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7 Ways to Improve your Technical Resume

Looking to build your technical resume, but not sure how it differs from a traditional resume?  Read on for 7 tips to help your technical resume stand out from the masses.

Be thoughtful about your list of technical skills.

Many companies use keyword searches to filter for resumes.  If you have thousands of applicants and just want the Java engineers, a keyword search seems like a quick win.  As a result, technical resumes end up with a mess of a section labeled something like “Technical Skills,” and very often this contains a proliferation of stuff ranging from, the “yes I know this” to the “I used this once for a homework assignment in CS 101.”  While getting through that automated resume screener is clearly important, when you get to the hiring manager, anything on your resume is fair game.  When an interviewer sees a technical resume with every programming language, operating system, and development tool listed there, it screams out, “I don’t actually know any of this.” (And by the way, experienced hires are just as guilty of doing this as new grads.)  Note what you know, but be honest about what you don’t – if you still want to keep everything to beat the keyword screens, at least indicate level of proficiency in some way.

Seriously, be thoughtful about your list of technical skills.

While you’re refining that list of technical skills, consider leaving off Microsoft Excel, Google Docs, etc…  Unless you are doing VBA scripting in Excel or have worked with the Google APIs, adding these applications diminishes the perception of competency for anything else you’ve listed in the section.  In this day and age, it’s pretty much expected that you know how to use the Internet, the basics of building a spreadsheet, or writing a document.  Perhaps if you’re applying for a Powerpoint-heavy job, for example, it makes sense to keep these – there are certainly intricacies to Powerpoint such as animations and transitions, or using a master template.  If you’re looking for a software development role, saying you know “Python and Powerpoint” trivializes the time you spent actually learning Python.

Pay attention to the details.

This one is really for everyone, not just engineers: check your resume for typos, grammatical issues, changes in voice, weird capitalizations, inconsistencies in formatting and alignment, and anything else that says to a hiring manager, “I don’t pay attention to details.”  You have as much time as you need to get your resume right, and this is the easy stuff.  If your resume reads poorly when you could have taken all the time you needed to write it, what can we expect from your professional work when there are deadlines and demands?  If you are building software, the main deliverable of your work is written code.  If your technical resume is riddled with bugs, should we expect any better of your engineering? If you need some resume help be sure to check out our awesome Scouted resume template.

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Reference work samples.

Especially if you are just entering the workforce as an engineer, it’s incredibly helpful if your technical resume refers to actual engineering work somewhere in the interwebs.  In most cases, this means having something public on github; in others, a personal website or a showcased project.  If your school policy precludes your ability to share school work or projects and you have no interesting side projects, then go do some questions on Project Euler.  An artist would share their portfolio; a musician their recordings.  Providing upfront access to samples of your work improves your credibility and demonstrates your interest and possibly even passion for the field.  Code samples also provide insight into how you approach and solve problems and communicate.

Your technical resume should be specific.

Resumes do not get read; they get skimmed.  Bullets that are generic or trite just waste space.  Saying something like, “executed on the project’s deliverables based on the specified timeline,” conveys absolutely nothing.  We know you worked on projects, we know those projects had deadlines; tell us the interesting details, results, and deliverables.  Each line in your resume should convey something of material: what did you accomplish, what did you do, how did you do it?  If you worked on a group project, what was your specific contribution?  If you had an internship, what was your impact?  If you have prior work experience, make your resume results-oriented.  This is pretty standard fare for resumes in general, but technical resumes often fall short and needlessly so.

Stick to one or two pages in length.

The consensus is that if you have less than 10 years of work experience, your resume should fit on one page.  After 10 years, two pages works.  If you have a lot of patents or are published, a third page or more is acceptable.  Young engineers especially tend to list every course and project they worked on in school, and this creates bloat.  Include the important stuff and cut the rest.  (A caveat for experienced hires: if you are using a contingency recruiter, and that recruiter asked for a non-PDF version of your resume, it’s quite likely they’re stamping their agency info at the top of your resume, butchering your formatting and probably bumping you to the next page.)

Your audience might be non-technical.

Many companies might insource the first resume screen to a non-technical or lightly-technical person such as someone in HR, or a business analyst attached to an engineering group. The contents of your technical resume should be pretty good at speaking for themselves without a tech-to-English dictionary.  This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t be technical, but rather to do it thoughtfully, expecting it’s always possible a non-technical reader will be taking a first pass.

That’s all for today! Have more specific questions? Feel free to reach out to our candidate experts at!

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