No matter where you’re at in your career, one of the most important tools you can use to land technical interviews and get hired is your technical resume. But with all the conflicting advice on how to format a resume, what to include on one, and things to avoid, it can be a real challenge to determine what you should believe and how to go about resume writing. That’s why Career Karma has compiled this ultimate guide to technical resumes. Here, you’ll find all the information and tips you need to create a resume that will help you break into a new tech career or advance further in your current organization, no matter your background or field.
Some General Advice on Resumes
Your resume is often the first point of contact between you and your prospective employer. You can view this reality as either a hurdle or a great opportunity. But if you choose to look at it as an opportunity to show prospective employers your professionalism and highlight your credentials, you’ll have much more success than if you simply consider it a necessary evil.
For starters, take a look at these tips that will apply to any kind of resume, technical or otherwise. This is a great starting point as you begin to compose your own resume, and it will get you in the right mindset necessary to be successful when you begin highlighting your technical skills.
- Update your resume for each job you apply to: Many people think their work is done as soon as they finish their first draft of their resumes. They believe they can simply take this one document and shoot it out to all the places they want to be hired at, and then they’re done. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, if you really want to increase your chances of landing a job interview, you need to craft and adjust your resume according to each prospective job. How? A good place to start is by looking at the job description in the posting–yes, you must read the job description. What keywords do you see? What are some of the key skills and competencies that the employer lists? Consider the job description and listing as something of a “cheat sheet” that tells you exactly the kinds of things you should include on your resume.
This will also help you avoid including unnecessary information or skills that aren’t relevant to the position. Leaving out this unrelated content will free up more space for you to include the really important stuff.
- Don’t get silly: While some careers might require a bit of flair on your resume to stand out, like creative jobs, performers, and the like, most resumes benefit from being somewhat “boring.” That’s not to say you shouldn’t use engaging language and action words; rather, it’s simply a warning to avoid things like too much color and wacky, unprofessional fonts.
- Don’t be bound to templates: Tech resume templates are a great way to get started when crafting a resume, but you need to be thoughtful about how you use them. Just because the resume template you’ve chosen includes a certain section doesn’t mean you need to (or should) include it in your resume. For instance, if your resume template has a heading for “Awards,” but you haven’t actually won any awards, you should remove that section or–better yet–replace it with something more relevant to you, your skills, and experiences.
- Never lie: Everyone has experimented with “padding” their resume from time to time, and this isn’t always a bad thing. That is, you should certainly play up your experiences and achievements as much as you can–as long as you don’t come too close to the point of exaggeration or, even worse, outright lying. The bottom line is that your prospective employer will find you out if you are dishonest on your application, resume, or cover letter. Even if you get hired, what could be worse than your new employer finding out you duped them in the application process? At best, your relationship with that employer will be severely tarnished. At worst, you’ll be looking for a new job with the possibility of your dishonest actions following you in your new job hunt.
- Proofread: This should go without saying, but you must thoroughly proofread your resume before you start sending it out with your application. Not just once, not twice, but several times! You should even get multiple people to look it over to see if they can spot any errors that you may be blind to. It’s a common phenomenon that people tend to miss a lot of mistakes in their own writing, only seeing them when someone else points them out. Do whatever you can to ensure your resume is completely error-free. This will show prospective employers that you’re professional, meticulous, and taking the application and job seriously.
- Consider Different Layouts: Many people unnecessarily hinder their creativity when crafting their technical resumes by limiting themselves to presenting their experience, education, and work history in chronological order. While this can be an effective way to lay out your resume, leaving chronological order behind might be the best way to highlight your best side.
For instance, you might consider using what’s known as a “functional format.” With a functional resume, you don’t present things in chronological order at all. Instead, you place the things you most want to highlight at the top, regardless of the timing. As an example, if you have a somewhat checkered employment history, the best way for you to layout your technical resume in the functional format might be: Summary/Objective Statement > Major Accomplishments > Skills > Education > Work History/Professional Experience.
- Try to Stick to One Page: I know, I know–this is tough, especially if you have a lot of experience or work history. And for some, keeping your resume to one page is simply not an option. But with some creative editing and formatting, you can fit a whole lot onto that single page, and your prospective employers will appreciate the effort.
