7 Computer Programmer Resume Tips That Could Shorten Your Job Search

45There are tons of resumes for computer programmers. Questions about the computer programmer resume are some of the most frequent that I receive. We all know that top programmers are in high demand. But the competition can be fierce and each posted position receives hundreds of resumes. Most resumes received are quickly discarded. I know. I do it every day. However, a great programming resume will yield unending calls from both employers and recruiters. Is yours generating these types of calls? Follow these proven tips to help get your resume in shape.

1. Show a Skills Summary

Any IT type of resume needs to focus on specific technology experience. Why? Because recruiters, employers, resume reviewers, and application tracking systems all search resumes for keywords relevant to specific job postings. As you a programmer, I am sure you can imagine an algorithm designed to score your resume against the job posting based on similarity with keywords/skills in the posting. The reason you need a skills summary on your resume is to ensure you get all of those technologies and key words listed so you can score higher on these reviews.

You must make it easy for a resume reviewer to find your experience with specific skills on your resume. To do this, always include a Technical Skills section. You can take several approaches for your technical skills summary. The most common is to show a bulleted list, a short table, or even a short paragraph listing your technology skill set. Some list skills on their resume organized by technical area, such as database, programming languages, networking tools, etc. Keep the list of skills brief and high level as an overview of your skills. You don’t typically need to specify versions in the skill listing. Remember, the primary purpose of the technical skills list is to make your skills easy to find. You give the resume reviewer a way to quickly see an overview of skills listed on your computer programmer resume, such as programming languages, databases, testing tools, etc.

Let me share with you a tip related to your technical skills summary based on my review of resumes over the years. After I check the list of skills, my next step is to look further in the resume to identify the specific jobs where that skill was used and determine how much experience a candidate has with the skill. The point is that listing the skill is simply not enough. Truthfully, I’ve found that most candidates never mention the technical skill anywhere else other than in the skill listing. In these cases, I will assume they really don’t have experience with that skill and are just listing it to catch my eye. Therefore, follow through and ensure that the skills you list are also spelled out in your job experience write-ups. Never assume that a resume reviewer will know that you did x, y, or z. More often than not, they do not make those assumptions or they could even be non-technical staff who are just following a checklist to screen the resumes. So, remember, that if an employer lists a technical skill on the IT job posting or ad, make sure it is on your resume in both your technical skills list and experience write-up.

2. Use Key Words

Computer programmers understand logic and algorithms. Use this to your advantage by applying this approach to your resume. The prescreening process is very methodical. In many cases, these screens are done using logic in software applications especially if you apply online. Additional screenings may be completed by human resources or other non-technical personnel who do not always understand the technologies required for the position for which you are applying but are merely using a checklist for resume screening. Hopefully you are beginning to see why it is so important to use key words on your resume. Let me clarify that, it is so important to use the RIGHT key words on your resume.

Nearly all initial resume screenings are done using a checklist of items that must appear in order to advance to the next level, regardless of whether it is screened by computer or staff. If you don’t have the correct ratio of keywords on your resume for the position, you don’t make the cut. So why do so many experienced candidates for computer programmer jobs not make sure that the correct keywords are on their resume for each individual position for which they apply? It’s usually a combination of attention to detail and desire to respond quickly.

As I mentioned earlier, do not assume that a resume reviewer will be familiar with various terms and concepts that could substitute for the ones in the position announcement. That may or may not be true. Best advice is to use the potential employer’s terminology from the job posting since that is most likely what reviewers will be looking for. Again, do not assume that the initial reviewers are familiar with the technology involved with the position. They may not be. Be very clear that you meet all of their requirements by ensuring that your technical skills summary, experience summary, and experience details all generously use the correct keywords for the position you are seeking.

3. Provide an Experience Summary

If the reviewer of your resume determines you have experience with the required technologies, the next thing they will attempt to do if to figure out how much experience you have with the specific required technical skills. Your job is to make this process easy for the reviewer, which will then improve your odds for passing the complete resume screening and get an interview. Remember that, in general, resume reviewers do not dedicate much time to each individual resume. If it is too much work for a reviewer to verify your experience against the job requirements, they will most likely move on to the next candidate.

