How to overcome 5 common resume mistakes

Avoid the five resume writing mistakes most commonly seen in the IT Resume Makeover series

How to overcome 5 common resume mistakes

Our resume writers have seen it all. IT resumes come in all shapes and sizes -- they can be as long as novels, as hard to decode as a Shakespeare play or boring enough to put even the biggest tech-junkie to sleep. And that's because writing a resume is not an easy task, no matter how long you've been in the game or how confident you are in your skills and experience.

The CIO IT Resume Makeover series offers great examples of how difficult it can be for anyone to objectively convey their skills, experience and expertise on one document -- and how easy it is to fix those mistakes. Whether it's the length of the resume, poor organization or a dry list of job descriptions, our experts always know exactly how to tackle the issue. Here are five of the most common mistakes seen in the IT resume makeover series, and how you can fix them.

Break the two-page rule

While you've probably heard that it's best to keep your resume to just one or two pages, that rule is often challenged in the IT resume makeover series, which shows both sides to this conundrum: resumes that are too long are tidied up into one- or two-page documents, while sometimes shorter resumes are expanded to reach nearly three pages.

The first step in determining whether your resume needs to be longer and shorter is establishing what type of "clutter" you have on your resume. In this resume makeover from 2014, Donald Burns, executive career coach, strategist, publicist and founder of Executive Promotions, helped one candidate simplify her message by eliminating extraneous details and focusing on the key highlights, cutting it down from its original four-page format.

While in that makeover series, the candidate needed to shorten her resume, in another resume makeover from 2015, Burns decided to expand the candidate's resume to three pages. While most people are trying to find ways to make their resumes shorter, Burns shows that sometimes it's OK to break the rules, as long as you aren't including more information than recruiters or hiring managers need.

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Avoid technical jargon

It's easy to forget that the recruiter reading your resume might not be an expert in your industry, which means you'll want to save the tech jargon for the interview, not your resume. For example, in this resume makeover from last May, Burns helped one candidate edit his resume to include less tech-heavy language to make the document more approachable -- and less boring -- to a recruiter or hiring manager. Burns illustrates how important it is to craft a resume that is not only easy to read, but that will also hold the attention of the person reading it.

Another issue with jargon-heavy resumes is that they can often leave out experience, focusing solely on individual skills that are often listed out of context. In this resume makeover from last June, Andrew Ysasi, president of Adomovio and executive director of Kent Record Management, helped one candidate sift through a list of skills to build a resume that included key skills and illustrated how those fit into the candidate's overall experience. It's not just about your skills, you want to show how those skills fit into your past experience to illustrate your career story.

[ Related story: IT Resume Makeover: Knowing what to showcase ]

Tell your career story

Speaking of your "career story," part of writing a resume includes selling yourself to recruiters and hiring managers. You want them to see how your unique set of skills and work experience set you apart from others in your field. One great way to do that is to create what some resume writers call a "career story," or some sort of narrative that shows how your accomplishments led you to where you are now. It's all about personal branding, says Burns; in fact, he's seen so many that lack any type of personality that he's started calling it "all bland and no brand."

A great example of how to transfer your career history into a story can be found in this makeover from last March. Jennifer Hay, professional resume writer for IT Resume Service, helped one candidate take a boring list of skills and qualifications and transform it into a more interesting narrative. The candidate was surprised, noting that he hadn't considered approaching his resume in this format, and that he felt it was something commonly overlooked when writing IT resumes.

Candidates never even consider their resume to reflect a "story," instead viewing it as a serious, buttoned-up and professional document that can't exude any personality. But instead, as Ysasi demonstrated in this resume makeover from June, you want to inject your resume with just the right amount of personality to set you apart from the crowd.

Consider organization

One common struggle in resume writing is knowing how to organize experience, skills, education, projects, and past work so that they make sense to a reader. It can be even more difficult if you have a unique career history that might not line up chronologically, which was the case in our January resume makeover. JM Auron, a leading global IT careers leader, resume writer, and owner of Quantum Tech Resumes, helped this candidate tackle a reverse chronological order for his resume to better show "his value to prospective employers."

In another resume makeover from last February, Burns helped one candidate build a more organized approach by unearthing old experience the candidate assumed was outdated. By combining old experience with current experience, Burns created a document that flowed through the candidate's experience from start to finish, showing exactly how qualified he was for a job in ERP implementation and manufacturing.

Make sure you brag

Resumes aren't the place to be humble. They're the place to boast and brag about all your accomplishments. Of course, you want to keep it professional, but don't shy away from touting your own success. It's an all too common theme in the resume makeovers. After discussing career history with a candidate, our resume writers find the candidate has downplayed his or her own success. In this resume makeover from 2014, Cheryl Lynch-Simpson, executive career coach and resume expert with Executive Resume Rescue, helped one candidate stop "selling herself short."

Part of bragging also includes representing the image you need to have for the role you're going out for. If you want to move up in ranks and go for a job that's a step up from where you are now, then you have to consider that in your resume. In our December resume makeover, Stephen Van Vreede, IT technical resume writer at ITtechExec and NoodlePlace, helped one candidate show he is qualified for a CTO or CIO position, despite never having held the title, showing that sometimes it's all about presenting an executive image.

Whether you're ready to go for a new job, or just feel it's time to brush up your resume, you shouldn't view the task as daunting. Take this advice from our resume experts and you'll have a resume that screams "hire me" in no time.

This story, "How to overcome 5 common resume mistakes" was originally published by CIO.

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