- Highlight Any Transferable Skills: Even if you’re applying to a job that you don’t have much professional experience in, there are always opportunities to shine a light on the skills you’ve acquired in unrelated positions that can help you be more effective in the new job. For instance, if you’re applying for a tech job but only have office work experience, you can highlight your ability to work well in a team or your ability to manage time wisely. These kinds of soft skills are just as highly sought after by employers as technical skills.
Crafting the Perfect Technical Resume to Land Interviews
Now, let’s get down to the details of how to put together an outstanding technical resume that will shine a spotlight on your technical skills and is sure to land you an interview at any tech company. Let’s start with some of the most important skills you should add to your technical resume (if they’re relevant and true for you) to get you noticed. Then, just as important, we’ll discuss some of the things to leave off your technical resume.
What to Include in Your Technical Skills List
1. Programming Skills
Coding might be the number one misunderstood technical skill that looks great on a tech resume. You don’t have to be a programmer to need software development knowledge—a background working with programming languages will come in handy for people in all walks of life.
Many jobs require computer use, and many of the programs you’ll encounter are custom applications that were designed specifically for your company. When something goes wrong with that software, your company is at the mercy of the original developer– if they still exist. That’s why hiring managers start salivating when they see “coding experience” on your resume. Before your next interview, spend a few hours learning to code—it’ll open doors for you.
Further, try to include as many information technology skills as you can, as long as they are relevant and honest.
2. Social Media Management
At first glance, you might be surprised to discover that social media skills are valuable assets to hiring managers, but it makes sense when you think about it. Every year, companies get more and more of their business through social media, and many people aren’t familiar enough with social media to be comfortable representing the company.
Your Instagram skills are like gold to prospective employers, and your Twitter knowledge is equally precious. Companies can parlay that sort of expertise into content marketing, which is a fancy way of saying that they share their product information via blogs and social media. And you thought your endless hours of status updates and retweets were wasted, huh?
3. Data Analysis
Big Data is a term that’s gotten a lot of buzz over the last decade or so. It involves the gathering and interpretation of all sorts of data to get a better idea as to what the customer wants and what they like and dislike about the company. In many ways, big data steers the ship when it comes to business: a company that has good big data analysis has a better idea of which moves to make. It makes business more agile and amenable to change, and it’s a dynamite skill to bring to an interview.
Like coding, data analysis is a skill that you can develop on your own. There are all sorts of free education options for those who want to pick up needs analysis, quantitative reports, or data mining, which are all skills that fall under the big data umbrella. A little time spent studying big data will provide you with attractive bullet points for your resume, and make you a hot prospect.
4. Soft Skills
Many people think they’re at a complete disadvantage if they don’t have years of experience in the tech sector that they wish to work in. While having tech experience is undoubtedly a huge leg up, it’s important not to discount your soft skills on your technical resume. These are things like leadership, communication skills, project management, and many others. Most employers, regardless of the industry, are desperately seeking workers who possess these crucial soft skills. Any skills you gain while on the job have the potential to be great examples of your professional experience.
5. Specific Programs
If you’ve taken any technical courses or have gone through any special programs related to the job you’re applying for, you should definitely find a way to include them on your tech resume. These kinds of programs not only show that you have additional skills–they also show that you have taken extra steps to gain valuable and actionable professional experience. In other words, it shows that you take your career seriously and are willing to learn and grow your technical skills.
6. Special Skills
Another great thing to add to your resume would be any kind of skill or ability that doesn’t necessarily fit within the “technical skills” category. For instance, maybe you are skilled in certain kinds of software or perhaps you have excellent artistic abilities. These are great ways to set yourself apart from other applicants who probably already share many of your technical skills. Anything you can include that will positively differentiate yourself from the competition is great to include on your resume.
Top Items to Leave Off Your Technical Resume
Almost as important as the things you should include on your technical resume are the following items you should never include. Avoid these common technical resume pitfalls to ensure your prospective employer gets the right idea of what you can offer her company.
1. Inappropriate Contact Info
You might have heard that first impressions last forever, right? Well, you can extend that to resumes. Your resume acts as a text-based stand-in for you to potential employers, and the hiring manager gets their first (and often only) impression of you through those few pages. Your resume will get an initial five-to-ten second scan by the hiring staff, if you’re lucky. You don’t want them to spend that time on a piece of unprofessional contact information.
- Don’t include an address, phone number, or email from an employer as your contact info. Nothing says, “I don’t care if I get the job” to a hiring manager faster than someone who demonstrates zero respect for their current employer.
