Job hunt: 10 common resume questions, answered

How long should a resume be? Should it list an objective? Here’s updated advice on resume do’s and don’ts for job hunters
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Writing or updating a resume ranks right up there on the list of most-dreaded job search tasks. Yet it remains one of the most important. Those couple of pages make your first impression on a potential employer – and they may determine whether you will even be considered for an interview.

[ Read also: Job hunt etiquette: How to handle 6 tricky situations. ]

Making sure that resume not only meets the current CV standards but also includes the types of information that will enable an IT professional to stand out from the pack is essential. Here are answers to some common resume questions to help you square this critical document away and move forward with the job hunt.

1. How long should a resume be?

For most IT leaders, a two-pager equals the sweet spot.

“You only have a minute – or sometimes just a few seconds – to stand apart from the competition,” says Kelly Doyle, managing director at Heller Search Associates, a recruiting firm specializing in CIOs, CTOs, CISOs, and other senior technology executives. “So keep it easy to read and to the point.”

For those with less than a decade of experience, a one-page resume will probably work. Three pages is the absolute max. For most IT leaders, a two-pager equals the sweet spot, says Lisa Rangel, founder of resume writing and job search consultancy Chameleon Resumes.

2. Do I need to hire a resume writer?

If it’s been several years since you’ve updated your resume, it may be time to enlist the help of a professional. “If it helps you land a great job, it will be more than worth the investment,” Doyle says, who offers this list of recommendations.

3. Should I list an objective?

No – in fact, an objective may send the wrong message, Rangel says. “Typically an objective just states what you want as an applicant,” she says. “It does not tie in what you can do for the employer or what skills you have.” Rangel often suggests a “resume summary” that is customized to the potential employer’s needs, summarizing what you would do in the role.

4. How can I show my soft skills in my resume? 

Your resume should strive to show quantitative achievements such as work leading to time and cost savings and revenue increases, of course. But for IT leaders and IT leaders-in-training, soft skills – such as communication skills, ability to resolve conflict, and consensus building – also matter greatly. You may find such capabilities difficult to illustrate in a bulleted list. But there are ways to ensure these key competencies are part of the CV narrative.

Highlight three or four key accomplishments and work soft skills into those points.

“Within your employment history, highlight three or four key accomplishments,” advises Jim Johnson, senior vice president for Robert Half Technology. “Highlight your soft skills within the information about accomplishments. Talk about your leadership ability and [show] that you’re a good communicator, whether leading a team through a project or your ability to vet and coordinate with vendors. Bring these items to the forefront of your resume.”

Show wins that require relationship building and collaboration – with not only internal stakeholders, but also customers, suppliers, and partners, for example.

[ Want more advice on highlighting soft skills? Read also: 7 skills every professional IT resume needs. ]

5. Does anyone care about my hobbies?

Generally speaking, they probably don’t. However, if it’s applicable to the role or the company, it may make sense to include it, Rangel says. If you are applying for a spot at an athletic shoe manufacturer, for example, by all means mention your marathons or any other hobby that shows an interest in physical health and wellness.

Stephanie Overby is an award-winning reporter and editor with more than twenty years of professional journalism experience. For the last decade, her work has focused on the intersection of business and technology. She lives in Boston, Mass.