How are Technical Resumes Different?


By Jennifer L. Hay

Technical resumes are different from other types of resumes so the writing advice that you commonly find is simply not relevant for technology professionals and may slow your job search. I have found that the same advice used for business resumes is often regurgitated and represented as the top best practices for technology professionals.

Don’t be fooled – most of those people writing resume articles don’t actually write resumes for a living – their job is to write about resume writing.  Let’s review the best practices in technical resume writing.

1)  Include numbers so the reader can quickly quantify your achievements.

Technical resumes typically don’t include numbers, such as a 30% improvement of this or that. Unless you are in management, you probably don’t even have access to this information. I more commonly see numbers for people working in support, which are provided by the help desk ticketing systems.

If you are working on one aspect of a much larger project, you can’t realistically determine what that number is.  Focus instead on the value you provided to the business or technical team in terms of improved functionality, new capabilities, improved data access, better security, etc.

2) No one reads a resume that is longer than one page.

The one-page resume rule that you commonly read about is actually the opposite of what you should do if you have at least several years of experience.  Technical resumes include a lot more information than other types of resumes – technical details about the work performed, and the inclusion of the technologies used, as well as the certifications and professional training needed to stay current in an industry that is constantly evolving.

3)  Make your technologies prominent on your resume.

I’ve seen resumes where a list of technologies dominated the summary and professional experience section while also being included in a technology skills section. While its important to include the tools you’ve used, overwhelming the reader is not the way to go. As a good practice:

  • Limit the technologies in your summary. For example, if you are Citrix expert, mention that without listing all the Citrix tools.
  • Create a technology section with tools separated by category names, such as programming languages, operating systems, data integration tools, etc.
  • In professional experience section, integrate the tools into your achievement statements to demonstrate your experience.

4) Rank your technical skill level from beginner to expert level.

Yes, recruiters do like to see the technical skills levels included. It’s an easy way to exclude you if they don’t think your skill level is high enough. Why would you want to do that?

Lately I’ve seen quite a few resumes that visually display the applicant’ technology and their skill level – its typically included in resume templates. Its an image and not data so when you resume is loaded into an Applicant Tracking System, the technology is not included. Don’t take chances – put your primary technologies in a skills table and integrate your strongest technologies into your professional development section.

5) Recruiters take 10-15 seconds to see if they will interview you.

The typical recruiter quickly glances at a resume and makes sure the person meets the criteria for the level of position they are seeking and then if they do, they’ll read your resume more closely.  This means that you have to pass the quick scan first and then also have the interesting content that will keep them engaged.

About Jennifer Hay

I’ve been writing technical resumes and advising on career transitions for almost 15 years.

Throughout that time, I’ve read numerous articles about best practices for IT resume writing. What I found in those articles is a lot of bad information because it’s the same advice they give for non-technical professionals. This is important because IT resumes are different.

I built this website to share what I’ve learned in my career. I think you’ll find information on this website that will help make your IT resume a success.