Home > Certification, Resume > IT Resume Tips–May my rant help you someday.

IT Resume Tips–May my rant help you someday.

No, I’m not currently looking, thanks for asking. (Wait, how cool is the option?)  But if you follow my posts, you know I’ve been collecting some certs.  This means it’s time to update my resume.  I know that I don’t have the best resume in the world, so please don’t be deluded into that impression.  But when I’m asked to either review potential new hires, or resumes of my peers, I know what I like and what I don’t like.  I figured I’d share some of those tips here.  Between mine and those you’ll find elsewhere, I’m just hoping it helps someone out in the future.  Equally, if you’re reading this and have feedback or comments to me, please, share.  I won’t be offended, if it helps me make it better!

So without further delay:

1) Update frequently

You’re never going to be sure when you’re going to need it.  Someone might ask you out of the blue if you’re looking.  You may not be.  There may be a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Don’t let it pass you by because you didn’t have your resume ready.  That’s not saying have “one foot out the door”, by any stretch.  But life is scary, “wear a helmet”, just in case.

There’s a good chance if you work in one place for a while, you’ll forget some of the cool or noteworthy things you’ve done.  Updating your resume quarterly will let you remember to get those cool things in there.  Think of it like your performance reviews at work – did you do what you said you were going to do?  Are you doing what you want to be doing?  Are you happy with the work you’re doing?  Is there something you’d be more interested in doing?  Performing a career tune up, when nothing is wrong, is nothing but good maintenance.

2) SpellCheck!

Maybe I’m a spelling and grammar Nazi, I don’t know.  But if you can’t spell correctly, or misuse words like “they’re/their/there”, you’re out.  Even worse, is if you don’t use the Vendor/Product name correctly.  I’m not just talking about CaMeLcAsE (which, as a VMware vExpert on vSphere… I get it, it’s dumb.), but the actual names.  The number of resumes I’ve seen listing experience with “Micro-Soft”, “Symantic”, “Veritos”, drive me bonkers.  You’ve apparently worked with the product for 7 years, watched the splash screen load up every day, but somehow can’t remember how to spell the product name?

3) Acuracy

This one is a little tougher, but it’s related to spellcheck.  Did you say you did an Exchange 2008 migration?  Are you using Symantec eVault?  (Quick hint – Symantec’s product is Enterprise Vault – SEAGATE’s product is called eVault.  Think it doesn’t matter?  Try talking to a VAR/Support/Tech person who gets it wrong during design/troubleshooting, and then find out that he built you something for the wrong product, or is suggesting you change settings based on the other product’s known bugs that don’t apply.)

This isn’t a rant about simpler things like “Windows 2012” vs “Windows Server 2012”, where the ambiguity can be accepted.  This is more about making sure you don’t say “Yes, I know Symantec NetBackup” when your resume lists “Symantec Backup Exec”.  I promise you, they’re different beasts.  Your knowledge and skill may very well allow you to pick up the other product quickly.  But if I’m evaluating you based on 5+ years of working with the product I have in place – I expect you know it, not be willing to learn it.  Also, if it’s called out in the interview, and you make the mistake of saying you work with X when Y is listed – I’m going to assume you know neither.

Also, it can help to include unabbreviated details.  Remember the resume may be reviewed by someone junior and/or in HR before it comes to the IT manager/team lead/team.  I’ve seen resumes that were not forwarded to us to review because “You said we were looking for CCNA” and the person listed “Cisco Certified Network Associate”.  You may want to list both – put one in brackets perhaps.  Also, in one instance, the fellow did NOT list CCNA – but had two CCIE’s.  Yeah, why would we even consider that guy… Winking smile

4) Presentation

There isn’t a word processing program around, that doesn’t have a “Show Markups” option.  USE IT!  Simple changes to a file can produce unexpected results.  Make sure you watch for them.  Let me show you some examples:
Looks good right?  Nice and standard, spacing is all right?
Copy and paste one line, because you want to modify it for a similar line item.  Note that the NEXT line now has an extra preceding space.
Cut and paste from another source – see how the font is slightly larger?  Also how there is a different line spacing before/after the entry for ”Cloud Infrastructure….”  (Tip: Use “Paste Text Only” then use the Format Painter to make it match after)
See the difference there?  It’s using a “,” vs “-“.  Remember to be consistent.  Also remember that Word will “auto format” – to – and such on you.  So go through it carefully after to see what it has done to your edits.  Copy and paste them if you need to, to make them consistent.

You might be thinking “these things don’t really matter” and “you’re being pretty picky”.  They do matter.  The human eye picks up on these things, subconsciously.  Just like how you might notice a picture is hung crooked, you see these things.  Sometimes, you can’t even put your finger on it, but you know it “feels off” somehow.  More to the point, the viewer can often turn on “Show Markups” on their side – and see all your horrible edits.

So while you may be “just an IT guy” (or gal), you should know how to bloody well use Word (or your word processor of choice).  If you’re using manual spacing instead of tabs and tab stops, stop now, and learn how to do it right.  If you’re using manual spacing to try to get multi-part areas to line up, and not using tables:
Figure out how tables work.  If you can’t or won’t learn Word, what hope is there that your documentation will be consistent – or good?  Do I even want to know what your spreadsheets and Visio diagrams look like?  If you won’t learn Word… how can I count on you to learn “Enterprise Product vX.Y.Z” and implement it consistently?

