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Most everyone, but especially senior technical professionals, know the importance of having a well-written and concise resume. As someone with this level of expertise, you have likely been on both sides of the desk – meaning, in addition to applying for positions and projects throughout your own career, you have also helped make hiring decisions. As you know, this one document can oftentimes be the difference between a second look, and a phone call or an interview, and not hearing back.

Despite all of the best practices and material available on the “do’s” and “don’ts” of resume writing, there are still a lot of bad habits making their way into the final drafts of tech professionals’ resumes.

While some resume advice is most certainly subjective, below are the top five generally accepted “do’s” and “don’ts” of tech resume writing.

Resume Writing: Do’s

1. Have an Objective

Include an objective section at the very top of your resume that is clearly communicated and reflected throughout your resume. Too often, especially with tech professionals, people forget that resume writing is also a form of storytelling. You should never be dishonest or inaccurate in your portrayal, but your resume is your opportunity to tell your story the way you want it to be told. It’s the pillar document to your personal brand. And oftentimes, it’s someone’s very first – and potentially the only – impression of you.

It’s important to be concise in summarizing your past career experience and it’s equally as important to be concise in where you’re looking to go next. Pulling out a career objective as you retrace the steps of your career will help make sure your telling the right story to the companies and the jobs you’re targeting.

2. Use Keywords – Strategically

List out tools, programming languages, operating systems and all other relevant technologies for each past position. You don’t want your summary of each position to be a regurgitation of your job description; instead, pull out key accomplishments and highlights of each position using keywords that also relate to the position you’re applying for or would consider next if you were to make a career move. Do not take this as an invitation to “keyword stuff” your resume – see more on padding your resume under “don’ts” below.

3. Style Your Resume

The formatting of your resume, just like the content of it, is a reflection of you. If there are inconsistencies in design elements like font type, spacing and bullets, someone reviewing your resume might make assumptions – i.e., you lack attention to detail, you’re sloppy in your work or that you don’t care. You have a matter of seconds to prove someone right or wrong in their assumptions when they’re reviewing your resume. Keep it simple and use a generally accepted font type and size – I recommend Times New Roman, size 12 – and make sure the formatting lines up and is consistent throughout the document.

4. Have Someone Review It

Sometimes, like any piece of code, when you look at something for too long, it can be hard to identify your own mistakes. Proofread your resume for spelling and grammar errors, but also share it with someone else to review it, too. I recommend sharing your resume with someone of a similar skill set or a with trusted recruiter.

5. Have Multiple Versions

The position or the project you’re applying for should have influence over what you highlight from your background. There will be some consistencies – I always encourage including the duration (start month and year and end month and year) for every position as well as job title and company – but the successes you feature should change depending on what you’re applying to do next.

For example, if leadership is emphasized in the job description, you might want to highlight the total number of developers you were last managing, in addition to including the programming language and operating system you were working on. Versus, if another job description is looking for experience managing big budgets, you might choose to highlight the size of the companies you’ve worked for as well as the project budgets you’ve managed.

If you don’t make these adaptations, such as people management versus budget management, someone reviewing your resume might not know whether you have the experience. Have multiple versions of your resume and continue to make modifications based on the positions as you apply to them.

Resume Writing: Don’ts

1. Don’t Lie

It might sound unnecessary to mention, but slight tweaking can sometimes turn into overt lies. Do not change your job titles or lie about where you’ve worked. It’s also important to not falsely represent your education or claim to have certifications that are no longer active. If you have not completed your degree, but have completed work towards it, state that it’s in progress. If you have a certification that’s inactive, state that it’s inactive.

Remember, your resume is a legal document. When you apply to a job and include your resume as an attachment and then sign the application, there is typically sub-text stating that you are confirming all of the information included is correct and accurate. Make sure that’s true.

2. Don’t Make it “Long”

Admittedly, this is subjective. But as a general rule of thumb, for senior tech professionals, I encourage no more than five pages. Keep in mind that hiring managers and recruiters are often reviewing hundreds of resumes for any given job opening. Their time is limited so it’s important to get the point across quickly.

Your ability to communicate through your resume, including your ability to be concise and relevant, is reflective of your capabilities outside of your resume.

Remember, even Steve Jobs had a one page resume.

3. Don’t Pad Your Resume

The opposite of not using enough keywords in your resume is using too many – and using them incorrectly, or in a way that leads people to make false assumptions about your skill set or abilities. Use keywords that tie to the job you’re applying for but that are also closely tied to your experience. If you were exposed to a certain technology or language, like C++ for example, say that you were exposed to it by listing it under the project or position but don’t list it as a core competency.

4. Don’t Include Everything

We all know, technology is moving fast. What once may have been your leading programming language to land you great tech projects may no longer be in use anymore – and it’s important to know when this should fall off of your resume. This will help in keeping your resume short and concise – and in keeping it relevant.

5. Don’t Have Typos

In today’s world, there are far too many tools at your fingertips to have typos in your resume. This should also be a non-issue if you’re having someone else review your resume – what you may overlook, your editor will hopefully catch for you. For me, typos come down to demonstrating a certain level of caring. Again, it’s reflective of so much more than just your ability to type or to spell.

Like code, a well-written resume can unlock you from your current status and open you up to a whole new program. Don’t waste the opportunity.

If you’re a tech professional and you’d like me to review your resume, please email a copy to: