Main image of article Modernize Your Tech Resume for the New Year

Are you finding yourself snubbed by prospective employers? Your résumé could be the culprit, even if it features all the necessary keywords to get you past the initial round of screenings. Tech pros need a fresh style to grab the attention of recruiters and hiring managers who are tired of reading the same old stuff. “My contacts at major tech firms such as Facebook and Google say they’re looking for tech pros who take a different approach to their work and bring different perspectives,” explained Amy Gies, who creates résumés for tech pros in Silicon Valley as founder of Capstone Résumé Services. That need for “different perspectives” is why many tech firms are now willing to consider self-trained tech pros with liberal arts degrees, so long as they pass a series of technical exams. If your résumé contains long lists of outdated technologies or fails to frame your accomplishments in the most compelling way, it’s time for a makeover. Here are some ways to create a résumé that works for the job market.

Get Human

Tech professionals who have spent a lot of time on the open job market know that focusing your résumé’s content on specific jobs and daily tasks without describing the business impact or outcomes is ineffective. In addition to a clear breakdown of the results you’ve achieved, prospective employers now want to know how you’ve approached technical or operational problems, the types of people you’ve worked with, and the processes you’ve used to succeed. “Your backstory needs to include the human side,” Gies said. “Who did you consult with? How did you work with them to resolve the problem? That’s what they want to know.” Gies has made several changes to tech pros’ résumés in order to showcase the way they approach their jobs. For instance, she dedicates one sentence in the opening summary or profile to a candidate’s interpersonal skills or their use of a cross-functional, interactive mindset when dealing with technical challenges. In the bulleted list of accomplishments in the top third of a résumé, she also includes one or two non-technical achievements, such as leadership or helping a business adopt a new strategic outlook. In order to differentiate a candidate from the competition, Gies also incorporates a list of how-tos into the description of each project or role. By including the technology and techniques used to accomplish a particular goal, these how-tos show that the tech pro has mastered the skills necessary to succeed in a variety of positions. The trick is just condensing things so that you get your point across as quickly as possible, especially if your application is already running a bit long.

It’s Okay to Use First Person… Sometimes

Using first-person pronouns in résumés has traditionally been a no-no. But that’s starting to change, according to Lynda Spiegel, founder of Rising Star Résumés, a career coaching and résumé service. Instead of using this “disembodied voice,” she believes that it’s okay to use “I.” Such language can give the reviewer a glimpse into your personality. “After all, a résumé is a marketing tool,” she noted. “And more people are choosing to tell their professional story in the first person on networking sites.” Before you rewrite your entire résumé, test the waters by only using first-person pronouns in your opening summary. Consider your role, level, target audience, and the impression you want to convey. For instance, a first-person narrative may be the way to go if you’re a creative professional such as a game developer or designer, and looking to score a job at a hip startup. However, you may want to stick with a more traditional format if you’re pursuing a management role in an established company or industry.

Include Job-Related Extracurricular Activities

Including a list of community affiliations, non-profit work or experiences with people and customs in different countries is another way to showcase your true self. “Tech companies are interested in hiring people who have traveled extensively or worked overseas,” Gies said. “Listing sabbaticals or experiences that further engagement with diverse audiences and foster flexible thinking and approaches would be a feather in your cap.”

Let Go of the Past

Naturally, programmers and developers still need to prove their technical prowess by placing relevant certifications and skills near the tops of their résumés. But even professionals in highly technical roles should resist the urge to list every skill or technology they’ve ever worked with. Listing older languages and outdated tools suggests that you’re out of touch. “Stick with what’s relevant and organize your technical toolbox by category to make it easier for the reviewer,” Spiegel said.