IT careers: Top 3 resume mistakes

Looking to land a new IT job? Move your resume to the top of the list by avoiding these three common pitfalls 
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If you’re pursuing a career in information technology, here’s some good news: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, IT occupations will increase by 11 percent between 2019 to 2029, with about 531,200 new jobs added to the U.S. market. Worth $11.5 trillion globally, the digital economy is currently equivalent to 15.5 percent of global GDP and has grown two and a half times faster than global GDP over the past 15 years, according to Huawei, Oxford Economics.

The upshot? A career in information technology is a statistically smart bet for your future.

[ Networking is still a key job search tool, even in a remote world. Read also How to network during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond – remotely. ]

3 IT resume mistakes to avoid

To stand out amid a competitive market, it’s important to position yourself well in the application process. That starts with your resume. Here are some common missteps to avoid when building your resume, and tips on what to focus on instead.

1. Ignoring key job description objectives

In a 2017 LinkedIn analysis, the following buzzwords appeared most frequently on user profiles:

  • Specialize
  • Experienced
  • Skilled
  • Leadership
  • Passionate
  • Expert
  • Motivated
  • Creative
  • Strategic
  • Focused

Do any of these words appear on your own resume? While using them is not inherently a bad idea, try to avoid using language that might be vague or overused.

Tailor your vocabulary to match the language of the job description. The higher your keyword match frequency, the more likely your resume will advance to the next phase of the process.

Many organizations now use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to digitally sort and prioritize resumes before they even reach the hands of a hiring manager. Tailor your vocabulary to match the language of the job description. The higher your keyword match frequency, the more likely your resume will advance to the next phase of the process.

For example, if a job posting seeks a lead programmer with knowledge of both commercial and open-source software, your skill section might look like this: Lead programmer with expertise in CASE tools, software security, design strategy, commercial and open source software.

2. Using generalizations to describe technical skills

When crafting your resume, avoid general terms that do not explicitly define a specific skill set or capability. For example, using generic language like “programming” and “networking” without additional details can be vague or even misleading. Each of these terms is relevant to specific job titles, but only when tied to technical skills.

For a networking engineer position, for example, consider pairing the term “networking” with specific functions like Cisco routers and switches, TCP/IP protocols, LAN and WAN, wireless networking, and security compliance.

It’s also important to avoid language that may be exclusive to your previous employer. Make sure that you’re leveraging industry-accepted terms that a recruiter will recognize and understand. Define specific acronyms or programs to ensure that all third-party reviewers of your resume will accurately understand your capabilities.

Compare the following two approaches:

Undefined: I utilized NoSQL daily.

Defined: Leveraging a combination of graph databases, BigTables, key-value, and document stores, I utilized NoSQL to improve the scalability and performance of our database management.

[ Can you ask for a raise during a pandemic? Yes, read: How to ask for a raise during COVID-19. ]

3. Highlighting tasks instead of accomplishments

One of the best ways to set yourself apart from the competition is to describe, in detail and with outcomes, your accomplishments instead of just your tasks. Relying on data, just as you do in your everyday responsibilities, will be one of your greatest assets.

One of the best ways to set yourself apart from the competition is to describe your accomplishments instead of just your tasks.

Here’s an example of how including accomplishments can boost the resume of QA software tester:

Task-only: Supervised a software QA testing team to implement quality-control methodologies that comply with company standards.

Accomplishment-driven: Supervised a software QA testing team, implementing quality-control methodologies that decreased incorrect charges by 17 percent, detected and resolved two undiscovered flaws in our current process, and increased the average testing completion time by 42 percent.

Potential employers are seeking candidates who will actively improve their processes, efficacy, and bottom line. Instead of relying on general descriptions of your capabilities, showcase a history of success, and prove the value you provided in other roles.

[ Are you a rising IT leader? Read also: IT careers: Why you should embrace unexpected twists. ]

Kassie Rangel is the senior director of IT for HealthMarkets, one of the largest independent health insurance agencies in the United States.