Avoid these 6 common resume wreckers

Your resume is critical in a profession like IT- if you want a job beyond absolute entry-level, that is. Here are 6 common resume mistakes that IT job seekers face, and how to solve each one.

Generic Objective or Summary

Instead: Think about it

Have you ever seen an objective statement on a resume like this?

My goal is to use my time management and interpersonal skills to obtain a position with a growth-oriented company.

What did this objective tell you? Not much. It said “I am like everyone else and I want to get a job where I make lots of money.”

A generic resume will get you forgotten
Don’t be generic!

The top of your resume should give the reader a clear indication of why they are looking at it. This statement is generic, but you would be surprised by how many people use one just like it, even in IT.

Instead, think about what you’re trying to do. If you want to change industries, an well-written objective statement can let the reader know about your skills from the last industry that will transfer over into IT- like customer service, process modeling, sales (convincing), and troubleshooting.

If you’re already in IT, you should use an Executive Summary (they’re the exec, not you. Sorry.). An Executive Summary is, well, a summary of what they get when they hire you. It’s the Cliff Notes version of the work you do. Mine might look like this:

A seasoned technologist with over 6 years of broad systems administration experience and many more as an entrepreneur and manager. A valuable mix of business insight, technical knowledge, and team and inter-departmental collaboration. Effective at communicating complex concepts to any audience and understanding customer issues completely.


Listing every job you ever had

Instead: Focus on the roles that make you a fit

If you have held various positions unrelated to IT, like me, it can be tempting to put on every job you ever had- but this is a bad idea. Your resume needs to be short and to showcase your technology skills- as well as the soft skills that transfer over.

If you have bounced all over, try doing a Functional resume. A Functional resume has groups of your skills, and doesn’t have a list of jobs with dates at all. You might not even need to list the companies.

Too long

Instead: Make it 1-2 pages max

It’s estimated that recruiters spend somewhere between 6 to 11 seconds giving your resume the initial scan. This isn’t your fault, it’s theirs- they get spammed with resumes when they put up online job postings- and many of them are irrelevant. In other words, your 7 page resume doesn’t have a prayer.

If you’ve been in IT for a long time, you might just try giving the last 10 years of IT experience. You can also try trimming down the very old entries to the absolute bare minimum. Another idea for those 10+ year old entries is just some bullet points with highlights of the time before that. But honestly- I’m not sure things you did 10 years ago are even relevant.

Unprofessional email address

Instead: Get a Gmail with your first and last name, like David.Geiger@gmail.com

This is so simple, yet so hilarious. Here are some real and very unfortunate emails- some I couldn’t list because they weren’t family friendly.

  • greatwhitesharkgirl@hotmail.co.uk
  • tupperware67@comcast.net
  • one.hott.rican69@live.com
  • Teenstud2000@hotmail.com
  • RightSizeWronged@email.com
  • serverguy@yahoo.com

Your email is part of your personal brand- so getting it right is really important. You also want it to be searchable in a recruiter or hiring manager’s inbox. It needs to be professional and not subject you to any potential bias. Between 2 candidates with similar experience and credentials, who would you pick- rad_pimp_420@aol.com or Brian.Johnson@live.com?

I recommend that you buy your domain name, like emilywilson.com, then just be emily@emilywilson.com. Most domain registrars, like mine (1and1.com) will register you a domain name with an email address for $15 per year.

If you can’t or won’t spend the money on that, a simple and professional email at gmail, yahoo, or live.com, like emily.wilson@gmail.com will do nicely.

One generic resume for each application

Instead: Customize your resume to the opportunity.

This is not World War II. Putting out 1000 resumes that are all the same is like carpet bombing the enemy, hoping to hit the target. Sure, it’s a numbers game, but 1000 resumes is a lot of freakin’ work. Some quick-and-dirty math tells me that 1000 x 10 minutes = 167 hours. That’s over 4 forty-hour workweeks. And only 1.2% of has the potential to land you an interview.

Having been involved in hiring IT people (and hiring dozens of sales people), I can tell you that whenever I see a resume that is not tailored for what we’re looking for, it goes to the bottom of the stack- or the trash can if it’s not even close. You can’t put together one “golden resume” (like a golden image) and give that to everyone.

Put your resume right on target!

To continue the military analogy- you want a guided missile instead. You want to focus your efforts on perhaps 30-40 companies you want to work for- not indiscriminately blast them into applicant tracking portals. As an IT worker, you will be infinitely happier at a place you chose, rather than some random place that you got lucky at.

If you pick your 30-40 companies, you will be able to customize the resumes more- that’s an achievable number.

Applying online

Instead: Send a cover letter and resume directly to the hiring manger’s desk

As IT people, doing things online seems like a natural fit. This is one situation that I want you to take it analog, however. Don’t apply online.

When you find your 30-40 companies, then- skip the online application system, also known as an Applicant Tracking Portal. IF you get an answer at all, it will be some generic response like

“Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

These systems are designed to weed out hundreds or thousands of resume spammers (but that’s not you, right?). They look for keywords based on some algorithm. Your application will probably not even be seen by a human. It’s the online equivalent of a black hole.

Do not toss your resume into the black hole!
Into the black hole it goes!

Forget all that. Go on Linkedin and find the hiring manager. Send them a resume with a cover letter. By mail. To their desk.

Do you notice a theme with these points?

  • Generic Objective or Summary
  • Listing every job you ever had
  • Too long
  • Unprofessional email address
  • One generic resume for each application
  • Applying online

It’s all about customizing the experience for the hiring manager, not you. If you make it about them, you have much better odds of landing a gig. You want to give them exactly what they want so they will need to talk to you. Be mindful of these when you redo your resume, and I’m sure you’ll get a lot more traction in your job search.

Did I hit some pain points there? Go dig up your resume and update it. Let me know if I missed something in the comments below.

If you want to chat, as always, you can mail me with the form below, or just reach out on Twitter and chat me up! PS: I covered the whole job hunt process in this post. Thanks for reading!

Photo Credit: Paul Goyette


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