Elements Of A Good Tech Resume

2008 November 3
by Kyle Bumpus
from → Career and Jobs

For practically every other industry, the tried-and-true reverse-chronological, accomplishment-based resume is the way to go. If you’re looking to land a tech job, however, you need to take a slightly different tact. You should still list past experience in reverse chronological order with major accomplishments highlighted, of course, but for the most part your technical skills should be in the spotlight, not your accomplishments.

Resumes are read by everyone from the hiring manager to tech-savvy engineers to non-technical HR people, with HR generally being the first link in the chain. Since HR people typically aren’t especially knowledgeable about technical details, they tend to scan for keywords. They aren’t interested in “how much money did this person save his department last year” so much as “can this guy code Java and C++?” If you know Java and C++, say so at the very top of your resume. This is the time to throw around as many buzzwords and acronyms as possible. If you speak Spanish, that’s great, but list that in the education section, not the skills section. Your Technical Skills Section should look something like this:

Languages: Java, C/C++, C#, SQL, Perl, HTML, XML
Concepts: OOA/OOP, UML, Unit and Systems Testing
Software: Visual Studio, SQL Server, Oracle, Excel
Systems: Windows (98, 2000, NT, XP, 2003 Server), Unix, Linux, Mac OSX

If you have an impressive amount of experience with any particular technical skill, feel free to list that here. Five years of C++ is impressive: six months, not so much.

Once you have that out of the way, continue with the traditional accomplishments-based reverse-chronological resume. This section is pretty much the same on a tech resume as any others. Some points to keep in mind:

  • Always begin bullet points with an action verb. Employers like active employees who take initiative. Active verb constructions such as “Implemented x to keep track of y, saving the company z dollars” looks far better than “Was part of the engineering team”. “Was” is too passive and doesn’t give the impression you actually accomplished anything.
  • Don’t sell yourself short. Toot your own horn and mix it up a bit. If you act like you don’t think your skills are valuable, others will begin to agree with you. Be a walking pile of self-confidence. Don’t flat-out tell anybody how great you are, of course, but carry yourself in such a way that it’s obvious you think of yourself as a valuable asset. It won’t come across as arrogant, I promise.
  • If there’s a gap in your employment, explain why. Don’t leave this open to interpretation.
  • List your educational info at the end. If you speak a foreign language or have any relevant non-technical skills you’d like to showcase, this is the place to do it.

To recapitulate, here is the general form any good tech resume should take:

Name and contact info
Short statement of objective
Technical Expertise (using as many buzzwords as possible)
Professional Experience (accomplishment-based, with at least 4-5 bullet points per entry
Education Info

For further reading, check out 10 Ways To Tweak Your Tech Resume.

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One Response
  1. 2010 January 3
    Daddy Paul permalink

    As someone who has hired a lot of people I agree with most of the points in this article. I do disagree with the use of an objective statement. I would not waste my time and space on the resume with it. It is better to use the space to list your skills or accomplishments. As far a objective is concerned it can only hurt you. If you have as your objective a lab tech and you are applying drafting job just to get your foot in the door you are not going to get the job. As someone looking at a resume I already know what your objective is. You have applied to the job. Perhaps you have driven miles. You want a job.
    People make a mistake of sending different resumes to different organizations. I have received the same persons resume in six different forms. This guy was not called for an interview.

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