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5 IT Resume Blunders To Avoid

Your resume can do as much harm as good when you're hunting for a new IT job.

9 Tips To Avoid IT Midcareer Slump
9 Tips To Avoid IT Midcareer Slump
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The modern job hunt includes many moving parts: Social media, e-portfolios, online meet-ups and more. Yet the resume remains a must-have calling card for most jobseekers. Is yours giving the wrong impression?

If you're not careful, your resume can do as much harm as good when you're on the job market. We turned to Laura McGarrity, an executive with the IT recruiting firm Mondo, for advice on how to avoid resume no-nos. She shared five common mistakes her firm sees IT pros make.

1. Listing too much experience.

IT greenhorns grapple with a lack of experience when they hit the job market. Veterans deal with the opposite problem: Too much work history. It might be an unpleasant truth for midcareer IT pros, but according to McGarrity, some resumes pack in too many previous positions, which can date you -- especially if long-ago jobs are no longer relevant to your current search. If you've got 20-something years of experience, you might want pare it down to the most recent 15 years.

[ Love digging into numbers? Read How To Grow An Analytics Career. ]

"80% of the positions we work on require searching for innovative, fresh, young talent," McGarrity said in an email interview. "While you want to include all of your [relevant] experience in your resume, there is no benefit in listing experience that goes back 15-plus years. The market seems to have adopted the [mindset]: 'less is more.'"

2. Highlighting the wrong skills.

Don't lie on your resume. But do customize it for different positions and employers. That's not to say you shouldn't show versatility and depth, per se, but that you should prioritize your most pertinent skills and experience based on each job you apply for. Many recruiters and hiring managers offer similar wisdom, yet it's easy to take the one-resume-fits-all approach. Doing so will put you at a disadvantage.

"Tailor your resume to the opportunity you are applying for," McGarrity said. "Highlight and list the most relevant skills first on your resume. For example, if you’re a front-end developer, don’t put .NET as your first skill set."

3. Using feeble, flabby vocabulary.

"[Avoid] using weak words that don’t show ownership or leadership of projects," McGarrity advised. "Where applicable -- for developers and programmers, [especially] -- shy away from words such as 'part of a team that developed' or 'was involved in.' It shows no ownership of projects, and just about every hiring manager wants go-getters." Instead, be specific about your role and responsibilities, underscoring achievements or leadership whenever possible.

Similarly, avoid vague words and meaningless abstractions. Resumes are chock-full of professional cliches that do nothing to set the person apart. Just spend a few minutes reading LinkedIn profiles and you'll likely come up with a list of words and phrases that seem to appear on virtually everyone's page.

"Stay away from vague descriptive words such as 'problem-solver' and 'goal-oriented,'" McGarrity said. "Come up with words that stand out and can't be found in anyone else's resume."

4. Listing a hodgepodge of unclear positions.

Analogous to the concept of "too much experience" is simply listing too many positions. It's not an exact science, so McGarrity said it's important for IT pros to focus on distinguishing between permanent and contract positions on their resume.

"If you have been in contract and permanent roles over your [career], be sure to clarify [that] next to the position," McGarrity said. In fact, doing so can help you avoid the perception that you're a job-hopper. "How long you stay at a job is heavily looked at by HR and hiring managers, but if you can clarify which were project and consulting [jobs], it helps them understand career and approach to growing your technical skill sets over the years."

5. Listing work experience in descending order.

There's no shortage of resume advice out there. If someone recommends that you list your work experience in descending order -- meaning you show your oldest jobs first and your most recent experience last -- you should run in the opposite direction, according to McGarrity.

"Every resume reader hates seeing job positions in descending order," McGarrity said. "We recommend that you show your most recent jobs first. When you put your early jobs first, it shows them your weakest experience first and puts you at a disadvantage."

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User Rank: Apprentice
10/2/2013 | 10:44:57 AM
re: 5 IT Resume Blunders To Avoid
Thank you. The writer of (yet another) how-to article about r+¬sum+¬s lost all credibility with this old, stale reader right about there. Kevin must have been trying to shake things up by using something other than "reverse chronological." One thing he left out of his primer was "avoid spelling and grammar errors and misused words." Beyond that, this piece was no more "fresh and young" than any of the standard fare one might find on CareerBuilder or Monster.
User Rank: Apprentice
10/1/2013 | 2:07:40 PM
re: 5 IT Resume Blunders To Avoid
Kevin, I think listing your most recent experience first IS listing it in descending order. If you order jobs chronologically then the oldest would be first, so listing them in descending order means to list the most recent ones first. I agree completely that that's the best way to do it, but I'd argue that "descending order" accurately describes that best way.
Tony A
Tony A,
User Rank: Strategist
9/30/2013 | 7:48:50 PM
re: 5 IT Resume Blunders To Avoid
I think the situation is a little more complicated, both about the work experience and the "leadership" language. One of the problems I have in recruiting is that every good developer (and some not-so-good ones) wants to be a leader. But what I need most of the time is a good developer who's quite happy following a leader. As for the work experience, the author seems to be recommending that you attempt to hide your embarrassing 25 years of experience in IT. First of all, that will only work if you also don't put down the date of your college degrees, which makes it pretty apparent that you're trying to hide something. Focusing on the content of recent, relevant experience, as the author rightly suggests, and eliminating the detail for any positions that are no longer relevant, should impress regardless of the long tail. One thing that really doesn't work is to send out a resume packed with details about your entire work history and assume that an employer will look at it and say, "Well, they did all of this so I assume they can do what I want too." As you get older, it is true that you are less likely to be hired for anything outside of your existing skill set. But skill sets can last a long time; just ask a COBOL programmer.
Number 6
Number 6,
User Rank: Moderator
9/30/2013 | 5:52:14 PM
re: 5 IT Resume Blunders To Avoid
"80% of the positions we work on require searching for ... young talent." No one over 40 need apply? His candor is unusual, but I'm surprised someone in the recruiting business hasn't heard of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.
User Rank: Author
9/30/2013 | 5:17:46 PM
re: 5 IT Resume Blunders To Avoid
I love the phrase "flabby vocabulary." That is good advice not just for your resume, but for your follow up emails.
User Rank: Ninja
9/30/2013 | 4:44:53 PM
re: 5 IT Resume Blunders To Avoid
I'd say 98% of the positions are looking for "young" talent. Not many retire from computer careers. They're put out to pasture near age 50 or earlier.
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