Imagine you’ve found what appears to be your dream job in tech. The job responsibilities align perfectly with your experience, the company culture is a good fit, and the benefits are very attractive. You quickly upload your resume and hit “submit,” convinced that you’re clearly the ideal person for the job.
But you never hear back, except for a courtesy email that says your application was successfully submitted, and you can’t figure out what you did wrong. Unfortunately, even the most qualified job seekers don’t make the cut because their tech resumes fail to make it past the preliminary steps of the hiring process.
In the fast-paced tech industry, hiring managers and recruiters are looking for candidates who not only have the required skills and experience but also stand out from the crowd. Although tech resumes aren’t so different from “traditional” resumes, learning industry-specific best practices will boost your chances of landing your dream tech job.
1. Prioritize your resume sections strategically
Crafting a professional resume isn’t just about filling in the blanks of a template. It’s about strategically organizing your information to highlight your strongest qualifications. With recruiters spending an average of just 7 seconds scanning each resume, it’s crucial to catch their attention quickly. The key is to put the most relevant sections at the top to ensure your most compelling qualifications aren’t missed.
The optimal order of resume sections can vary depending on your career stage and the roles you’re applying to. For instance, recent graduates and entry-level candidates might want to place their education section before their work experience. However, seasoned professionals would typically do the opposite. This strategy lets you present your strongest points first, whether that’s your academic background or your professional experience.
A good rule of thumb for tech roles is to place your career summary and skills section at the top. This immediately showcases your expertise and suitability for the position.
If you’re a new graduate or changing careers, consider highlighting relevant coursework to demonstrate your knowledge and commitment to your field. Remember, the goal is to make your resume a compelling narrative of your qualifications, tailored to your desired role.
Above is an example of a resume from a candidate who recently graduated with a chemical engineering degree. Notice how their work experience does not apply to their goal of working as an engineer. So instead of starting with their work experience, as many resume templates tend to do, they list their skills and projects first, which are much more relevant to engineering roles.
2. Optimize your resume with keywords
With the rise of applicant tracking systems (ATS), the rules of the resume game have changed. These systems scan resumes for specific keywords related to the job — if your resume includes these keywords, you’re more likely to pass the ATS and get your resume in front of a human recruiter.
“The first thing that happens once you hit submit on a job application containing your resume is through an applicant tracking system. It’s entirely keyword-based, so the ATS will say a resume has X percentage match to the job description.” — Jonny Scharer, a resume expert and career mentor at Pathrise
At Pathrise, we recommend aiming for your resume to match 45% to 65% of the job description — high enough to meet the threshold for potential employers without requiring you to spend too much time customizing your resume for every job application. To further optimize your resume with keywords, incorporate relevant words and phrases throughout your resume, such as in your work or project experience, skills section, and career summary.
Consider breaking up your skills section into different categories, especially for types of software like libraries, frameworks, databases, or coding languages. This tactic accounts for applicant tracking systems that consider this kind of breakdown while making it easier for human readers to understand the breadth of your knowledge.
However, remember to avoid keyword stuffing. “Think of your resume as a conversation — you want people and application tracking systems to listen to the voice of your resume,” Jonny suggests. “Your voice can get louder by increasing the number of keywords, but you can also decrease the amount of ‘noise’ by omitting irrelevant projects or work experience.”
Another tactic is to add a variant of a skills section where you describe what you’ll do in a specific role at that company. Below is an example from a software engineer’s resume:
See how this candidate adds even more relevant keywords in this section, even for skills they don’t have yet, like leveraging a company’s current CICD pipeline. On top of giving them an edge over other applicants, this detail shows hiring managers that this candidate has clearly thought through how they will grow in the role.
Adding industry buzzwords and keywords to your resume helps you get past the automated screening tools and increases your interview chances and hireability rate by 29%.
3. Focus on impact and quantification
Other candidates will likely have similar experience and skills, if not identical job responsibilities, throughout their work history. Quantifying your achievements will set you apart from the competition while clarifying exactly how you will add value to the company.
“At the end of the day, that’s what people are really concerned about: can you do the job? What results have you historically driven? Can you prove that you can do that for my company?” says Jonny. This shows recruiters not just what you did but the impact of what you did.
A simple formula to keep in mind is “Accomplished X to achieve Y as measured by Z.” For instance, instead of saying “improved website performance,” you could say “improved website load times by 30%,” which gives a clearer picture of your impact.
Let’s look at another resume sample, which closely follows the formula above:
Compare “Provided the client with weekly reports and analysis of caseload inventory that helped management increase efficiency and decreased outstanding tasks by 53%” with the much more generic “Conducted weekly reports and analysis of caseload inventory.” The first version is much more specific and demonstrates exactly how this candidate’s work impacted the organization. This also helps hiring managers imagine how they will contribute to the company.
