Top 10 Resume Mistakes IT Pros Should Avoid

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If you’re updating your resume in preparation for a job hunt, chances are you’ve found plenty of advice on what you should do to capture an employer’s interest. But it’s equally important to know what not to do. Even little mistakes quickly can end your chances of being interviewed for a position.

What are the most common errors IT professionals make when writing a resume? Here are the top 10 “don’ts” to avoid:

1. Lying: Never stretch the truth. For instance, you might be close to earning a Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator designation, but until you have it in hand, don’t claim to have earned it. Even small lies can be uncovered by potential employers during the background-check process and eliminate you from contention.

2. Sending resumes out in a hurry: Although you might be particularly eager to apply for a position, be sure to take the extra time to proofread your resume carefully. Mentioning you are experienced with “Visa” instead of “Vista” might be all it takes to send your resume to the circular file. In a recent survey by Robert Half Technology, 84 percent of executives polled said it takes just one or two typographical errors to remove a candidate from contention. Employers see typos, misspellings and grammatical mistakes as a sign you lack professionalism and attention to detail. Use the spell-check function and ask friends and family to help you review your resume before sending it out.

3. Including personal information: Your resume should be focused on the skills and qualifications relevant to performing the job. So, leave off unnecessary information such as marital status, physical attributes or hobbies. Only include a link to your personal Web site if it’s devoted entirely to your professional work.

4. Telling your life story: Hiring managers want to get a sense of your work history, but they might not read your resume if it goes beyond two pages, especially if you’re applying for a nonexecutive position. Keep the content concise and focus more on recent jobs than ones held long ago.

5. Leaving them guessing: Just as frustrating to hiring managers as giving too much information is giving too little. Noting that you “managed the company network,” for example, doesn’t tell employers exactly what you did. Did you troubleshoot problems? Make key business decisions related to the network? Supervise employees? Don’t rely on employers to make the extra effort to clarify vague wording — most are too short on time.

6. Going overboard with artistic embellishments: Yes, appearances do count with resumes. The goal, however, is to create a document that is neat and organized. Adding fancy graphics can work against you, as many firms rely on resume-scanning software that might not recognize unusual symbols or designs.

7. Sending the same resume to every employer: Always take the time to customize your resume for each opening. This means concentrating on aspects of your background most relevant to the position available. For instance, if you were applying for a network security job, you would devote more space to your experience in this specialty than the time you worked as a help desk professional.

8. Filling your resume with jargon: The IT world certainly has its share of acronyms and industry lingo. Although colleagues might understand this terminology, it might not mean much to human resources workers and others conducting an initial review of your resume. So, unless phrasing is commonly recognized — such as using “MS Word” instead of “Microsoft Word” — it’s best to spell things out or use plain English to avoid confusion. If you’re unsure about wording, send your resume to friends and family who lack IT expertise for their input.

9. Forgetting to use keywords: Optimize your resume for filtering software, which searches for keywords and evaluates how closely resumes match the preferred language. An easy way to determine whether yours includes potential target terms is to examine the job advertisement. A firm that seeks a “self-starter” with “strong project management skills” is likely to search for those phrases.

10. Trying to be cute or clever: Even if you’re known for being the office comedian, it’s best to leave humor off your resume. Hiring managers aren’t looking to be entertained by resumes, and they might find your wording inappropriate or confusing.

If resume writing isn’t your forte, it’s worth asking trusted colleagues, mentors, friends and family for their feedback on your document. You’ll help ensure you’re sending the right message to employers.

Katherine Spencer Lee is executive director of Robert Half Technology, a provider of IT professionals on a project and full-time basis. She can be reached at editor (at) certmag (dot) com.

Resume Gaffe Hall of Fame
One of the best ways to ensure you avoid common resume mistakes is to learn from others. Here are some real-life goofs — dubbed “Resumania” by our company’s founder

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