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Careers: Tweaking Your IT Resume

Times and norms have changed. If you don't tweak your resume to reflect these changes, you risk being rejected, set aside, or worse -- dismissed as outdated.

If you're trying to attract the attention of a hiring manager, here's one objective to keep in mind: ditch the "Objective" statement.

"Objective" rarely catch the interest of readers according to IT staffing specialist Robert Half Technology. In fact, resumes that lead with "Objective" statements are starting to look outdated to potential hiring managers, experts say.

Outdated Objectives?

"A resume objective is typically unnecessary and can actually limit a candidate's ability to get placed in a job," said Refawne Acarregui, a division director with Robert Half Technology, in a statement.

In place of the once-ubiquitous "Objective," many IT pros are opting for "Summary" statements, Acarregui noted. She cited the prevalence of summary statements on professional social networks such as LinkedIn as one example of this phenomenon.

On the plus side, a brief summary statement (50 words or less) is a good way for a candidate to quickly mention relevant skills and experience. There's also a potential danger here, Acarregui cautioned: an insufficiently succinct summary statement can seem like filler. "It's sort of like writing a paper in college and using a larger font and double-spaces to fill up more pages," she argued.

A second problem with both "Objective" and "Summary" statements is that they take up extremely valuable space. Think of the top of your resume as analogous to prime-time TV programming: ideally, it should grab or pull in your viewing audience -- in this case, hiring managers.

Lead with Your Experience

Instead of leading with an "Objective" or "Summary" statement, Acarregui recommended moving the "Professional Experience" section of your resume to the very top. This gives you a chance to make your resume pop by touting the experience and skills that make you an ideal candidate for the job.

Think about it from the perspective of a hiring manager. Yes, most large companies do use software tools to automatically parse resumes for relevant keywords; at some point, however, a human being -- usually the hiring manager -- will enter the mix. In most cases, the hiring manager quickly scans applicant resumes to identify ideal candidates -- as well as to eliminate noncontenders. A poorly structured resume can make even the most qualified applicant seem like a noncontender.

In other words, lead off with your experience and skills right away, Acarregui urged. Insofar as is possible, make sure they're clearly consistent with the requirements of the job, too, targeting your resume to that specific job.

That vague "Objective" statement you embedded in your resume -- "Creative, problem-solving IT pro is seeking a challenging IT position in a growing company" -- and sent to 15 or 20 other companies? It sounds like the kind of thing you sent to 15 or 20 other companies.

Be Specific About What You Bring to the Job

According to Acarregui and Robert Half Technology, hiring managers aren't as interested in what you want as in what you bring to the company. This is another reason to forego an "Objective" statement.

Unless you're a recent college graduate or you're trying to transition into a completely new career.

Take the case of a person transitioning from, say, a career in business to a new role in IT. Most of the experience and skills that candidate would list on her resume would relate to her former career. In this case, Acarregui said, a concise "Objective" statement might be appropriate.

Times and norms have changed. If you don't tweak your resume to reflect these changes, you risk being rejected, set aside -- or worse, dismissed as outdated.

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