6 Resume tips from a Tech Recruiter
How do you make sure your resume has maximum impact? If you're applying for a tech position, you want your resume to represent you well, at a glance! As a tech recruiter, my work demands that I scour the web and read thousands of resumes a year to find top talent, so I have a lot of relevant experience when it comes to knowing what makes a certain resume stand out over others.
When you’re thinking about your resume for a tech job, try imagining that you’re looking for a new book online. You go to the “best seller” section because you’re craving an action-packed thriller. A few titles that catch your attention so you click on the summary to see if you’re interested in buying any of the books. After starting to read the first summary, you stop halfway through because nothing catches your eye. What you might not have even realized was that the last sentence had a major plot twist that would have made you immediately purchase the book. A resume is basically the same thing! If you hide your relevant or enticing skills or job experience, a recruiter can miss it.
Before I dive into my resume tips, let me just say that resume writing is an art and not a science. I regularly go to the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington D.C. and don’t understand why certain works of art have long lines of people waiting to see a particular piece. Art is subjective and just because a certain piece doesn't catch my eye, doesn’t mean it won’t resonate with another person. Resumes are much the same way. As a company's needs change and evolve, a resume that didn't receive more than a passing glance today, could be the next great hire a month or two down the road. So make sure to keep updating and honing your resume as you pick up new skills, as well as applying to different jobs!
With all that in mind, let me offer a few ways to make this art a little more scientific. Hopefully, my 6 resume tips will help you make your resume as impactful as possible!
1) List important information and skills at the top of your resume
Think back to my point about the book summary: had the author put more relevant details in the beginning of the summary, they would’ve made a sale. Think about your resume in the same way. A lot of people will put irrelevant material at the top of their resume, which can take up a lot of space and doesn’t offer me more insights about you. In fact, it can make the recruiter have to work harder to figure out what tech the candidate is actually familiar with—one of the most important things when hiring a software engineer, data analyst or developer. To show a recruiter you are a good fit for the exact role you are applying for, put the most relevant information up top. I’m not going to say what is specifically relevant because this can vary from role to role, but I’ll outline a few options:
- Clearly list out the technology and tools YOU have hands-on experience with. I’ve listed a brief example below, but feel free to customize based on the role you are applying to and what categories seem relevant.
- Frameworks: Spring, Angular, React CI/CD
- Tools: Docker, Git, Jenkins
- Databases: MongoDB, DynamoDB, Postgress
- Cloud: AWS Certifications: AWS cloud practitioner
- List what roles you are interested in. I wouldn’t necessarily do this first in every scenario, but it is good if you are looking for very specific roles or making a career change.
- Completed or expected degrees. I would only advise this for recent grads and students looking for internships. Otherwise, it can go on the bottom of your resume. I’ve rarely seen a specific degree make or break an application. If a tech recruiter is looking for a specific degree or university, they will likely keyword search your resume for it.
2) Use bullet points, NOT paragraphs in the body of your resume
Ever read a social media post or email and wish there was a tl;dr section? I’ve seen hundreds of resumes that are pages long due to everything being written in paragraph format. Simple bullet points will make it more likely for your key points to get noticed and ensure more of your resume is getting read through by the recruiter.
3) Limit the number of bullet points you use
Now hold your horses. Before you start breaking up your paragraphs into bullet points, I want you to think about if that line is an assumed responsibility in your role. If I see someone’s job title is “Software Engineer,” I can assume you’re writing/maintaining code. If it is easily assumed, you don’t need it on your resume. This can take 10 bullets down to 5-6 very quickly. Also focus on YOUR contributions and not what your team was doing. It’s cool that your team created a full-stack application with Vue.js, but if you didn’t touch any of that code, it’s going to come out in your interview. Here are some examples of helpful lines you can include below:
- Elevator pitch of the application you are working on
- Key user stories or projects you completed
- Specific coding languages and tools you utilized in this role
- Achievements or quantifiable results
4) Add personality to make your tech resume interesting
Some people who prefer the traditional formal resume will disagree with me here, but overall it doesn’t hurt to put some personality in a resume; especially a tech one. I will never forget the time I had an applicant with a single line on her resume that mentioned she built and ran an alpaca farm from the ground up. I wasn’t sure if her tech background was the exact fit for the role, but clearly I HAD to reach out regardless because she sounded interesting. There are a few ways to do this besides building your own alpaca farm. You can have a small section listing hobbies, you can put fun facts in, or you can list organizations and charities you participate in. If you are really confident in your writing skills you can put your personality throughout your resume (you might have noticed I’ve done this in my post if you’re not sick of my humor already). With all of these, the point is to give the recruiter get a sense of who you are and make them want to speak to you. You aren’t going to land the job because of these, but this will make the recruiter want to learn more about you. Now, the key with this is to not go overboard. I mentioned before, it was one line on the resume that caught my attention. It wasn’t random facts that filled a whole section of the resume or drew away from her key skills. I would advise listing these at the bottom or on the side of your resume if the formatting permits.
5) Add personal projects, open source contributions and blogs
One of the things that excites me the most is when I see a github or stackoverflow link on a resume. Why? Because I can look into what you’re actually working on and see if you’re trying to tinker with new tech on the side. The tech world is always rapidly changing and new tools are continuously coming out. It goes a long way to show that you are trying to keep up with it and my tech teams always appreciate people who are taking that initiative. Teams also want to hire people that are passionate about things and passionate people are doing side tech projects because they love it. However, keep these off of your resume if you don’t actively update them. It’s great you had a github in college, but if you’re three years out and haven’t made any commits, it’s not showing me much.
6) Don’t go overboard with style and formatting
This is another one that is going to spark a debate, but I generally advise not being too complex with style and designs on a resume. Use the tips I mentioned above to grab the recruiter’s attention instead of gimmicks. Also if you are applying to roles in the US, you do not need to provide a picture, marital status, or other personal information that you might have to in other countries. Your skills should speak for you and not your smile.
Key tech resume takeaways
Remember—resumes are an art and not a science. My advice is meant to make this art a little more scientific, but just because 20 recruiters pass on your resume, doesn’t mean that something won’t grab the 21st recruiter’s attention. Keep honing your art and you’ll land that next tech job in no time.