4 career experts share the biggest mistakes techies make on their resumes

Ever since you were 15 or so, you’ve probably heard much of the same advice when it comes to composing your resume: check your grammar and spelling, keep it concise, and make sure you always get more than one person to proofread it.

But if you’re trying to land your dream job in tech — even if it is a candidate’s market at the moment — there’s a lot more you need to know about creating an awesome resume. We spoke with four Boston career experts to hear their scariest resume horror stories and to learn the basic dos and don'ts of selling yourself to employers.

Sean McLoughlin, Practice Director 

What are the most common mistakes you see people make on their resumes?

People not calling out their software or tech experience. If a candidate has domain experience, it should be highlighted. If you’re coming from a company that’s not normally thought of as a tech company, think about what you should be highlighting. If you’re coming from a company that manufactures products, what software did you use?

What are big red flags for recruiters?

Lack of continuity. Companies like to hire people who have been working in the same industry or discipline. If there is a position that doesn't make sense and doesn’t belong with all the others, it’s probably worth leaving out.

Another thing on the tech side is when people feel the need to list every piece of software they’ve ever touched. You should just put what languages or environments in which you would want to work.

Any other general tips for presenting yourself on your resume?

In terms of resumes, shorter ones are generally better than longer ones. Most recruiters won’t read one that is longer than two pages. And the clearer the resume the better. It goes without saying, but use a normal font size and make sure the information is clearly laid out so you don’t have to guess where someone went to school.

 

Mark Stagno, Partner of Software Technology Group 

What are the most common mistakes you see people make on their resumes?

It’s two extremes: Sometimes people are too narrow. if someone has an objective, it can do more harm than good. It can make it seem like you won’t be interested in their role. Otherwise, your resume can be too broad — like if you list every technology on there. Listing too many programming languages and technologies can leave the reader feeling like you’re not telling the truth or that you’re a jack of all trades and a master of none.

What are big red flags for recruiters?

If there are a lot of gaps or short stints, like someone jumps from one job to another. It’s not so much about how you craft your resume but rather how you build your career and the decisions you make. If they think you won’t stick around for awhile, that could be a mistake.

Any other general tips for presenting yourself on your resume?

Don’t assume a recruiter assume knows what your company does or what product they make. Make it easier on the hiring manager whether that’s using different font italics that describe the product you’re developing and in the body paragraph describe what tech stack you worked with.

Someone once told me that you want your resume to answer questions not raise questions. That is a useful guiding principle when crafting your resume and something that always stuck with me.

 

Steve Rock, Senior Staffing Consultant 

What are the most common mistakes you see people make on their resumes?

The key errors I’ve seen fall into two groups: too much or too little. Make it super easy to consume. At a more junior level, your paragraphs should not be too verbose. Feed it to them in small chunks that are clearly delineated. A six, seven, or eight page resume nobody is going to bother with.

Also don’t use the pronoun ‘I.’ Start with an action verb and dive right in.

What are big red flags for recruiters?

Obviously don’t discuss politics or religion, but also check for spelling and grammatical errors. It can be tough when you’re dealing with ‘there,’ ‘their,’ or ‘they’re,’ but have someone else read your resume.

Any other general tips for presenting yourself on your resume?

Your resume is the roadmap to the interview. Put things that you want to discuss in detail. If you touched some technology, don’t put that on there or at least delineate that. There’s no shame in that. But if it’s on your resume and takes up more than a bullet point be prepared to speak about it.

People who can take products from conception to creation are huge. But data is king. The software engineer who can use data extraction languages to get to the data is king. Data fits everywhere.

Dave Denaro, Vice President 

What are the most common mistakes you see people make on their resumes?

The most common resume mistake is to be too long. Two or three pages is optimal for experienced individuals, and shorter for people who only have a few years of experience. Also, HR recruiters and hiring managers focus on the most recent and relevant experiences, so the resume should be “top heavy” with skills and the current accomplishments that match the job for which they are applying.

The second common mistake is that the bullets in the resume lead off with the words “responsible for." That belongs on a job description, not a resume because it only says what you were supposed to do, not what you actually did.

How can they fix those mistakes?

Start with a ‘Summary’ that includes your brand, and your biggest technical and personality strengths, then a ‘Technical Skills’ section and finally a ‘Selected Achievement’ section. Make sure the tech skills and selected accomplishments match up well with the job description of the job for which you are applying, if one is available. That will ensure the resume is top heavy with the experience the HR recruiter/ manager wants to see.

Then make sure bullets for the past four or five years include both actions and results in them. The formula for good bullets is action verbs plus results. What did you do (think implemented, designed, developed, etc.) AND THEN what impact did it have on the business (think resulting in, to ensure, etc.).

What info is considered irrelevant and should be left off?

Must haves, deal breakers or irrelevant info are all in the eye of the beholder (HR/hiring manager), not the candidate. The candidate need only be concerned with making it perfectly clear on their resume and cover letter submission that there is enough of a match between the candidate’s ability to deliver and the basic job requirements to warrant a phone screen or a first round interview. Also, your resume and letter must be written well enough that the recruiter makes you one of the first eight to 10 people they call.

Any other general tips for presenting yourself on your resume?

Job seekers should always add a cover letter, if the system allows it. The key words are counted and added to those on your resume, and you can use it to solidify the match between their needs and your background.