IT Resume Polishing Tips

IT Resume Polishing Tips

Allen Plunkett, President & CEO of Phoenix Staff

“I had it on my old laptop… maybe I emailed it to myself? I think I had my mom edit it once, maybe she still has a copy…” These are the thoughts that went through my mind the last time I applied for a new job and couldn’t find my current resume. I’m guessing I’m not alone in this. So, now that you’ve found your resume (thanks to a Gmail search), it is time to add your current or last job, and get it polished up. As somebody who edits resumes every day, I highly recommend that you give your resume a good check-up before applying anywhere, and don’t be afraid to ask somebody else to take a look as well.

Here are the top five mistakes that I see on resumes every day that drive me nuts. Doing one of these probably won’t lose you the job, especially if you work with a firm that cares about how you are presenting yourself, but if you’re trying to stand out in a crowd, one or more of these things could hold you back. In no particular order:

Over capitalization: As a general rule, stick to the same capitalization guidelines in your resume as you would in any other writing. That being proper nouns – unique entities, such as Phoenix, Jupiter, Sara, or Microsoft. I edit resumes for those in the world of tech, which means knowing the correct capitalization of programming languages, software, hardware, etc. When I see that you have six years of “java script” experience, it makes me doubt that you are a guru of JavaScript. Referring to your “ruby on rails” examples on “Github” will also not impress. Incorrectly capitalizing a company name is a common mistake I see on resumes; some companies are all lowercase or have a capital letter in the middle of the name where it could be two words instead. You worked there, so check the letterhead or the website. In my role, I can’t always be sure that you’re capitalizing something correctly, so let Google be your friend in this if you don’t know (that’s what I do!)

Lacking employment dates: This one is a tried and true rule that people still seem to miss. List the start and end dates for each position by month and year. Telling me that you worked at Oracle from 2011-2011 tells me nothing – were you there a day or a year? Incomplete employment dates can give the impression that you are hiding something or trying to make a short stint look longer. If you have omitted dates out of the concern about ageism, and it is a valid one, to be sure, list dates, but just leave the last 10 years on the resume, no more. You also don’t have to list what year you graduated from college if that is a concern.

Anything but chronological order: If you list your positions out of order, it sends up an immediate red flag that you are trying to hide an employment gap. A gap is not the end of the world as long as you can explain it, but if the employer has to be a detective to piece it together, you’re already at a disadvantage. Of course, there are exceptions to any rule; if you have a complicated employment background with overlapping dates and/or short contract positions, it may be less confusing to list your positions by title or even by company if you do a lot of bouncing back and forth within mostly the same companies. But, typically, chronological is the smart bet.

Verbose: It is very likely that whoever is reading your resume also has a lot of other resumes to read. If they get the impression that you are wasting their time, they will put you in the pass pile. We don’t need a full description of the tech support job you had in 1989, and you do not need to explain every step of the SDLC. If you have impressive employers in your far past work history that you want to showcase, just list the titles, companies, and dates. Generally, listing jobs back 10 years is sufficient, anymore and it’ll just be ignored and make your resume look unwieldy. The days of fighting to limit our resumes to one page are over, but it shouldn’t take you more than five pages to get your point across. Stick to short and succinct explanations of your duties in each position. Use facts and numbers, not fluff.

Tense disagreements: When explaining the highlights of your position responsibilities, think about how you would explain it to somebody in person. Would you say that when you worked for a company five years ago that you “Design and implement the database structure?” Or would you say that you “Designed and implemented the database structure?” It would be the latter; if you’re not currently in the position, use the past tense. So, when you add another position to your old resume, remember to go back and change the verb tenses in your previous job description. A few words to watch out for: planned and led. The first word is a trap I’ve fallen into myself; converting the word “plan” to past tense requires an extra n – planned, otherwise the reader may think you’re a carpenter. And for some reason, even when people have gone back and switched old positions to the past tense, the word “lead” always stays behind; the past tense of lead is led.

Bonus points: Writing your entire resume in the third person, especially the third person formal, is outdated and makes you sound conceited (and I personally find it to be a bit creepy.)


My number one suggestion is to have a friend, family member, or professional resume writer take a look at your resume before submitting it. A fresh pair of eyes can do wonders and see mistakes you’ve missed. Although, choosing to use Phoenix Staff is a great idea as well, because then you have me!



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