Using concrete numbers to explain how you made an impact helps hiring managers set you apart from other candidates. It will increase your chances of interview and hireability by +40%.
4. Use strong action verbs
To compete with other candidates, you need to get specific about what skills and experience you bring to the table. This is where strong action verbs come into play. These powerful words can paint a vivid picture of your abilities, showing that you take initiative and are proactive.
Start by looking at the job description and identifying any particular action verbs. Then incorporate them into your resume to upgrade your bullet points. This will also help you avoid repetition as you describe your achievements in similar fields.
As you revise your resume, think about the story you’re telling. Are you simply listing tasks, or are you demonstrating how you added value to your previous roles?
For instance, instead of using a common verb like “assisted,” consider using more dynamic verbs like “spearheaded,” “directed,” or “initiated.” Similarly, “communicated” could be replaced with “consulted,” “reconciled,” or “collaborated.” You can find more ideas for strong action verbs here.
The example above shows how strong action verbs make a resume more specific and compelling. “Managed sales territory that grew from $2,600 in total sales to $1.6M in 2021” would be a solid description of one of this candidate’s accomplishments, but it fails to highlight how they did it and why it’s impressive.
In comparison, “Established first footprint in new territory” makes it clear that the candidate was proactive in their job and succeeded despite the challenge of launching any long-term project from the beginning.
Did you know mentioning “Team player” or “team work” more than once or twice has an impact on your hireability? It lowers your chances of interview and hireability by 51%. As it leads to confusion about the duties and work ‘you’ actually performed.
5. Leverage your resume header and career summary
The header and career summary are often the first things a recruiter sees when they look at your resume. By including relevant keywords and information in these sections, you can immediately show that you’re a strong match for the job.
The easiest way to implement this is to include a specific title or role you’re targeting — for example, “Web Developer” or “Data Scientist” — in your header. This can immediately show recruiters that you’re a fit for the role.
But don’t stop there. Your career summary is another opportunity to further showcase why you’re the best fit for the role. Jonny suggests a simple formula — say four things in four sentences:
- Your proof: Describe a recent project where you put those tech skills into practice to back up your claims. Link to your portfolio or Github so recruiters can find out more without having to look for it.
- Where you got these skills: Mention the degree, certification, or bootcamp where you learned how to do this job. This detail provides context and shows that you’ve invested time into honing your craft.
- What your career goals are: Briefly explain what you’re looking for in your next role by combining hard skills and soft skills, like “Eager to join a detail-oriented, passionate team whose ultimate goal is the satisfaction of the end user.”
Below is an example of a career summary that follows this formula:
Notice how this candidate implemented the other best practices we discussed, like adding relevant keywords and quantifying their experience. Rather than having to scroll through the document to get these details, hiring managers get a highlight reel within the first few seconds of skimming the resume.
For job seekers applying to executive roles, consider replacing the career summary with career highlights. This can be a powerful way to showcase the significant impacts you’ve made in your career. For example, you might highlight that you’ve “generated $500M in business over 20 years” rather than describing your career goals.
6. List the tools used with every experience
Practical skills are highly valued in the tech industry, especially in startup environments where employers often expect new hires to hit the ground running. Adding the tools you used in a specific job, internship, or project provides vital context about your proficiency in these areas. Plus, it proves that you have hands-on experience, not just theoretical knowledge, of the skills they’re looking for.
Mention specific technical skills — like programming languages, software, or methodologies — in the bullet points of your work and project experience sections. For example, if you list Python or SQL as a tool used in a data analysis role, it’s clear that you were doing some level of programming in that job.
It’s important to note that the tech industry evolves quickly, and new tools are constantly being introduced. Make sure to regularly update your resume to include any new tools you’ve learned to use to show that you can keep up with changes in your field.
Make your tech resume shine with Pathrise
If you’re applying to a huge volume of roles every week, you probably don’t have the time to tailor your resume to each position, so you need to start with a winning resume as your foundation. With these best practices, you’ll easily take your resume from a basic overview of your work history to a persuasive document that sells you as the most qualified candidate. For more tips for writing a stronger resume, check out our guide on how to be a good resume writer.
If you’re ready to take your resume to the next level, consider partnering with Pathrise. Our online program offers personalized career mentorship, pairing you with industry experts who can guide you in creating a resume that effectively demonstrates your qualifications for your desired roles. Our experienced career mentors have helped hundreds of job seekers get hired for their dream roles in tech, from technical jobs in software engineering and cybersecurity to nontechnical fields like marketing and customer success.
So why wait? Start your journey with Pathrise today and discover your full potential in the tech industry. Apply to Pathrise now!