At Xperti, as you know, we process thousands of applications for technology jobs each year. Only the best applicants qualify as Xpertis. But we do encounter strong patterns in the very large pool of tech talent that we reject. Rejected (but skilled software engineers) have lots in common. Their weak applications stand out, for one. Here we must ask: Tech talent, is a weak resume holding you back?
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Are resumes still relevant? In the age of “Easy Apply” and InMail, that’s a good question. And the answer is yes. Your LinkedIn profile is no substitute for your actual resume. For IT recruiters especially, a resume is still one of the first—if not the first point of entry into your career.
We’ve built the Xperti solution on nearly two decades of recruiting analytics. The most useful lesson from these dashboards is that IT recruitment evolves. What may have impressed them in the past will not work now. Many technologies considered ‘emergent’ two years ago are mainstream now. Others are already obsolete.
Some IT recruiters may hire software engineers with sloppy resumes. But that does not mean the one you need will as well.
This one’s a red flag straight away. Technology talent is not hard to find. Top talent is. If your resume is rife with:
Your recruiter has already lost interest. As we mention elsewhere, the average recruiter doesn’t spend much time on one resume. One recruiter spends less than 10 seconds scrutinizing a single resume.
That’s not on purpose. Screening is a very time-consuming task, with a low success rate. Only 12% of screened resumes make it to the interview stage.
According to one source, a recruiter can spend up to 23 hours scanning resumes to hire 1 candidate.
Typos tell the recruiter to stop wasting time on your application. Even if you have a niche skillset (and the IT recruiter really needs it), you’ve hurt your chances.
To be fair, though, it isn’t easy detecting some typos. “Passed” vs “Past”? “Principle” vs “Principal”. We know why it can be confusing for software engineers. Enlist the support of a professional. At Xperti, our talent advocates can do it for you. (For free).
This one’s a little ironic. Especially given the love, skilled software engineers have for tables and data categorization. If your resume does not reflect a pattern—in any form—it’s not working. By pattern, we mean that your work and/or achievements should be in some order. It could be any of the following:
Some quick tips: If you’re a fresh graduate or early career professional (3 years or less), use (d). If you’re a very experienced, but also a very qualified software developer with a strong, diverse portfolio, go for (e). If you’re making a lateral move, use the ‘industry relevance’ format, i.e. (c).
The reverse chronological order is popular. Because it gives IT recruiters the most relevant information first. Reverse chronological helps with auto-fill forms too.
It gets double-edged here.
A resume that only lists your employment history and technology stack is of no use to the IT recruiter. (Though there’s a good chance it will pass the ATS test).
Consider the resume your passport to a dream destination/career. Would you like one missing piece of information to hurt your chances of getting there?
The problem is: What is the right detail? If you’ve designed your own resume, you’ve doubtlessly resisted the urge to be more descriptive. Especially with pet projects. (We hear you)!
How do you decide what’s important? Map your resume on to the advertised software developer job description. Overlapping parts are important. Everything else is a good-to-have.
Club interesting, “indirectly relevant” assignments together. Summarize them under “Miscellaneous Assignments”. Avoid mentioning routine, low-value tasks at all. The space on your resume, like the IT recruiter’s attention span, is time-bound. Use it well.
IT recruiters going through your resume have a reasonable understanding of technology. They know exactly what they’re looking for. But that doesn’t mean they are elite technology talent themselves. If your resume is full of technical jargon, they might file it for a later consult. Or they might schedule your interview with a technical straight away. Lining up that resource will take time. And nobody wants that, right? Consider what that does to your hiring chances if they need to close the position in a hurry.
So what do you do instead?
Borrow a tip from MBAs. Their resumes are full of action words. You got it—verbs. Let each bullet point in your resume describe the problem you solved. Use layman language to describe the problem. And the right technical terms to describe your solution.
This applies to experienced technology professionals whose resumes extend to 3 pages. Or more. We understand. The more projects you execute, the stronger your portfolio gets. But have you optimized it? Are irrelevant experiences overshadowing the relevant success stories? The ones your IT recruiter is looking for, but can’t find?
What do you do?
Hyperlinks offer a convenient shortcut, where you get to conserve valuable resume space. And the recruiter has the freedom to explore the projects he/she considers relevant. The only risk? The IT recruiter will overlook these hyperlinks if there’s poor formatting.
Make the hyperlinks pop out. Make your font bold. Increase its size. Or use an asterisk to highlight your portfolio web address. Use hyperlinks on any high-profile public project too.
Keywords are for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATSs). These are the non-human components of the recruiting engine. Applicant Tracking Systems automate one or more parts of the recruitment process. They group resumes using filters. Keywords help them ‘decide’ how to categorize your resume. For example, your resume lists has ‘Senior Java Developer’ and the ATS has ‘Java Developer’ as a keyword. You passed one hurdle, and so on.
It’s not that simple by the way.
You won’t have the same benefit if your role was “Manager, Projects” and the ATS keyword is “Project Manager.” Cracking the ATS code is a precise science.
You should pay attention to the keywords your resume lists. But avoid reworking these keywords into the entire text. The ATS will only take you from the ‘applicant’ to the ‘shortlist’ stage. The interviewer is still human.
Is your resume too cluttered? Or are you very, very enthusiastic? Either way, chances are yes. Your resume should attract the IT recruiter’s attention. But there’s a fine line between eye-catching and eyesore. Let’s check where your resume belongs. Does it have two or more:
If you answered yes to any of the items a-d, yes, you have a cluttered resume.
Some jobseekers add home addresses, ID, father’s name and other personal details. Ladies and gentlemen, this does nothing for the job application itself. Unless required, don’t add this information.
Your prospective employer might ask you to share a cover letter as well. Should a cover letter be a rehash of your resume?
Use your cover letter to say what your resume cannot. Describe experiences and skills that didn’t find a place in the resume. Reinforce the strengths mentioned in the resume.
The ‘picture/no picture’ debate has been going on for a long time. What weighs in favor of the ‘no picture on your resume’ camp?
The arguments above are completely valid. But the right photo with your resume can work in your favor too. According to LinkedIn, members with a profile image get 21 times more profile views. It may dispel assumptions about your age. It adds consistency to your profile when compared with your social presence. (Yes, recruiters do check those out)! Alternate text accompanying your image results in more focused searches for your profile.
Recommended Reading: How To Message An IT Recruiter On LinkedIn In 5 Easy Steps
And biases? Who’s to say they wouldn’t be there anyway?
Could your resume benefit from some expert advice? Xperti’s talent advocates can point out what works in your resume, and what doesn’t. Submit yours for a free evaluation today.
Nayyara Rahman is a management and technology professional with a focus on digital services. Her work in integrating marketing and technology is aimed at making organizations more efficient, accountable and transparent. She is also an award-winning author and researcher whose contribution has been acknowledged on several prestigious international forums.
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