5 Tips For Writing A Great Technical Resume

How often have you scrambled to assemble a resume, only never to hear back from the company you applied to? You’re not alone. Often your resume competes against hundreds (or even thousands!) of other resumes. So…how do you get noticed?

A resume isn’t something most people regularly update (even though we probably should). When you suddenly apply for jobs, throwing one together at the last minute can be overwhelming.

First and foremost, your resume is a representation of you. Just like you’re on your “best behavior” for a job interview, your resume should present the best possible version of yourself.

On average, recruiters spend about seven seconds reviewing your resume, so it’s imperative to put the most relevant information at the forefront and have a visually appealing presentation.

Let’s look at some of the most common resume mistakes and how to fix them, which will ensure you present the best possible version of yourself to recruiters and land a job interview.

Tip #1. Your Contact Information Should Be Easy To Locate

Recruiters must be able to contact you. If your contact information is listed at the bottom of your resume, it will be a hassle for them to find it, and likely, they’ll move on to the next candidate.

Include your full name, phone number, and email address; your physical address is only necessary if you apply for an international role. Additionally, if you are applying for an international position, include the country code with your phone number.

You may also include links to your personal website, Twitter, blog, or LinkedIn page if they’re focused on your professional experiences.

Two layouts that work well include the two-column layout, where the left sidebar includes your contact information and relevant skills. In contrast, the main column includes your work experience and education.

Two column layout resume

The second layout that works well is the one-column layout, where your contact information is at the top, followed by the content.

Full layout single column resume

Whichever layout you choose, make sure your contact information is up-to-date and easy to find.

Tip #2. Focus Your Work Experience On Your Direct Impact

One of the biggest “mistakes” with resumes is not listing your direct impact on a product or team. Let’s take a look at an example. Can you see the difference between the following two resumes?

Resume 1 at Tech Company: - Rewrote app using React - Mentored junior team members - Cleaned up old code. Resume 2 at Tech Company: - Refactored app from Dojo to React which reduced page load time from 2.3 seconds to 0.5 seconds - Mentored two junior team members in React, allowing them to close 32% more JIRA tickets over a 3-month period - Deleted 327 lines of legacy code, reducing bundle size by 12%.

Looking at these two examples, it’s clear that resume two has provided more detailed information. It has included concise bullet points and leveraged data where applicable (i.e., “…which reduced page load time from 2.3 seconds to 0.5 seconds”).

Resume two also clearly explains the “so what” recruiters are looking for when reviewing your resume. You should clearly define your direct impact on a project or team. These are called “impact statements.”

When writing your impact statements, you should use action verbs. Here is a list of helpful action verbs you can use when writing your impact statements:

Action verbs. Communication & collaboration: Presented, Influenced, Recruited, Directed, Moderated, Promoted, Reported, Arranged, Corresponded, Assisted. Development: Refactored, Removed, Developed, Delivered, Authored, Wrote, Documented, Coded, Created, Designed. Design: Illustrated, Customized, Revised, Visualized, Redesigned, Initiated. Leadership: Mentored, Guided, Assisted, Expedited, Motivated, Supported, Coached, Proposed, Educated, Represented, Earned, Supervised, Prioritized, Spearheaded, Orchestrated, Headed, Led, Strengthened

Using impact statements with action verbs and data will drastically improve your ability to catch a recruiter’s eye.

Your impact statements should always be written in first-person, but omit the subject “I.” So instead of writing: “I aided two new team members to submit a pull request,” skip the “I.” The statement should read: “Aided two new team members to submit a pull request.”

Here are a few examples of effective impact statements. You’ll notice a few critical components across each of the examples.

  • Each statement begins with an action verb
  • Each statement answers the question “so what” (impact statement)
  • Where applicable, each impact statement includes a relevant data point
Action verb is italicized text, direct object is blue text, data point is bold text, and impact is underlined.

