Your academic year is underway; it’s now time to pay attention to your resume. Summer or graduation might seem like it’s far away, but your resume is calling to you, and you need to heed the call. Now is the time to get involved in activities that will beef up your resume experience section and to create a resume that will land you plum job interviews in the months to come.
When I say “create” a resume, I don’t mean treat it like an exercise in creative writing, however. You should never lie on your resume, exaggerate your past work experiences, or say you know how to do something that you don’t actually know how to do. Pumping up your resume with exaggerations is a quick way to flub an interview or lose your job.
Follow the tips in this article, and you will create a winning resume that will get you into top IT interviews.
Tip #1: Make the Most of the Blank Page
The biggest issue with student or recent graduate resumes is lack of experience. I hear students complain all the time that companies only want people with experience. But how are students supposed to get that experience? The answer is jobs or activities outside of the classroom. Spending your time wisely will get you the experience you need to land a great job.
Quick quiz: What is more valuable—volunteering as a tutor in the computer resource center or working at the closest fast food restaurant? Answer: The volunteer job is your best bet for crafting your resume. Any job or activity that is related to IT is better than one that is not. And if you can get someone to pay you for your time, that’s even better. Either way, make sure you work hard at your job to ensure you end up with a glowing letter of reference.
On your resume, include a few details about what you did and learned during each work experience. (Remember, volunteer work is still work.) A few specific details per job will help you fill out your resume. For example, if you spent your summer in a PC technician job helping a local non-profit company get their new computers up and running, you should state some specific accomplishments, like: “Set up and installed membership and donation software on six computers,” or “Created a wireless network for 12 computers, two printers and a server.”
Make sure to select details from the work that most closely relates to the type of position you are applying. In the previous example as a PC technician you might also have trained people on how to use the software. These experiences can easily be highlighted if you’re applying for a PC training or help desk job.
If you haven’t already joined an IT association for your industry, do so. Not only does being a member of a respected organization look great on your resume, you can also use the organization to research jobs and network to find job prospects. Some organizations also offer scholarships or formal job placement programs.
Many IT professionals use a portion of their resume for a summary of technical qualifications. Even though you’re just starting out, such a section is still appropriate. You can list software and hardware that you are familiar with, and of course, if you have a certification or documented training you should include that information as well.
Tip #2: Make the Most of Online Tools
Thanks to online job sites, vast numbers of resumes may come in for one position. Companies often funnel resumes into databases, which they search later for key words or phrases that match the description of the job they are trying to fill. Make sure you include appropriate search terms in your resume. You can even add a keywords section, labeled as such, at the end of your resume. The keywords should include such items as job titles, technical terms which might include programming languages, operating system names, and names of software applications. The section will include nouns, not the action verbs you see in many resume examples.
Recruiters, managers and HR staff will also search through databases posted on major job sites, such as dice.com, to find candidates for jobs that have not been posted. Doing so helps them search for employees without attracting a lot of attention or an avalanche of unsuitable resumes. Unless your resume is on such a site, and posted at least in part as a public resume, you might miss out on some great job opportunities. If you’re concerned about identity theft, you can post everything but your name and contact information. To allow interested parties to contact you, set up and post a separate email account that doesn’t reveal your name.
If you decide to apply for a job you see on a company site, make sure to put your resume in the body of the email or mail a paper copy to the company. Many corporate email systems trash or reject emails that enter the system with an attachment. A follow-up letter with a copy of your resume is an effective way to say that you are truly interested in the job and might help move your resume to the top of the pile.
Tip #3: Get Some Help
Crafting a resume that gets you where you want to go is not a do-it-yourself endeavor. Even IT professionals with decades of experience talk to someone more knowledgeable for help with their resume. In some cases, they even pay big bucks to “resume doctors” for this kind of help. However, chances are very good that you can get help for free at your campus job placement center.
Before you post, print or mail your resume to anyone, have someone check it for typos, grammar mistakes and readability. It is best to ask someone with knowledge of the IT industry—especially knowledge of the job for which you are applying. An IT professor will probably help you if you ask nicely and are considerate of their time. Someone at an IT organization might do it for you as well, particularly if you are a member of that organization.
You won’t find a better time than now to pay attention to your resume. Put together a body of experience that will make you stand out of the entry-level crowd. All it takes is a little advance planning, some effort on your part, and some help along the way.