5 IT Resume Blunders To Avoid

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

By Kevin Casey,  InformationWeek
September 30, 2013

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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.

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"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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