It would be best if you aimed to have three to five impact statements for each work experience. Anything more and you run the risk of your most essential contributions getting lost in the resume; anything less and you may not effectively describe your contributions.

Tip #3. Ensure Consistent Formatting

You may think that inconsistent resume formatting isn’t an issue, but minor inconsistencies add up. In the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, the author describes the impact that small changes have on the trajectory of an airplane.

“Imagine a plane taking off from Los Angeles and directed to New York. If the pilot decided to adjust the course by 3.5 degrees to the south previous to departure, the plane would slightly move few centimeters, and no one would probably notice. However, throughout the journey, the impact of that little change would be tremendous––to the point that the plane would land in Washington DC, instead of New York.”

If our resume has six formatting mistakes, it may seem like a small amount when taken at a granular level, but when we view the resume as a whole, they add up. Let’s illustrate this with an example.

Given the following two resumes, which looks more visually appealing?

Two resumes side by side. Each resume has a sidebar with the candidate’s name, phone number and email address. The main content section lists three companies with 3-4 bullet points for each. Resume one doesn’t have any visual inconsistencies but resume two has several visual inconsistencies that are described in the next section.

It takes little time to determine which resume looks more visually appealing. Why is that? There’s nothing in resume two that could be better, but several issues make it feel less put together.

The formatting issues with resume two include the following:

  • An extra space before the email address
  • The email address is written in a different font family
  • Company three’s impact statements are indented
  • The space between company one and company two is 38px, while the space between company two and company three is 47px
  • Company two’s title is a smaller font size

None of these formatting inconsistencies in isolation is a massive issue, but combined can indicate that you’re not detail-oriented.

Export Your Resume In PDF Format

When it’s time to export your resume, you should export it as a PDF. While .doc or .docx are also common resume formats, they don’t preserve formatting. As a result the layout can be skewed when viewed on someone else’s computer. A PDF format, in contrast, preserves formatting.

Tip #4. Listing Unfamiliar Tools & Languages

When I created my first resume, I listed every tool and language I encountered. This led to awkward interviews when I was asked questions about jQuery, and I’d only read about it in a college textbook.

If you are not comfortable completing a code challenge in a language, you should omit it from your resume’s language/technology section.

If you’ve worked with a language or technology in the past, you may indicate that within a specific work experience. For example, if you add the impact statement “refactored legacy Dojo code into React components,” the recruiter knows you have some experience with Dojo but aren’t necessarily a Dojo expert. In contrast, listing Dojo as one of your language competencies indicates you’re comfortable coding in the framework.

Make sure to only list technologies underneath your key skills that you’d be comfortable answering questions about in a technical interview.

Tip #5. Keep Your Resume To One Page (Two Page Maximum)

One of the biggest mistakes I see when reviewing resumes is that they need to be shorter. A resume should be one page if you have less than ten years of experience in the relevant industry and a maximum of two pages if you have ten or more years of experience in the relevant industry.

You might think, “I thought a resume was supposed to encompass everything you’ve ever achieved professionally and academically?” A resume should only highlight your professional and academic accomplishments in reverse-chronological order (most recent experiences first).

If you want to create a multi-page, chronological document of your accomplishments, that is a CV or a curriculum vitae. A CV is all-encompassing and lists experiences and achievements chronologically (most recent experiences at the end). You can think of a CV like a novel you read from beginning to end.

You should check the preferred document (resume vs. CV) when applying for a job. If the posting doesn’t say, you should look at the most widely accepted document for that geographical location. For example, it’s more common in the U.S. to submit a resume when applying for a job, whereas many European countries prefer a CV.

Go Create Your Stand-Out Resume

Implementing these five tips will ensure your resume stands out among the applicant pool. Having friends and family read through your resume to catch any minor visual or grammatical errors is always a great idea. You can also use tools like Grammarly to check the tone and grammar of your resume.

An up-to-date and comprehensive resume will ensure you put your best foot forward when applying for jobs. You’ll land that interview in no time!

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