All resumes are not created equal. I talk to job seekers nearly every day and while there are some mistakes that cross professions – like not including a career target at the top of the resume or using the wrong format – technology resumes are a breed apart.
It’s hard enough for individual contributors such as software developers or network administrators to effectively “sell” themselves, but for IT Executives or IT professionals hoping to move from middle to executive management, this challenge becomes even more pronounced. These jobs demand a whole new set of skills and a completely different approach when it comes to the resume.
There are five common mistakes I see on IT Executive resumes:
1. Including Too Much Technology Jargon
When you were a hands-on developer or network administrator or whatever, it was critical for you to list all of your technical skills on your resume in order to show proficiency with the specific programs and systems…and many IT Executives, even at the highest level, have a hard time shifting focus from their tech background.
When IT professionals rise to a certain level of management, the technical skills section should be removed because it sends a mixed message: Do you spend your time learning the latest programming language or developing technology roadmaps? IT Managers and especially Executives spend the majority of their time on strategy and management so be sure you are communicating these skills on your resume!
2. Presenting an Unclear or Dated Brand
I often hear from IT Executives, especially newly promoted managers, that they struggle to combine often disparate skill sets in a compelling and interesting story — one that transitions from a technology-focused profile to emphasize strategy and business acumen. Businesses want IT to be a partner who identifies market opportunities, integrates innovation, and develops a competitive strategy.
Given that employers screen resumes for as few as six seconds, a clear focus and personalized brand presented in an easy-to-read format at the top of your resume is necessary to get the reader’s attention.
One way to sharpen your focus is through verbiage at the top of your resume that instantly catches the reader’s eye and identifies the area(s) in which you can make a contribution. By including a title, a tagline, and industry keywords, you can quickly demonstrate how your career goals align with the company’s hiring needs.
3. Discounting Important Business Knowledge
In today’s competitive job market, companies want it all: deep technical knowledge, soft skills, and business understanding. One of the biggest mistakes IT Executives make, especially those moving from middle to senior management, is to define their value in terms of tools and technologies. Technical professionals at all levels often treat working with business stakeholders, understanding business requirements, and aligning with business goals as a necessity before getting to the “real” work…the technology.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Understanding business applications and tangible business results/benefits is every bit as important as your technical knowledge. Identifying your business skills and proving you can work with both technical and non-technical stakeholders should command premium space on any IT Executive’s resume. A wise employer knows it is much easier to teach employees about new technologies than it is to get siloed professionals interested in expanding their scope of influence, much less effectively working across functions.
4. Submitting a Novel
Kudos for being able to fill five pages with information about past jobs, skills, and projects, but long, dense resumes actually work against you. Instead of attracting potential employers by exhaustively demonstrating your qualifications, long resumes actually repel readers by not seeming immediately accessible. Research shows that resumes are skimmed in about 15 seconds, which can’t happen with a four- to five-page resume. And even potential employers are interested in you and set your resume aside intending to read it later when they have more time…later never comes.
One of the major reasons IT resumes often exceed the two- to three-page recommended length is because job seekers include information about outdated technologies/projects (Think Y2K. No matter what you did, it is just not relevant today). Employers are really only interested in what you have been doing the past 10-15 years and how you have added value through quantifiable achievements. What you leave out of your resume is just as important as what you leave in.
5. Preparing Only One Resume Version
Unless you intend to broadcast your resume to any job remotely related to their objective and skill level, one of the most important things you can do to stand out is customizing your resume. Studies have shown that employers want resumes to show a clear match between the applicant and a particular job’s requirements. A “general” resume that is not focused on a specific job’s requirements is seen as not competitive.
This doesn’t mean that you should write a different resume for every job application you send out, but there are simple and easy ways to “customize” your resume, especially for the jobs you REALLY like.