Contrary to what you may read or hear, a great resume is not an obsolete tool in today's technical job search. In fact, as the technical job market heats up again, a solid resume can give you the edge you need to speed past a company's HR department and secure your next big career move. A well-crafted, targeted resume is as important as ever – no matter who you are.
Luckily, the traditional rules of resume writing have evolved over the last few years, providing technical jobseekers with more flexibility in highlighting their skills. With increased internet discoverability through online social networking, blogs, and discussion forums, the resume is now the central hub which allows you to market your strengths and further educate employers who may already know you by reputation. The resume is now a dynamic marketing tool which can tie all your career highlights together. However, before you start writing, you should research and prepare.
Identify the Target
First, determine your resume's desired audience. Research the job market, and devise a list of companies which best match your interests and experience. Utilizing vertical job search engines such as Indeed and Simply Hired, search current openings by geographic region, job title, key word, or company name. Devising a short list of potential employers as well as organizations and specific job openings within those companies will help in honing your resume's message and tone.
Craft the Talking Points
Now that you better understand where you want to apply and what those employers seek from the best applicants, pick 2-3 highlights from your career which you want to ensure recruiters and hiring managers notice as they review your resume. These highlights could include your educational or professional background, specific technical expertise, or interesting past projects. Depending on your target, this list could vary from employer to employer or position to position.
Select the Best Format
No matter the length of your resume, recruiters and hiring managers will typically only review the top 2/3 of the first page when forming first impressions. Resumes are rarely printed out in hard copy anymore so the initial view on the monitor should include the most pertinent information in backing up your talking points. A typical format found in most resume books includes the objective statement followed by educational and professional history. However, if this is not the right format to display your strengths, create your own design. Technical skills, education, and professional experience should go in the order that best conveys your desired message.
Additionally, an objective statement is no longer required and usually only necessary if you have a specific, unwavering goal of which you need to make the recruiter immediately aware. If this goal is not in your 2-3 talking points, an objective is probably not needed. Instead, consider a summary statement which highlights your 2-3 talking points up front.
Highlight Accomplishments, Not Responsibilities
Your resume is not a review of past job responsibilities; it is a list of accomplishments. Recruiters and hiring managers are not as concerned with what you did as much as how and why you did it. Instead of just writing "Developed a web-based application," further explain the details of how you developed the application and why this application was important. What did "development" encompass? What did you personally accomplish? Why did the application matter? Consider how this statement better expresses your contributions: "Conceptualized, developed, and tested an ecommerce application which handled secure credit card transactions for over one million customers per month and enabled a major corporate client to increase its annual revenue by 200%."
Your resume is also a great place to list other related accomplishments such as links to and descriptions of your blog, previous publications and presentations, open / shared source projects, and user group participation.
Keep It Simple
Even if you submit your application to a real person, your resume will likely find its way into a large, internal resume database. These databases often strip formatting out of your resume and produce the version that is later distributed to your future interviewers. As such, avoid special formatting like tables and images. This version may look fine on your monitor, but the outputted resume from an internal resume database could compromise the overall effect of your message.
Trim the Fat
Finally, ensure your resume is as concise and focused as possible. If a previous responsibility or accomplishment does not reinforce the message you intend to convey, omit it. Additionally, do not include personal information such as references, hobbies, date of birth, or marital status. Keep your resume on target and on message.
The resume continues to be the primary currency of the job search. While developing a resume is usually necessary, it is important to remember that a resume is more than just a formality; it is a personal marketing tool which can open doors. Creating a strong document by identifying your audience, targeting your message, and highlighting the best information can be the key to unlocking those doors.