- Use a dull, sober email address if you want to get job callbacks. You might love pies and want to share your love of them with the world. Unfortunately, the web developer gig you hope to land is likely to go to someone with an email address a tad more professional than firstname.lastname@example.org as their contact info.
2. Irrelevant Work Experience
When you apply for the top tech jobs, you need to load up your resume with all sorts of work experience that applies directly to the gigs. Employers need to know that the people they interview have baseline qualifications that make them worth bringing in for a closer look. They don’t have time to wade through unnecessary details in your job history to find that out, though. You need to make that sort of info easy for them to spot. Include the relevant work history for that job.
That said, don’t be afraid to include unrelated work if you feel it demonstrates a quality that can help you in the gig you want. Avoid packing your resumé with those sorts of jobs just to pad it out to a few pages.
Top Tips for Technical Resumes
We’ve already mentioned that you should tailor your technical resume to reflect the specific position you’re applying to, as well as the company. Now it’s time to find out just how to do that. Here, we’ll offer some advice on how to create the perfect resume for any job in tech.
1. Use Strong, Action-Oriented Words
If you’ve just finished a coding bootcamp, odds are that most of the items on your resume are going to be related to websites or apps you developed in the program. Maybe you have some internship experience as well, which is likely similar to the type of work you were learning or practicing in your bootcamp.
But that doesn’t mean you can start every sentence with “Developed,” “Coded,” or “Programmed,” because those words won’t excite or interest the recruiter. Of course, they want to know if you can code, but they also want to know more about what you did.
Here are some examples of strong resume sentence-starters using action verbs:
- Led a team of…
- Spearheaded design and development for…
- Accomplished project goal of…
- Established new system by…
- Organized team and…
2. Quantify Your Impact
When you’re describing your projects and experiences, make sure your statements are impact-forward. Avoid explaining the grunt work you did–like, “Developed X for Y.” Instead, focus on why and how you did it. What was the impact of your work? What results did you achieve? If you’re having trouble quantifying the results because the project didn’t launch, the audience was small, or the goal wasn’t reached, don’t worry!
Ask yourself some of these questions to come up with some numbers to include:
- What was the scale?
- How many devices did I serve?
- How many scenarios/permutations/tests did I consider/handle?
- How many different methodologies did I implement?
- What did I results did I achieve?
- How many users did I launch to or will I launch to?
- How many users/groups used it?
The resulting statements should look more like, “Spearheaded X by implementing Y, which led to Z.” For example, “Spearheaded a Waze-like app for Pokemon Go players by implementing Ruby on Rails, which led to 40% time saved on finding Pokemon.”
3. Highlight Your Technical Skills
Prospective employers will look at your resume for six seconds to one minute, or potentially have it parsed through an ATS, so you need to do everything you can to make sure it matches the job description exactly, wherever you can.
Create a designated “Skills” section, so when a recruiter is glancing at your resume, they will see it immediately.
It’s also a good idea to add a technical summary near the top of your resume. That way, your prospective employers can see each technical ability you possess at a glance.
Tailor your resume specifically to each job to directly match the job description. Applicant-tracking systems, and sometimes human recruiters, are looking for those words, and won’t recognize a partial match. For example, if the job requires experience in “Ruby on Rails,” and you just have “Ruby” on your resume, it won’t pick it up. Similarly, if past experience is required as a “Systems Software Engineer,” and you have “Software Engineer, Systems,” you need to make it match!
How Do You Add Coding Bootcamp to Your Technical Resume?
If you’re a coding bootcamp grad (or will be), it might seem confusing when you’re considering how to incorporate your bootcamp credentials on your technical resume. Where should it go? Education? Experience? Skills? Further, how should you format it? What information should you include? Let’s get some answers.
Know What to Include and What to Leave Out
Resumés are funny things. They represent us to the point that they function as stand-ins when job hunting. Hiring managers only have that page or two of information about you upon which to base their decisions, and you need to make sure that they get maximum impact when they read it. Knowing which items to include and which to leave out is a crucial job-hunting skill and can determine whether you get interviews and callbacks.
While you attended coding bootcamp, you doubtless involved yourself in a number of software development projects. These coding bootcamp projects help students to get into the swing of the development cycle and allow them to develop absolutely essential skills. You don’t want to overload your resumé by including every project, though. Mention a project or two that include valuable contributions from you or that imparted useful lessons that you can use in your work. But, that’s it. Don’t include countless small projects unless you want to clog up your resumé and obscure the big accomplishments.
