fonts

Choose one font style and use it throughout your entire resume. Use a font style that is professional and easy to read such as Arial, New Times Roman, and Cambria. These fonts are also relatively compact, which allows for more words per line than less compact font styles. 11 point font is standard. 10 point font is acceptable if you are trying to shrink the resume down to one page. Fonts under 10 points are difficult to read without magnifying the resume. It is acceptable to use larger font sizes to accentuate your name. 

Use Black Font

Unless you are emphasizing your creative skills, use black fonts only. Colors are less likely to differentiate your resume in a positive way. Bright colors are distracting and usually have an unprofessional aesthetic. Your content, which includes skills, education, and achievements will help differentiate you from other candidates. 

Bold and Italics

Using bold and italics can be a great way to emphasize important text, but they should be used sparingly, and uniformly throughout the resume. If your resume has too much bolding, it becomes more difficult to read because the various bold words become distracting. 

You might also consider “training” the reader to find text by using formatting rules. For example, you might Italicize all employers on your resume to help accentuate them. If you elect to do that, then follow that formatting convention throughout the resume. 

Once you are done, look at the resume as a whole, does it look clean and organized? Sometimes it is difficult to gauge the overall aesthetics until you have formatted the entire resume.

Clearly Labeled Sections

Your resume should be able to be easily scanned. Label each section appropriately, so that the reader can easily identify your Summary, Skills, Experience, and Education. Include a projects section, if applicable. 

Consistent Punctuation

Use consistent punctuation throughout your resume. Bullet points don’t technically require periods at the end of each line, but it may be difficult to not use periods at all if you have an executive summary or bullet that contains more than one sentence. 

Resume Creation Checklist

Header

The header is where you introduce yourself to the reader. Your full name should be in a larger font at the top. You can use your nickname on your resume as long as it is the same name that you use for all of your online profiles. Your contact information should include your city and state, your phone number, email address. You do not need to include your street address on your resume. 

Gmail is the industry standard for email so it would be ideal to use or secure your own Gmail address. Along with your contact information, your resume should also include hyperlinks to your Linkedin profile, your Github repo, and any professional websites or portfolio sites. 

Summary (optional)

A summary is a short written introduction of your candidacy: skills, competencies, qualities, and an example of a proud achievement in your past experience that exemplifies your potential to the prospective employer. Likely no more than a few sentences, it can be one of the more difficult sections to write. Write this section as the last step, after you have written the rest of your resume. This way you can review your experience and skills and write a comprehensive statement that will be supported by your bullet points, experience, skills, and education. 

Skills 

This is where you will list all of your competencies -- defined as your ability to do certain kinds of work that require multiple skills and denote actions that deliver a result...A/B Testing, Natural Language Processing, Competitive Analysis, and SEO, are examples of what would be considered competencies.

Begin by creating a list of all of your hard skills. Include skills that you have used on the job, learned on your own, learned in school, and those that you’ve applied in projects. It is helpful to review your past work experience to help recall various skills you may have used. It is also helpful to review the learning outcomes and syllabi of classes that you may have recently taken. The outcomes are likely to be competencies, and the lessons within those classes likely contain hard skills. 

Take inventory of your skills list by comparing them to your target job descriptions. This may also help you recall additional skills, and will also help you identify possible skills gaps. Employers may not require a 100% skills match, but they will need to see demonstrated ability to do the work using their tech stack (or a similar stack), and your ability to learn new skills on the job ( as frameworks, updates, and languages change very frequently in software.

it is critical to stay current if you plan on a career in full stack software engineering).

Projects (optional)

Especially if you are a student or are switching careers, your projects may contain some of the most relevant content to a potential employer. It may be the only time you have applied your new set of skills that demonstrate that you are able to do the work your target employer demands of its applicants. If your projects are indeed most relevant to your target jobs, place this section in between your skills section and your professional experience. If you do not have professional work experience, title this section “Experience” or “Project Experience”. 

Write out your project experience using the same formatting and formula as discussed in the professional experience section listed below. Utilize C-A-R statements (see below) to describe your project. 

Experience | Professional Experience

In reverse chronological order, list your previous employers. A typical format will include company name, job title, dates of employment, and then bullets that describe your achievements. Write an executive summary, which is a brief one or two line description of your job responsibilities, job scope, and regularly performed tasks. This helps provide context of your job, and allows you to focus your bullet points on achievements. Writing out your achievements will allow you to quantify your impact, or describe your qualitative impact. Using the C-A-R framework will help you write powerful achievement statements.

CAR Statements

CAR is an acronym for Challenge-Action-Results.

Challenge: answers the question “What was the problem you are/were trying to solve?” 

Because employers are looking to hire problem solvers, frame what you did by setting up the problem that you were tasked to solve. This requires that you not only answer what you were doing, but also provide the context in which you did it, which explains the depth and challenge behind the problem. 

Action: answers the question “How did you solve the problem?” 

What path or process did you employ to solve the problem? The process helps the employer understand your rationale for the decisions you made during the challenge. The employer will typically ask you to expand on this process to full understand your thought process during the onsite interview. 

By necessity, the process of solving the problem will also include competency and hard skills keywords (from your skills section). Employers want to know what hard skills you utilized, and the overall tech stack (when applicable). It is important to include keywords from your tech skills section in your experience and projects, if applicable -- doing so will demonstrate your experience applying skills on a project, whether personal or professional. 

Results: answers the question “Why did you take these actions?” or “What was the outcome?” 

This part of writing the achievement is very important, and is the part that is most often omitted by candidates. The employer rationale is that past performance is a good predictor of future performance. The better you are able to demonstrate a history of delivering results, the more interviews you will get. 

Results or outcomes will be either qualitative or quantitative. Where possible, include numbers to help quantify how much you improved something -- such as improved 50% over baseline, or increased efficiency by 30%, etc. Results are how you can really show your impact. Achievements demonstrate meaning, impact, or a significant outcome. 

If your bullets lack significant impact, it is likely more of a task than an achievement. Depending on how relevant the task is to your target jobs, consider adding the task to your executive summary.  

Education

List your education in reverse chronological order. Include school attended, degree conferred, and any specializations. Include GPA if it is higher than 3.5, otherwise, do not. Do not include your date of graduation, as it will allow recruiters to easily guess your age. If you are still attending school and anticipate graduating, put down the anticipated date of graduation so that employers know when you are available for full time employment. 

We will take a deep dive into action words that help illustrate your experience along with impactful content for your resume in part two of this blog series.

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In his over 20 year career, James Van has helped thousands find their next job. James began his career as a technical recruiter in Silicon Valley and San Francisco. After nine years of recruiting, James completed his Masters in Counselor Education at San Jose State University and transitioned into career counseling and coaching. James has supported the career growth of his students at institutions such as UC Berkeley, Hult International Business School, and Galvanize. He recently joined SoloLearn , a self-paced earn-to-code platform providing excellent technical instruction. In his personal hours, James enjoys spending his time with his family, windsurfing, surfing, and cycling.