In summaries, avoid generic words and phrases like "project management," "sales support," "leadership," "team player," "problem solver," and "excellent communication skills." That's because summaries are too short and can't provide the proper context for these words, so they end up being meaningless and waste space.
3. Get your résumé in search shape. Most tech résumés go through a whirlwind lifecycle, from keyword search to a nontechnical hiring manager or a recruiter to a CTO or a tech-savvy CIO who is looking to fill a specific need. The challenge is to write a résumé that speaks to these different readers. And that first reader is usually a résumé-search application, not a person.
To get past the search filter, you'll need to do a little research on jobs in demand during a recession and related job descriptions. The goal is to find the acronyms, the résumés, and the keyword phrases that the software will be looking for. This can be an arduous task, and there's no getting around it, but things can go a little faster if you have multiple versions of your résumé touting different keywords.
Keywords are tricky, too. For instance, do you fill your résumé with the term "Access," "MS Access," or "Microsoft Access"? All, of course, mean the same thing. But what will the search value? "It's probably safe to use two of the three," says Schlocker.
The keyword decision process, says Schlocker, goes something like this: "Most corporate recruiters are just out of college. These are young kids who are very good with search engines. They get a job description, enter in keywords, and then start searching. That's how your résumé is going to come up." Or not.
It's also good practice to use keywords and acronyms (along with their spelled-out names) in both the technical skills list and inside the body of the résumé. Not only does this optimize the search, but human eyes down the road will be able to connect technology to the job.
4. Highlight the right certifications. Despite the best efforts of applicant-screening software, hiring managers are still flooded with résumés and have to separate them quickly into yes and no piles. Certifications can be a very effective way to do this. Right or wrong, nontechnical hiring managers often use certifications to help them evaluate technical skills.
On the other hand, too many certifications littering a résumé can result in a death by a thousand cuts. "If someone looks like a certification junky, and they're moving from job to job, the certification suddenly becomes a liability," says Heller. That's why it's important to choose technical certification training wisely.
While certifications pale in comparison with work experience, having the right certification can tip the scales in favor of an applicant. According to Foote Partners' fall 2008 survey of more than 22,000 IT professionals, which covers some 170 certifications, the most valuable certificates today settle mainly into two camps: architecture and security. Microsoft and Cisco certifications also got good grades.
5. Balance tech and business. Describing your prior job descriptions in only a couple of paragraphs is more art than science -- that is, there are no hard and fast rules. Yet there are some helpful guidelines.