With so many tech skills in high demand, it’s truly a great time to be working in the field. Despite the good news for IT pros, it’s still a competitive environment that sees more individuals enter the industry each day. As hiring managers get flooded with more and more applicants for their lucrative openings, how can your resume stand out? In order to improve your technical resume, it’s necessary to understand that employers are evaluating applicants based on two specific factors.
Can You Do the Job?
First and foremost, employers want to know if you can accomplish at least 85-90% of the job requirements. Providing your previous relevant experience is a good step forward, but many other applicants will have similar backgrounds. Likewise, many understand that 80% of resumes start out in keyword-searchable databases, so including important terms from the job description in your resume is a good first step. The best technical resumes take things a step further.
Adding a “featured project” section is often the clearest, quickest way to convey to a hiring manager that you can absolutely get the job done. Such a section can be most effective when placed in the top 33% of your resume. Let’s take a look at an example for candidate John Smith, applying for a Network Security Engineering job at the regional headquarters of a major retailor:
Featured Project: Identifying and Securing a Data Breach, May 2017
- Managed a severe data breach that put the credit card information of 3,000+ customers for a subsidiary of X Inc. at risk
- Created and executed a plan to quickly locate the entry point of the breach, determine if data was corrupted or left company servers, and safeguard against future similar problems
- Used custom code to check for backdoors within the first six hours, identified four potential areas for a breach within another six hours, and subsequently pinpointed that the breach resulted from an outdated operating system on a little-used computer in the subsidiary’s server room
- Updated the operating system immediately as a quick solution; patched the other three vulnerabilities, recommended a cybersecurity policy regarding updates, and confirmed that no customer data was compromised
Consider the above example, which employs the STAR technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result). Was it super technical, or could you show it to someone outside of the IT industry and expect them to understand it? Those looking at your resume are not just the highly-technical managers who might be your boss. HR departments are often tasked with evaluating resumes first, and while they can certainly match a list of skills to a list of requirements in the job description, a strong featured project section in layman’s terms can capture their attention and prove you are the perfect fit for the role.
Do You Fit the Employee Culture?
The second factor employers are looking for when evaluating candidates is cultural fit. They want to know if you’ll get along with coworkers and blend smoothly into the current workplace environment. Employee turnover is extremely costly for a business, and employers find cultural fit to be the #1 factor that determines retention. While this factor is best assessed during an interview, there are still ways for your resume to portray that you’re a great fit for a certain company.
Firstly, a coherent, organized, and clearly written resume will tell an HR rep or hiring manager that you’re an excellent communicator. This is of the utmost importance even in technical roles, since 77% of employers value soft skills as much as hard skills. The ability of a programmer, developer, or other tech professional to communicate with anyone in an organization, whether it’s a peer on a team-based project or an executive during a quarterly report presentation, is essential for fitting in.
Secondly, in addition to all your technical accomplishments, role responsibilities, skills, degrees, and certifications, your resume should show that you’re a well-rounded individual. Scour your past for any extracurricular activities you’ve participated in, whether that includes formal organizations, volunteer groups, charity work, or even coaching a child’s soccer team. Likewise, consider activities related to your career that fall outside of specific role responsibilities. Do you participate in hackathons, attend a meetup group for developers, or advise your church on how to secure their network? Any of the above can help a hiring manager perceive that you’re a strong cultural fit.
Improving Your Technical Resume
Few people look forward to updating their technical resume, but creating the best possible document that proves you can do the job and seamlessly fit into an organization is essential for progressing your tech career. Despite the great job market that IT pros enjoy today, there is always competition for any open role, and organizations will not hand over a highly-compensated tech position to a candidate unless they’re confident they’ve found the cream of the crop. Focus on the two factors hiring managers look for in a resume, and that candidate could very well be you.