Add Coding Bootcamp to Your Work Experience
When you complete coding bootcamp and start your job search in earnest, you’ll be competing against other programmers, many of whom have prior experience. You might have some work experience of some sort or another, but hiring managers need to know that you can handle coding work. They won’t have time to hold your hand, and they want to have peace of mind that their new employee is tested and ready to go.
Because you probably won’t have paid coding work to which you can point, you’ll want to include your bootcamp in your work experience. This is a nice resumé double dip—the bootcamp training will appear under your education, and you’ll also get to use it as proof that you’ve done this sort of work before. Highlight your class performance and any areas in which you excelled. A few lines emphasizing your coding experience can get you in the door and interviewing.
Free Technical Resume Templates
While there are thousands of resume templates out there, you need to be quite selective about which one you use for your technical resume. Often, free resume templates can fall within two extremes: either outlandish and unprofessional or dull and forgettable.
You definitely need to do your research when it comes to finding a technical resume template, and you should never go with the first one you think looks cool. Be smart. What is your prospective employer going to be looking for? What do they want to see?
Answer: you! So, while you should definitely find an attractive resume template, you should always remember that your resume is supposed to be a reflection of you, your skills, and what you can offer to your prospective employer. That is, be careful when selecting a resume and avoid picking one that obscures what you can bring to the company.
Career Karma’s Picks for Top Free Technical Resume Templates
I know, I know–you really only came here for the free technical resume template suggestions and sample technical resumes. Well, the wait is over. Here are our top picks for the most attractive, effective, and memorable technical resume templates that you can get for free.
But please, once you’ve selected your favorite, go back through this article and find out exactly how to put your shiny new resume template to work for you.
Try One of These Classy Resume Templates from Cultivated Culture
Cultivated Culture offers a set of free resume templates that are perfect for tech workers in the job hunt. They provide a level of professionalism and class, while still allowing for a dash of color and style to let your personality shine through.
Consider These Creative Resume Templates for Web Designers
- Use a Clean, Elegant Resume from Raka Caesar
This creative resume template by Raka Caesar strikes the ideal balance between aesthetics and information.
The ideal creative resume walks a fine line between striking and minimalist. You want a resume template that shows off your flair for visuals without becoming overbearing and out of control. It isn’t always easy to strike the proper balance. You’ll sometimes see unfortunate resumes with clashing colors and overly busy designs. You’re equally likely to encounter resumes that don’t take any chances and are dull and predictable. This Raka Caesar template is a great compromise.
For a Classic Look, Go with One of These Free Resume Templates
- Spiff Up Your Resume with This Template from Rijo Abraham
If you want to get noticed, you need to expand your template options beyond the usual Microsoft Word selections. You need to choose templates that do a lot of heavy lifting. They need to show off your skills and be memorable, but they can’t be so wild as to turn off the more conservative hiring managers. Rijo Abraham’s free resume template is a great resume sample template and will be a welcome addition to your template library.
With this template, you can combine sober and informative content with fun and exciting visual presentation. Professional resumes require a deft touch and should stay within the lines of tradition. However, a few carefully-placed visual touches can impress your future boss and make you a prime candidate for one of the top tech jobs. Rijo Abraham combines the best of these aspects. You’ll be able to modify or eliminate an attractive top banner, and your education and job history sections are all simple to find and beautifully-designed.
- Highlight Your Skills with a Laconique Resume Template
This spare, eye-catching free resume template from Zohn Habib is a great way to highlight relevant training. Your resume design will vary depending on what you want to emphasize. If you don’t have a lot of training for a position and want to underscore your job history, you should choose a template that brings work history to the fore. And if you need a template to highlight training over experience, you’d do well with the Laconique template by Zohn Habib. This handsome and understated template will help you get the top gigs.
Thanks to this template’s simple design, your work history appears alongside your training history. This layout splits your attention between the two. It reduces work history importance by removing it from a primary position at the top of the resume. The template is easy to understand and will make any hiring manager smile.
A Final Word on Technical Resumes
Now that you know the things to include, things to avoid, and other useful technical resume tips, you’re ready to start crafting your own. The most important things to remember are to stay true to yourself, highlight your skills and experience, and always be honest. If you follow these guidelines–using a technical resume template or creating a design of your own–you’re sure to land that technical interview you’ve been striving for.