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Write the Best Possible Resume

In reading over a number of articles about resume-writing lately, I've been struck by how many of them focus on errors, mistakes, and things to avoid. To counter this trend towards negativism, I put on my thinking cap to recast some basic and very helpful advice for resume writers in purely positive terms. Hopefully, this will make it easier for those IT professionals casting about for resume tips to do the right things!

What to do vs. what not to do: Accentuate the positive!

Here is my list of Ten Rules for Resume Writers

  1. Tailor your focus to the job: when you apply for a particular position, tweak your resume to speak to and reflect that position. It's OK to skip irrelevant or unrelated details.
  2. Practice perfect spelling and grammar, please! Nothing directs a resume to the trash bin faster or better than mistakes in a resume. Get as many eyeballs on your work as you can, preferably belonging to people with serious and well-informed language skills (I always ask a couple of my copy editor friends to look over my resumes).
  3. Keep it short and sweet (2 pages max, 1 page is best). If you've been working more than 10 years, you need provide only basic info on older positions (or add a line that says "Earlier employment history and other details available by request").
  4. Make it readable, and people will actually read your resume. Resumes can be dense, dry, dull and boring unless you try to make them easy to read, follow, and understand. Tips 1 & 3 will help with this one, but you must still take the time and effort to put yourself in the reader's place, and try to liven things up.
  5. Put your name front and center, at the top of every page. Lots of people put important details in Word headers, or other forms of document meta-data. Most resume scanners cheerfully ignore such information and may therefore miss this stuff. If that's where your name and contact info resides, you may be SOL!
  6. Use keywords to help search engines find you. You think people filter resumes these days? Nope! Search engines make the first passes over this information, so you have to feed them the keywords they seek to attract their attention. As part of the process for item 1, you'll want to repeat key terms and phrases from the job description you seek to fill in your own resume. That is sure to grab attention from the search engines, and ultimately, from the people who use them.
  7. Explain your skills, knowledge and accomplishments clearly and succinctly. There's nothing duller than a recitation of somebody else's job description in a resume, or a list of responsibilities undertaken and delivered with varying degrees of wit and wisdom. Talk about what you learned, what problems you solved, what issues you addressed, and what you can do (and have done for other employers).
  8. Be direct, dynamic, and objective. Consider this an extension of items 1, 3, 4, and 7. It's not good enough to assert your greatness: you have to demonstrate your good qualities, preferably with an appropriate level of humility and objectivity, using clear simple language that captures reader interest and enlivens your professional history and interests.
  9. Make your resume stand out: Alas, all resumes look something alike, so you should do what you can to make yours stand out. Include a recent headshot (not too glamorous, but current and positive), and links to your LinkedIn page, personal website, work portfolio, or whathaveyou. If you're at a loss for inspiration, check out my site at www.edtittel.com.
  10. The whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you... Recent news stories have included profiles of those whose resumes strayed from the truth (such as former Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson, who claimed to have earned a CS degree he lacked) and have paid the price for misrepresentation. Stick to what's going to show up on a background check, and there's no possible cause for concern, consternation or recriminations later on.