Writing Tech Résumés

Résumés to Help You Stand Out
Among the Tech Crowd

By Sarah Jersild [ www.brassring.com]

Does the perfect tech résumé exist? That's debatable - every recruiter is looking for something different. But even if there is no holy grail of tech résumés, we still have some tips to help you stand out from the crowd.

1. Quantify What You've Done

Which of these do you think would generate more notice: "Worked on an award-winning software release" or "Wrote 10,000 lines of bug-free code for a software product that generated $100 million in sales"? If you picked the second example, you've figured out how to let numbers do the talking for you. "Ideally, you should be able to point out how much money you made, how much money you saved, or what specific problem you solved for your company," said Raymond To, Manager, Business Software Group, at Vancouver-based Corporate Recruiters Ltd.

2. Play to Your Audience

Do your research. "Your résumé should indicate that you know the employer so well, [you're saying] 'I know you have this problem, and if you hire me, I can solve that'," said To. How does this work? Say you're looking at Widget Corp., which is designing new software applications and looking at an alliance with Whosit Inc. You lead off your résumé with your analysis skills, database skills, VB and C++ experience, plus throw in something about the multi-million dollar software release you just coordinated with your colleagues at Whosit.

3. Push Those "Soft Skills"

Want to really differentiate yourself from the rest of the code jockeys? "Soft skills" - people skills, management ability, aptitude for teamwork - are what will set you apart. Of course, quantifying those less-quantifiable skills is tough. "Be explicit about the kind of teams you've been on, and if you've held any managerial positions," said Robyn Gordon, Vice President of the Software Human Resources Council. "Put down anything to demonstrate that you can chew gum and walk."

Gordon may be overstating the case, but not by much. According to Rob McIntosh, a Recruitment Consultant at Microsoft Canada, employers are "no longer just looking for an individual who can sit in a corner and cut code. We're looking for tech-style individuals who can interface with clients." So those soft skills really can be a selling point.

4. Put Your Tech Skills In Context

Keywords. Everybody loves keywords. But some people love keywords a little too much. Try to resist including a laundry list of any and all technology you've even been in the same room with, McIntosh said. Instead, try to match your skills and knowledge up with the technical environment in which you used them, said To of Corporate Recruiters. "Ideally you should put your tech skills where you used them -- what tools you used at what job, how long you used them and when you last used them," he said.

5. Ignore the Conventional Wisdom

It's common knowledge you should keep your résumé to one page, right? "I want to dispel that notion," said Ben Mullins, Technical Recruiter for Real Networks. "The more information I can get, the better." While "you hate to see a 12-page résumé," Mullin said, he does want you to use as many pages as you need to highlight the major projects you've worked on, lay out the hard skills you've developed and explain where and how you used them.

6. Take All These Tips With A Grain of Salt

"Even among our recruiters, there's debate as to what makes a perfect résumé," said Vicki Contavespi, Media Relations Manager at Nortel.

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