Resumes are all about presenting yourself in the best way possible.  These are your brochures, your full page ads, your RFP.  Ensure it looks the best.

5) Consistency

This item wraps up a few of the above and repeats them a bit.  I realize it’s redundant, bear with me.  But I need to know that if you’re following a standard, that you’ll do so.  Your resume is your OWN standard.  There is no executive team, no change management body, no company stewardship.  There’s a voting party of one.  If you can’t get along and agree with YOURSELF, what hope is there that you can do it in a team?

What frightens me most, is that if you don’t do bullet points consistently, what on earth will you do with a switch config?  IP address schemes?  Host naming standards?  Configuration baselines?  I need to know that when we’re working on an overnight all hands on deck major upgrade, that you don’t need your work checked.  (Aside – everyone, especially myself, should feel glad to have their work peer reviewed and not offended.  Having someone NOT find a mistake is a good pat on the back, but having a peer find it NOW instead of an executive TOMORROW, is priceless.  You’re not perfect.  Be part of the team.  At the very least, double check your own work.  You’re paid to be good – so BE GOOD.)

6) Peer Review

Ah, you thought I was done with that, eh?  Not yet.  If I, as a potential employer or teammate, am the first person to see your resume since you hit save – there’s a problem.  You MUST have someone you can turn to.  Friends, family, co-workers, peers in the industry.  Someone out there must be willing to catch these things for you.  Your best bet – find the most anal, jaded, sarcastic, OCD person you can find (I’m available by request Smile) and get them to review it.  You know how the review went well and was helpful?  They tore it to shreds.  Don’t be offended.  You WANT them to find EVERY LITTLE THING.

There’s another nice little benefit that comes from this, when you choose “peer review”.  You and your peers, who you likely don’t talk with often enough, will compare notes.  You’ll talk about the industry, employers, certifications, projects, etc.  You’ll find out what they’ve done and vice versa.  This is a great time to realize things like “You’ve worked with ProductX?  We’re thinking of trying it, how did the project go?”.  Congratulations, you just created “community involvement”.  If you’re still going about your day, thinking you’re the first caveman to invent fire, and there’s no value in talking to others, it’s time to break that habit.

7) General Stuff

This is just here so that I can say I said it.  But all the things you should have learned in school about resume writing, still apply – I haven’t taken any away.  Try to stay away from job task lists that talk about what you did day to day and focus on highlights, projects, or business value.  If you’re saying “Checked Backups Daily” and you’re the backup or system administrator, I kind of expect that to be true.  Did you perform a major upgrade of the software?  Reduce backup windows?  Improve RPO/RTO?  Save any money?

I know the world says “Keep resumes to 1 page”.  For the life of me, I don’t see how.  If you have advice to share, I’d love to hear it.  I can do 3.3 pages at best.

Pick one font.  Use bold, italic, and size changes to affect the visual.  Dear god, don’t you ever use Comic Sans, unless you just want people to laugh at you.

EVERY page should have your name at the very least on it.  Put it in the Header or Footer so it’s consistent and automatic (hey, sounds like automation, doesn’t it?  The way of the future!).

If you DON’T want someone pulling a “Show Markup” then send a PDF.  Be careful with what you can see in a Track Changes or Show Markup.  You may find previous edits or copies that shouldn’t be there.

    That’s all I’ve got.  Hopefully it helps someone out.  I’ve had a few juniors talk to me recently , asking for advice, and figured I’d collect my thoughts here.  If they’re smart, they’re not relying on just my tips, but that of many – and getting some peer review Smile

    Categories: Certification, Resume
    1. Chris H
      September 30, 2014 at 5:33 AM

      Good rant Avram. I have to chuckle when I saw that the title of consistency wasn’t boldest like the rest of the titles.

      Great points. I work hard at maintaining my resume, keeping the areas consistent and providing as concise info as possible. Other things to add: don’t add your mugshot pictures, proper alignment / spaces in places they shouldn’t be, and the use of headers and footers aid to find multiple page resumes if they are mixed up.

      Thanks for this.

      • September 30, 2014 at 8:44 AM

        There was a comment or two that I haven’t approved, that clearly missed the (what I thought was) obvious humor in the header ‘errors’ (there are a few, I tried to be funny!) I did deliberately to prove my point. 🙂 Made me snicker to see who just didn’t get it.

    2. October 1, 2014 at 7:59 AM

      Try to stay away from job task lists that talk about what you did day to day and focus on highlights, projects, or business value. If you’re saying “Checked Backups Daily” and you’re the backup or system administrator, I kind of expect that to be true. Did you perform a major upgrade of the software? Reduce backup windows? Improve RPO/RTO? Save any money?

    3. October 1, 2014 at 7:59 AM

      Ha-ha… You realy made my day by example about the guy with two CCIEs instead of CCNA. This is so important not just to send the resume to a job offer, but even knock in the door many times. Nowadays to be hired = to be lucky.

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