Avoid these 15 common resume mistakes

Learn what it takes to make your IT resume get noticed

IT resume mistakes
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Your IT resume provides recruiters and hiring managers a first impression of who you are and what you offer. Working in a field as competitive as IT means you have to do everything you can to make your resume get noticed.

"[Resumes] get eliminated for all sorts of reasons just to get the pile down to something manageable," says Rick Endres, president of the Washington Network and former CIO of the U.S. Congress, as well as deputy assistant secretary for the Department of Commerce for Technology Policy.

To help you build a better resume, CIO.com talked to experts to identify common errors and some not-so-common ones.

For a more in-depth look, read the complete article here.

Typos, Misspellings and Bad Grammar
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Typos, misspellings, and bad grammar

Come on, folks, we shouldn't even have to mention this one. And yet, according to the experts, job candidates are disqualified all the time for this. "Most jobs put a premium on communication skills. Hiring managers and recruiters aren't going to be interested if you can't communicate well on your own behalf," says Rick Endres, president of the Washington Network and former CIO of the U.S. Congress.

For a more in-depth look, read the complete article here.

Too Much Technology Jargon
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Too much tech jargon

Job seekers commonly flood the experience section of their resumes with tools and technologies. You want both tech and nontech readers to understand what you've done.

Here is an example that Jennifer Hay, credentialed IT resume writer with TweetsResume.com, provided of an achievement statement that's too technology-heavy:

"Developed a hybrid strategy to keep costs down by using data center hardware with SAN deployment for high-availability data, and cloud-based storage with Amazon S3 and Box.com for backup and archival."

"Select those top tools that are most important to your career goals and integrate those into your resume. Your remaining tools and technologies can be added in a section on your resume titled, "Technical Skills" or "Technology Profile," says Hay.

Poor Resume File Name
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Poor resume file name

"Almost every resume that I see says things like resume1 or resumeshort, as opposed to the person's name or perhaps the position they are applying for," says Rick Endres, president of the Washington Network and former CIO of the U.S. Congress. If it's being filed somewhere on a PC or in a filing cabinet, you want to make it as easy as possible for your resume to be found. You certainly don't want to rely on someone having to open it up in order to figure out what it is and who it's from.

For a more in-depth look, read the complete article here.

Resume Length
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Resume length

IT professionals often rely on advice they encounter for nontechnical resumes, such as what length it should be. "For IT professionals, it's often not realistic to limit it to two pages. I commonly write resumes that are 2.5 pages long, with a third for education, certifications, and a technical profile," says TweetsResume.com's Jennifer Hay.

Your resume has technical details, certifications, professional development information, along with your technology profile. This information takes up space. "Technical hiring managers aren't satisfied with a minimal description. They want to know how you did it and what technology you used. They want to know with which technologies you have skills and recent experience. Most IT professionals still have a long list of tools, processes, and methodologies to include," says Hay.

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Not having an updated career brand

Technical resumes often focus on saving time, money, and resources. "IT is expected to save money by streamlining processes, consolidating databases, and eliminating redundancies. So why would you want to make it the primary theme in your resume?" says TweetsResume.com's Jennifer Hay.

"Businesses want IT to be a partner to identify market opportunities, identify innovations, and develop a competitive strategy. Nowadays, branding plays a much bigger role in promoting a job seeker's candidacy, and this is accomplished through summary paragraphs, testimonials, achievement snapshots, pedigree proof, and core competencies. They add keywords, but they also add focus and insight into the job seeker's unique experience, achievements, and capabilities," says Cheryl Simpson, president of Executive Resume Rescue.

Unclear Positioning
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Unclear positioning

If you can't look at your resume and quickly know what level of position you are seeking, then you'd better think again, says Cheryl Simpson, president of Executive Resume Rescue. "When a recruiter reads an IT resume, she or he should be able to tell in one to two seconds what type and level of position the job seeker is targeting. By including a title, a tagline, and industry keywords, IT executives can quickly demonstrate how their career goals align with the company's hiring needs," says Simpson.

For a more in-depth look, read the complete article here.

Too Little Emphasis on Strategy
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Too little emphasis on strategy

When you get into the senior ranks of IT, providing evidence of the ability to craft technology strategy, win buy-in from stakeholders, and champion the vision is critical. Yet most IT resumes fail in this department.

"Senior IT managers must showcase their ability to align technology planning with business needs and goals through specific achievement stories. Through the resume's summary, position descriptors, and achievement statements, the executive job seeker can deepen recruiter insight into their ability to leverage technology as a key contributor to business success -- which is exactly what most companies are seeking," says TweetsResume.com's Jennifer Hay.

For a more in-depth look, read the complete article here.

