I review many technical resumes each week, and they span the horrible-great continuum. However, most tend to be in the range of average to quite poor. One I reviewed recently struck me as a prime example of what would constitute horrible. So I thought it appropriate to write a blog covering some of the common mistakes on a technical resume. This particular candidate didn’t do any single thing that was horrible, but the sum of all the mistakes made it one of the worst resumes I’ve seen in recent memory.
Common Tech Resume Mistakes
- No Focus
- Too Long
- Big Blocks of Text
- Technologies Repeated Again and Again
- Weak Verbs & Passive Voice
- No Focus: The candidate could not or did not articulate the type of role they were seeking or their area of expertise. If a recruiter or hiring manager were to read the document, they would have no sense of what this candidate was about. When you’re up against hundreds of other job seekers, they will not take the time to figure this out. No, they’ll simply move on to the next resume. You can’t be all things to all people, but you can be something special to a select few. So focus your resume on a particular segment of the market.
- Too Long: If 4 pages is too long, than 12 pages was certainly way too long. I mean, this wasn’t a scientist or academic we’re talking about, it was a technology manager. When you lack focus, you try to make up for it by discussing anything and everything. This is a big mistake. When a hiring executive sees 12 pages, they just move on to the next resume without any consideration. Think about it, you spend all this time writing a 12-page document and it makes someone not want to read even one word!
- Big Blocks of Text: Another way to turn off your audience is to present your material in really dense bunches of text. Even if you’re able to keep the document to 2 pages, if it looks cumbersome, no one will read it. Encourage them to read key portions of the content you prepare by adding in spacing that’s appropriate and blending paragraphs with bullet points.
- Repeating Technologies: Many tech candidates feel the need to list every technology they have ever used for each project they were involved with. This can get really tedious. This particular candidate must have had at least 25 different projects listed over the last 12 years of experience. I don’t even know if I could count the number of times Java, Oracle, and SQL were listed. Ugh!
- Weak Verbs & Passive Voice: So, assuming that your audience got past all the other issues listed above and decided to actually read the document, the first thing they encounter is weak writing . In this case, the big culprit was the phrase “Responsible for…” Nearly every sentence began with that phrase. The English language has tons of strong, action verbs that can be used. Demonstrate that you can use them effectively. It’s a much more enjoyable read if you do.
How do you avoid these mistakes?