Find the do’s and don’ts when it comes to crafting a stellar IT resume and cover letter.
By Chris Ward & Shawn Powell
As the IT job market becomes increasingly competitive, landing the right job has become almost an art form. Which is why a resume template with fill-in-the-blanks will no longer put you at the top of the pile.
Although there is no set way in creating a perfect resume or cover letter, there are a few key commonalities that are absolutely necessary to include and/or avoid.
Though there isn’t just one right way to develop or present a resume or CV, the materials successful candidates submit to prospective employers have a few commonalities.
Include in Your Resume:
Contact information: Too often, well-qualified candidates never get a call about the job because they failed to provide a phone number and a professional email address.
Appropriate skill set: Identify and highlight the skills you have that relate specifically to the job for which you are applying for- and do so succinctly.
Incorporate attributes from the job posting in your resume and cover letter to better connect yourself with the job you are applying for.
Work experience: Provide information about where you previously worked and what skills you gained from the experiences. In your explanation, make sure it is relevant to the specific job position you are applying for.
*Note: Be sure to use the phrase “work experience” rather than “professional” or “career experience”. “Work experience” is the term commonly used in most applicant tracking systems (ATS).
Certification(s): Certifications are proof of your skills and education. These are your key credibility factors and can set you apart from your competition. Having the right certifications has shown to increase your chances of mobility and higher pay.
Education: Highlight any educational background relevant to the position, as this may set you apart from the competition. Be sure to include your college major and GPA if applicable.
Avoid in Your Resume:
Information overload: Too many details can overwhelm prospective employers. When reviewing resumes, it’s commonplace for employers to skim through resumes to find the points that they are looking for. Give them enough to know that you’re qualified for the position, with the goal being to intrigue them enough that you will get an interview.
Irrelevant personal information: Employers need to spend their time getting to know you professionally, so hobbies, Greek affiliations, favorite movies, etc. are unnecessary. Save your personal information for the interview, when personality fit becomes more important in the selection process.
Fancy graphics or clip-art: Your resume should look professional and clean. Don’t waste space on your resume on anything that won’t help an employer better understand your qualifications for the job.
Lengthy documentation: The best resumes are typically kept at one page. Be concise so prospective employers can quickly and accurately assess your qualifications. Chances are they review hundreds of resumes, so one’s that are too long may get put aside for later review.
Include in Your Cover Letter
Your cover letter could be considered your first interview with a prospective employer. This is your first opportunity to make a good impression! When drafting your cover letter, here are some tips that will make your materials stand out:
Read instructions thoroughly: Be sure to read the application materials and instructions thoroughly to understand submission requirements. Pay special attention to whom you are writing to and make sure all grammar and spelling is accurate.
Be unique: Your cover letter can and should be a differentiator between you and other candidates. Let your personality shine through. Maintain your professional voice, but aim to capture the employer’s attention.
Certification name-dropping: List your certification(s) and relate them to your experience. For example, “I use my CCNA in my consultations with customers and colleagues to build and troubleshoot effective, efficient networks.”
It’s all in the details: Your cover letter should be personable, professional, well edited, grammatically correct, and should address the specific role for which you are applying. This is where you tell your story and why you are the best fit for the company you are applying to.
To Whom It May Concern: Avoid using generic greetings on your cover letter. Spend some time researching who will be reviewing application materials and address your cover letter directly to the appropriate party. Personalizing your cover letter can go a long way.
Electronic or hard copy? Both! Always have a hard copy available and ready to go in case the employer requests it of you.
As CBT Nuggets trainer Chris Ward says, “All good things come to those who plan, stay consistent, and don’t give up.” So be patient in your job search. Plan your application materials well. And work to be consistent in your efforts. Never, ever give up on yourself. With patience and a little planning, you will find the right job!