Using the Wrong Resume Format
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Using the wrong resume format

You can use two formats for technical resumes, says TweetsResume.com's Jennifer Hay: chronological and hybrid. IT hiring managers want to know what you did, for whom, and during what time frame, and they're typically focused on the last seven to eight years of employment. They want to understand the technical environment in which you worked, including the size and complexity of the IT department.

There are few industries that have changed as radically as technology, so describing an achievement in 2013 has a completely different technical and business context than something that was achieved years earlier. For that reason, Hay points out, "Functional resume formats that are designed to minimize job and skills gaps are not a good choice for technical positions."

Not Telling the Full Story of Achievements
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Not telling the full story of achievements

"Job seekers need to provide project context details in order to help their readers understand the value of the initiative," says Cheryl Simpson, president of Executive Resume Rescue.

IT professionals often list each achievement as a single event, without making a correlation between projects. "Since many IT departments follow technology blueprints designed to modernize the technical landscape over time, it's a lost opportunity when they don't connect with these strategic plans. Other plans that are more tactical can also offer a connection with the planning process," says Hay.

It is imperative that job seekers capture the relevant big picture details that will best enable hiring managers to "perceive the golden thread of success woven throughout the fabric of their work experience," says Simpson.

Being Too Modest About Achievements
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Being too modest about achievements

IT professionals are modest about their achievements and tend to include only the barest details on their resumes, which are typically just about the technical results, TweetsResume.com's Jennifer Hay says. With so many projects being implemented by thousands of other IT professionals, this isn't helping them stand apart from the pack.

"When an IT professional goes beyond just the end result and thinks in terms of how they were able to achieve the results within a challenging business and technical context, then they become unique," says Hay. IT resumes that tell a straightforward story that connects the value to the business, to the technical environment, and to the team efforts are memorable. Oftentimes, this story begins with why the project was funded.

Not Aging Achievements and Skills Gracefully
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Not aging achievements and skills Gracefully

Including outdated technology is another common mistake. What you leave in depends on your current path. Give thought to where these technologies overlap with your goals.

"There are employers who care about your ability to program in COBOL, but do you want to be a COBOL programmer again? They have legacy systems that someone has to operate and maintain. If you decide to step back from technology's leading edge, that someone could be you. It's a choice, but be clear about your motivations. It will impact your career," TweetsResume.com's Jennifer Hay says.

IT resumes require frequent updates. "IT professionals should review their resumes every six months. Older experience should set the foundation for why the person is good at what they do now," says Hay.

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Discounting important business knowledge

Companies want it all: technical skills, soft skills, and knowledge of the business side. "IT professionals tend to see their value in terms of tools and technologies, with only a brief mention of aligning projects with business goals. Knowledge of business applications is every bit as important as your technical knowledge," TweetsResume.com's Jennifer Hay says.

For example, if a healthcare employer using SQL Server is seeking a database developer and you have lots of Oracle experience and mention only technology, your resume will be lost in the crowd. However, when your resume also describes your claims processing experience, including the fact that you have worked with Common Electronic Data Interchange (CEDI) for Medicare claims, you now stand out from the crowd.

Using a Job Title Instead of Describing the Actual Job Role
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Using a job title instead of describing the actual job role

"IT departments have never done a good job of using titles that relate to what a person actually does, and they certainly haven't kept up with all the changes in technology," says TweetsResume.com's Jennifer Hay. She frequently sees IT professionals trying to "live" with the title they were given, despite the fact that it is a mismatch for their actual responsibilities.

The title of IT director can cover a wide range of responsibilities. One IT director might have a small two-person shop and perform the role of a systems administrator and IT project manager, while another person might manage 30+ staff members and work at the CIO level. This conflict needs to be resolved in the resume, without misrepresenting the facts.

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Not having your resume in PDF format

For your own security, convert your resume to a PDF document so it can't be compromised or altered. There are a lot of free options out there, just use Google to search for "free PDF editor," or if you're a Word user you can also save your Doc as a PDF. "Your reputation is being emailed around. You need to lock it down," says Rick Endres, president of the Washington Network and former CIO of the U.S. Congress, as well deputy assistant secretary for the Department of Commerce for Technology Policy.

For a more in-depth look, read the complete article here.

Not Enough Crisp Action Verbs
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Not Enough Crisp Action Verbs

When recruiters review a technology resume, they often read through the work history section by glancing down the left-hand side of the page, according to Cheryl Simpson, president of Executive Resume Rescue. They read the first few words of each bullet, then move on to the next one. This snapshot helps them decide whether they should take the time to read the resume more deeply. The problem, says Simpson, is "that in most cases the IT resume has been written with weak language, repetitive verbs and an overwhelming focus on tactical execution. The solution is crisp language, action verbs and a focus on the results of the execution and how this impacted the company's top- or bottom-line," says Simpson.