Improve your resume and increase the chances of getting in for an interview. When hiring managers are only spending seconds and/or minutes on resume reviews, a quick and positive resume impression is a must.

The time you have spent reading this sentence equates to the length of time resumes sit in front of a recruiting or human resource professional. In 2018, Career Builder says 30% of hiring managers spent 30 seconds or less (on average) to determine if a candidate appeared to meet the bulk of the requirements. A majority (68%) spent less than two minutes. That is not a lot of time, so it is critical for you to make a quick and positive impression.

So how can you improve your chances for getting your resume placed into the further review pile? What does a recruiter or HR professional look for in a technical resume? How can you mold your resume to better show off your technical skills in those few seconds?

The key to making a good first impression on the hiring manager is to present a properly formatted document that quickly and accurately describes your experience, education and technical expertise.

Manageable Length

When it comes to the length of your resume, there really isn’t a hard rule. The resume length depends on many factors, including your skill set, industry, education, years of experience, how many positions you’ve held, companies you’ve worked at and more. For most, 1-3 pages is a normal resume length. However, there are a few exceptions for longer resumes. A technical resume containing many years of experience can be 2-4 pages in length, which can still be easy to read and digest.

Formatting Your Resume

Technical resume standards are as varied, as the number of resume templates you can find on the internet; each has the following sections:

  • Identification – Name, address, contact information and online profile URLs, i.e. LinkedIn
  • Summary – A brief overview of your career, education and technical expertise
  • Education – College, technical workshops and certifications
  • Work History – Previous work experience

I would suggest using a clean, professional-looking format for your resume. Pay close attention to layout, formatting and design. Keep in mind, your resume is a formal document. Omit abbreviations, contractions and acronyms from your resume. Remember, the interpretation of acronyms can vary by company and industry. In addition, many abbreviations are not universally accepted. Personal pronouns (I, me, my, etc.) should be avoided, as they are not necessary and may be awkward. Many recruiters and hiring managers consider it incorrect and unprofessional.

Emphasize key details in straightforward sentences. Use bullet points to highlight specifics.

Summary Is Key

When reviewing candidates with more than five years of experience, most hiring managers expect to see career summaries at the top of resumes. More than an objective statement, a career summary provides a concise, but comprehensive view of who you are as a professional, your years of experience in the field, and examples of skills or attributes you have relating to the organizations you are targeting.

You can help your cause, by creating a concise and strategic summary of your experience and qualifications up front. It is critical to have a powerful summary on the first page that includes skills communicating your core qualifications, technologies, instruments, tools, methodologies, relevant successes, and other differentiators. Include buzzwords a recruiter might use to search for a candidate. Don't assume that including more information will make you appear more experienced. Instead, focus on making sure every line of your resume is effective and has a clear purpose. If your resume requires two pages, make sure all of your key selling points appear on the first page to ensure that they won’t be overlooked.

Work History

List your work experience in reverse chronological order, with your most recent experience first. List the geographic location next to the employer name. Include the title, company, and dates along with manager name and phone number. Explain your function within the organization.

  • Your core responsibilities
  • Major projects you contributed to
  • Key accomplishments
  • Technologies, approaches/methodologies and tools utilized

Try to qualify and quantify your accomplishments whenever possible, to give them greater impact. More space should be devoted to recent experience, since your experiences presumably become more relevant and valuable as you progress in your career.

Education, Training and Certifications

Include all relevant education, certifications, and additional training. Put any advanced degrees and certifications at the top of your resume, in addition to putting them in your ‘education/training/certifications’ section.

Provide Samples

Because I was applying for a technical writer position, I included with my resume, a PDF showing samples of my previous technical writing accomplishments. I also brought a printed copy to my interview and presented it to the interviewer. One HR person said I was the only person who thought to bring samples to the interview. This strategy can really distinguish you, although you need to ensure the samples or materials are not proprietary.

Good Luck

Many factors go into the hiring process. Presenting a professional-looking document, that is easy for the HR hiring manager to understand, will go a long way. It will also increase the chances of your resume being submitted to the position manager for a more detailed review and call for an interview.

Author: Peter Smolens, Technical Writer and former programmer