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Killer resumes for techies

Experts offer 5 tips for refreshing your resume, preparing to job hunt in 2012

By , Network World
December 14, 2011 06:09 AM ET

Network World - If you have tech skills and experience, odds are you're going to get a call from an IT recruiter in 2012. That's because IT departments are ramping up hiring at the same time that more IT professionals are ready to leave behind employers offering flat salaries, limited flexibility and aging technology.

So now is a good time to refresh your resume.

EXPERT GUIDE: IT Job Search

But don't just slap something together quickly, experts warn. It's important that you take the time necessary to create a detailed resume that highlights your tech skills, business acumen and project management experience.

"The interview gets you the job, but it's the resume that gets you the interview," says Shana Westerman, delivery manager with Boston-based IT staffing firm Randstad Technologies. Westerman reviews 150 or more techie resumes a day.

Here are five tips from Westerman and other experts about how to best showcase your IT skills and experience in your resume:

1. Use three to six pages to fully explain your current and previous jobs

A good resume has lots of detail about your accomplishments, responsibilities and technical skills developed on the job.

OUTLOOK: Entry-level IT jobs will be plentiful in 2012, experts predict

Use a format with a summary at the top that provides a brief snapshot of your experience. Then list all of your technical and business skills. Below that, you should list your current and previous jobs, with a detailed description of your role in each job.

Certifications should be at the end of the resume, followed by your college education.

"Certifications are great, but they do not replace the necessity of having on-the-job experience," Westerman says.

For each job, provide the dates that you worked there, AND write a two- or three-second blurb about what the job entailed. Use bullets to list your responsibilities, including your day-to-day responsibilities and specific technologies that you used.

Focus on your last five years of work experience, highlighting the newest technologies that you've worked on and dropping off the older ones. Job experience older than 15 years deserves only a brief mention.

"We see IT resumes that are three to six pages," Westerman says. "Six is OK if you're a hands-on developer with a lot of technologies that you need to incorporate. But for others, the three-page mark will do. ... What's horrible is a one-page resume unless you're fresh out of school."

Overall, the look of the resume should be clean, concise and detailed at the same time. And, of course, make sure you have no typos or spelling errors!

2. Be specific about how you used your tech skills on the job

It's great to have the most-wanted tech skills -- such as Java programming, mobile application development or virtualization -- but hiring managers want more than a laundry list of these skills. They want to know how you used these hot skills in previous jobs.

"One of the biggest mistakes we see is that while a specific skill may be listed in the skill section, the candidate doesn't put detailed descriptions under their job descriptions that explains what they've done with these skills," says Elizabeth Sias, recruiting manager for Randstad Technologies. "You might list Java as a skill, but you don't show how much experience you have or what you've done it. My biggest tip with resumes is to be descriptive about how you've used your skills on the job."

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