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March 20, 2017

What’s the Difference Between a Regular Resume and an IT Resume?

By Jeff Lareau

161014_1190_ClassroomPhotosOver the last few months, I’ve had a few people reach out to me and ask what the difference is between a regular resume and an IT resume. Unfortunately, there isn’t a perfect answer to this question, but there are some subtle differences between the two that should be addressed.

  1. Subject Matter
    Obviously, the first major difference between the two is the subject matter. A lot of entry-level IT job seekers make the mistake of trying to jump right into a higher-level role, such as a network administrator, without having the necessary experience and qualifications. If you received your CompTIA Network+ certification but have no experience in the IT industry, you’ll have to start somewhere lower on the totem pole first. Fortunately, CompTIA’s Career Roadmap page is a great place to start if you need to familiarize yourself with common IT career pathways.
  2. Emphases
    IT resumes and resumes for other industries aren’t completely different in their content and structure. In fact, most of the differences are subtle in that you’re just emphasizing certain aspects of your work history more than you would otherwise. Here are some things you should consider emphasizing on your IT resume:
    • Employability skills (also known as “soft skills”). I’ve heard IT recruiters and hiring managers say this time and time again: “I have plenty of candidates who have the certs, but no one has any people skills.” The IT world still suffers from the stigma of social awkwardness, so emphasizing your ability to communicate verbally and electronically, your ability to solve problems, and your ability to listen and comprehend will take you farther than you might think. Entry-level IT roles usually have a lot in common with the customer service world, so highlighting your transferable skills from previous jobs will be key.
    • Keywords. Keywords are important on any resume since we’re still culturally bound to those pesky applicant tracking systems, but keywords become doubly important in IT since there are so many of them. Make sure you’re including any certifications and IT skills that are listed on the job lead. Conversely, IT hiring managers get really frustrated looking at resumes that have been spammed with 100 different programming languages that that aren’t applicable to the job. Stick to what’s on the job lead and remove anything else from your resume that isn’t relevant.
    • Volunteer Work. In IT, experience is key. You can have all the certifications in the world but without any experience it’ll be hard for you to get an entry level role. This is where a nasty chicken/egg scenario can start shaping your job search in a very demoralizing way. How do you get an entry-level job if the entry-level job requires experience? The way to combat this is either by getting an internship or doing volunteer work. Both do a good job of catching the attention of hiring managers and getting your foot in the door. These experiences can be listed with the rest of your experience. Don’t shove it to the end of your resume where no one will see it! Be sure to make it clear that these were volunteer/internship roles.
    • Job Duties/Accomplishments. Many resume experts in other industries are encouraging their clients to only include accomplishments on their resume and skip the daily, weekly, or monthly job duties. For a sales role, this might work perfectly because you’re showing your results to the reader. However, in IT, it doesn’t tell the full story. One of the most common complaints I’ve heard from IT hiring managers is, “These accomplishments sound great, but I can’t tell what this person actually did.” Include both job duties and accomplishments for all your previous positions to eliminate this confusion.
  3. Know Your Audience
    The IT hiring manager won’t be impressed with your AOL email address. They’ll know right away that you don’t keep up on tech trends, because anyone who’s tech savvy won’t be rocking a NetZero email address in 2017. Similarly, make sure that your LinkedIn page is up to date. Ninety-four percent (!) of hiring managers will check out your LinkedIn page before reaching out to you, and that statistic isn’t even specific to the tech industry. Be sure to include links to IT related material you’ve created, like apps and websites (unless it’s GeoCities).
In short, there’s no magic sauce you can add to your resume to make it perfect for all IT roles, but there are small things you can change, add, remove and emphasize that will make your resume more likely to be chosen for an IT role. The best advice I can give you is to do your research on the company, the role and the hiring manager (if possible) before you submit your resume for review.

Good luck!