Technical Resumes Are No Place for Fluff

In the past, the purpose of a resume was to get a job interview. Beyond that, it was up to the applicant to sell themselves during the interview by describing their role and responsibilities for each of the positions they’d held. For the IT professional, the process was straight-forward and easy to understand; you listed all the technologies you’d used, how you’d used them, and the types of projects in which you’d used them. In light of increased competition and staffing reductions, the whole process of getting interviews and receiving job offers has changed.

You’ve read any number of articles that tell you your resume is your marketing collateral and its purpose is to sell your achievements so you can get the interview. As a job seeker, you’ve been inundated with mandates to use power words such as leveraged, strategized, innovated, and spearheaded; words that are supposed to capture the interest of the reader and get you the interview you desire. What these resume writers have failed to tell you is that IT resumes are different for very practical reasons, and the generic rules regarding resume writing do not apply.

People typically select IT as a career because they are comfortable in the environment and prefer fact based activities over softer skills. They succeed in technology because they like working with like-minded individuals and want a clear understanding of the measures for success. Technology makes sense to them. IT hiring managers generally derive from this group and have worked their way up through the technical track. They like clear, concise language that is unambiguous and easy to understand. In brief, they have a low tolerance for fluff.

Describing your accomplishments using exaggerated statements and inaccurate power words will backfire; you will either not get the interview or you will fail during the interviewing process. IT hiring managers are familiar with job roles and can spot exaggerations that are not consistent with expected responsibilities. Even if you do get an interview, you will not be able to adequately respond to questions that dive into the details of your experience.

Use a direct approach to write your resume. You should include language that describes the challenges you have faced and how you overcame them, the actions you took, and the results you achieved. One caution—do not state the business value in vague terms. For example, if you automated business processes don’t write that you reduced costs, improved functionality, and increased employee productively. The IT hiring manager already knows that generic value.

Quantifiable and descriptive measures should always be included. If you know that you reduced costs 25% and saved the company $500K then you absolutely need to include this information. If you can describe how you improved employee productively and how you diverted workforce effort to other needed processes then the hiring manger will want to know.

When considering business value, try to think in terms of unexpected results. For example, during the project did you deliver a workflow diagram that identified duplicate or unnecessary steps in the activities? As a result of these findings, was the organization able to streamline a process or even eliminate processes with no business impact? This is an example of an achievement that will resonate with an IT manager.

When you hire a resume writer don’t be fooled by fluff. The language that describes your achievements should build a solid and stable foundation for demonstrating your ability to do the desired job. Save the power words for those instances that truly describe the incredible things you’ve done.  Finally, don’t be afraid to question your resume writer about their reasoning for specific language. Every good writer selects each word with care and purpose, and should be open to sharing their thoughts with you.

Jennifer Hay is a highly credentialed resume writer and LinkedIn writer for IT professionals. Her clients include data engineers, data scientists, software engineers, systems analysts, project managers, program managers, product managers, IT managers, and IT directors.