Do not put an Objective section on your resume. Why would you? What value does it add? Space on your resume is limited and is better used to provide a one paragraph (2-3 sentences) summary of your qualifications for the specific position. This summary should include years of experience, types of experience, and highlight the most important technologies related to the position. This section is used to make the resume reviewer’s screening process easier and improve your chances of passing the initial screening. Use it wisely and tailor it for each position.

Finally, make sure each job history write-up in your experience history (your job summaries) includes these details as well. When I get into a detailed resume review, one of the first things I do is map the summary to the details. I try to determine where and when you had the required experience for the computer programmer job. If I can’t find it called out in the details, I will assume you don’t have that experience, regardless of what your summary says. It is very important that you to pay attention to these details because, as a reviewer, I most certainly do. The job summaries are the key to getting past the initial resume screening. Take time to make sure the details line up with what you said in your experience summary and technical skills list.

4. List any Professional Certifications

Different employers place different emphasis on professional certifications. Many employers find these certifications very important, often even requiring them for certain positions. But there are also other employers who might prefer candidates with certifications, but do not require them. Still others do not pay attention to certifications at all. Since you have no idea what the company or reviewer believes about certifications, you should always list them if you have them.

Professional certifications from major vendors and professional associations typically carry the most weight and are well worth the investment of time and cost. They are definitely good things to have and can often give you an edge over other similar candidates being considered. In the computer programming area, certifications from Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, and the like are definitely in demand. Highly sought after certifications from professional associations include A+, Network+, and Security + from Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA); Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) from International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium (ISC)²; and Project Management Professional (PMP) from Project Management Institute.

If you don’t have certifications, why not begin training for the one most applicable to you? These can ease a career transition proving your knowledge in new areas where you may not have as much work experience. There are many great online or in-person training programs to prepare you for the certification exams.

5. Show any Training and Education

List any degrees you hold since most employers want to see these. If you have work towards a degree, but are still pursuing or have never finished but you may someday, list it as in progress.

You also want to provide a short listing of relevant technology training courses you have taken. Many candidates forget to list these items out. They can help further demonstrate your expertise and exposure to different technologies, especially for a less experienced candidate. I suggest putting Training last on your resume, just below Education. As an added bonus, listing these technology skill trainings helps add more key words to your resume and improve your results on resume screenings.

6. Use Action Verbs

Choose your verbs carefully. So many resumes are uninteresting due to poor verb choices. There are definitely skills to great writing, and using the right words to convey action and engage the resume reviewer is one of those skills.
Ensure that your sentences are worded to show that you actually did something. It sounds silly, but consider the following two sentences:

  • This approach was an improvement over the previous standard operating procedures.
  • This approach improved the standard operating procedures.

Note that both sentences convey the same meaning. However, the second sentence is more active. That is, the subject of the second sentence (this approach) actually did the action (performed). In the first sentence, the subject is the same (this approach), however the verb (was) does not convey direct action. Try your best to make your sentence convey action by using action verbs. If you are struggling in this area, you may wish to consider working with a professional resume writer for help.

7. Write About Your Results, Not Responsibilities

Don’t let your resume make the mistake of focusing on your previous jobs’ responsibilities. Your resume should focus on the computer programming work that you did and what you achieved. As a hint, avoid using the word responsibility or responsibilities on your resume so you don’t fall into this trap.

In writing about each of your previous jobs, discuss your results. Tell about what results were realized because of the work you performed. Be quantitative. Reviewers love to see numbers and results. Tell about how many desktops or users you supported, recount how many databases you administered, show a percentage of application or network uptime you maintained, provide a percent reduction of security incidents you achieved, etc. Get the idea? This is where you impress your reviewer.

One of the current trends in job candidate evaluation is behavioral with the idea being that your past performance is the best indicator of your future performance. So, toot your horn a little and make your accomplishments known. Quantifying your experience is usually the most difficult part of preparing a resume for any person. So take some time, think it through, and detail the results you achieved in each of your positions relevant to the one for which you are applying.