Technical writer working on a project

It’s been an odd year, to say the least, with a heavy impact on our working lives. Millions of technologists spent the first half of the year figuring out how to best work remotely; now, many are determining the safest way to go back to the office. And if you’re one of those folks searching for a new gig, you’re probably wondering how to tailor your résumé to reflect the current times. 

Dice’s ongoing Sentiment Survey has repeatedly shown that roughly a third of technologists who are employed full-time plan on looking for a new job sometime in the next two weeks. That suggests a lot of collective confidence in their skills. On top of that, many technology sub-industries, such as cybersecurity, have been experiencing heightened demand. 

For technologists exploring the market right now, it also means there’s competition out there. So how can you make your résumé stand out in the crowd? 

Soft Skills Matter

No matter what the year, of course, some things about your résumé should never change: 

  • Try to limit your résumé to one or two pages.
  • Avoid small text and difficult-to-read fonts. 
  • No flashy layouts; résumé-reading software may have a hard time. 

In addition, remember that soft skills such as communication and empathy are especially critical right now. With everyone working remotely (sometimes with poor internet connections), being able to concisely explain ideas, listen to others, and effectively manage teams with a minimum of friction are all more critical than ever. (If you’re starting from scratch, follow these handy templates for tech-résumé building.)

Reuben Yonatan, CEO of GetVoIP, concurs with that idea: “To make your résumé stand out during COVID-19, highlight skills that are uniquely suited to the current climate. For example, emotional intelligence: Companies are desperate for emotionally intelligent leaders who can help manage remote workers. If you indicate that you are emotionally intelligent and give an example illustrating the same, you will stand out.”

When writing about your experience, reserve a bullet-point or two for how your soft skills led to a positive impact within your former team or company. And be prepared to discuss those soft skills and your outcomes during the interview process.

Display Flexibility

Employers are concerned about candidates’ ability to work remotely. Many managers are still most comfortable with in-office work, and a company’s HR procedures may reflect that sentiment. They want assurance that you can get the job done from your home office, perhaps without ever meeting your colleagues in the flesh.

With that in mind, Skyler Reeves, President and CEO at Ardent Growth, suggests highlighting non-traditional skills on your résumé, such as an ability to work remotely and/or asynchronously with the broader team. For example, did you ever manage a team or complete a project without going into the company’s headquarters? That should be front-and-center.

“What really matters when you want to stand out using your résumé in this time of pandemic is making sure that your work experience complements today's needs for a more agile, responsive and flexible worker,” Reeves said.

Also, it’s key that your skills and experience align with what the company wants; as you write, make sure your résumé echoes the needs mentioned in the job description. “Whether it's remote work or a role that requires you to be on the road seven days a week, your résumé must reflect your strong alignment to the goals of the company with respect to the position that they are offering,” Reeves added. “Use bullet points to list your traits, with your flexibility on top of these, so they can separate you easily from the pool of applicants.”

Walk the Line with Buzzwords

This is a tricky one. Many experts have pointed out that “buzzword soup” in a résumé is bad form, though many also conceded that those terms are often tightly linked with applicable skills that candidates must list. 

“The best keywords are role-specific,” notes Abigail Dodwell, HR Director at Haro Helpers. “I always look to see if the résumé has keywords in there that match the main skills and experience the job role requires. If/when we have a stack of applications for a role, this quickly allows me to filter the more suitable candidates.” 

That’s a normal practice for recruiters, but Dodwell notes you can go too far: “Some résumés can be too optimized for a role. People should tailor their résumé to each role they apply for, but not to the extent that their skills and experience are a carbon copy of the job description. Nobody is perfect, so these types of résumésraise red flags immediately.”

On the other end of the scale, Diane Tabulog, Senior Director of Technology Talent and Client Solutions at Vaco, advises that listing too many languages and skills can also hurt you: “When recruiters and managers scan your résumé, they are looking for keywords that pertain to the job you are applying for, so include any keywords and software/technology in which you are proficient. However, be careful on the order and showing your age.”

In other words, unless you’re applying for a gig that involves COBOL or updating legacy applications, focus on whatever’s newest and most relevant, in terms of technical skills. “Don’t include any versions older than 20 years or you risk dating yourself (unless it is part of the job requirement),” Tabulog said. “Also, do not list keywords for technology that you are not capable of getting back to using within a few hours of getting reacquainted.”

Make It a Good, Quick Read

Imagine a recruiter trying to fill a position, with hundreds of résumés to scan via an applicant tracking system (and a smaller but significant number to actually read). Tara Goodfellow, Managing Director at Athena Education Consultants, suggests keeping your résumé under two pages; when you consult your reader (you do have someone reading it before you apply, right?), make sure you ask them about the readability.  

“Craft something you'd like to read,” Goodfellow said. “Don't fill it with so much fluff you can't even figure out what the actual responsibilities were. It should be balanced with outcomes and key points of your job.”

In other words, you don’t need to make it a taut thriller, but you do need to concisely show how you’d be effective in the role. That will help you stand out in a flood of résumés.