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This is How to Write a Standout Technical Resume | Fairygodboss
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This is How to Write a Standout Technical Resume
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Lorelei Yang,
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Wonky consultant with a passion for words
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If you're dreaming about working in an engineering or programming role at the next Uber or Tesla, odds are good that you're going to have to write a stellar technical resume to get your foot in the door. To make this happen, you need to know what goes into an unforgettable technical resume that will make the hiring manager want to meet you as soon as possible. In this article, you'll learn what it is and get tips for creating your own.

What is a technical resume?

As the name suggests, a technical resume is used to apply for tech jobs. Technical resumes are a little different from standard resumes in a few small but extremely important ways. 

First off, they're designed to showcase an applicant's most impressive achievements (especially quantifiable ones) and computer skills. A comprehensive list of the computer programs, databases, coding tools and platforms that you're comfortable working with is a must-have component of a technical resume. Including your skill level (generally categorized as "learning," "intermediate" and "expert" or something similar) with each of these items is also incredibly helpful to those receiving your resume.

How do you write a technical resume?

1. Start with a clean, fuss-free template.

Don't try to reinvent the wheel with the look and feel of your technical resume. Choose a clean, easy-to-use template to start with. Many good free resume templates can be found online, and both Microsoft Word and Pages have a few resume templates in their pre-loaded templates, as well.

2. Compile a list of your skills, experiences and education for your resume.

Before you begin writing your resume, take a few minutes to jot down your experiences, skills and education. This can help you ensure that you're capturing everything you want to include in your resume. It also helps you think about the narrative you want to craft. 

3. List experiences in reverse chronological order with education at either the top or bottom of the resume.

With very few exceptions, reverse chronological order is almost always the best choice for the experiences section. This means that your work experiences should be listed from most to least recent going down the page. Your education should be listed at either the top (more common for younger employees or those just out of school who don't have as much experience yet) or bottom (more common for older employees for whom experience matters more than education) of the page.

4. Include the computer programs, databases, coding tools and platforms you're comfortable working with and learning.

As previously discussed, it's critical for potential employers to know what you can do as a technical hire. So, be sure to include a list of the programming languages you're comfortable with, as well as the platforms you're able to develop in, on your resume. Sorting these by level of familiarity will help hiring managers suss our your suitability for a role effectively as well, saving both you and them time if it's not the right fit. Categorizing the programming languages on your resume into those you're "learning," "intermediate" and "expert" is a good solution.

5. Include any relevant certifications, professional association memberships, publications and/or a link to a portfolio.

Adding Microsoft certifications, CCNA certifications, CompTIA A+ certifications and similar qualifications to your resume will also help bolster your technical credentials. Similarly, if you're a member of any professional technical associations, you should include those on your resume (they go well in an "Additional Activities" or "Professional Memberships" section). Finally, if you've published anything in your field or have an online portfolio, you should include links to this information in your resume or mention it in a bullet point.

6. Build and maintain an online portfolio.

Building off the above, all technical applicants should have online portfolios that their resumes are linked to. An online portfolio is essential for those in technical fields or looking to get into technical fields because they give recruiters and hiring managers an opportunity to see what you can build in a tangible way. 

Ideally, you'll be able to include work you've done for previous employers in your online portfolio. If you don't have that, you can build some things for fun and include them in your portfolio, freelance for a few organizations and include that work or offer coursework from when you were pursuing your technical degree.

7. Include a header and personal summary.

Like all resumes, a technical resume should also include a header and professional summary. A header should include your full name, phone number, email address and location (city and state). In the past, people used to include their full addresses on their resumes — however, this isn't needed anymore.

Your professional summary should briefly describe your professional experiences thus far, outline the job you're seeking and include a handful of relevant qualifications.

What to include on a technical resume?

In order to achieve its goal of demonstrating your technical abilities to a hiring manager, a technical resume should include: 

  • Your skills
  • Your experiences in reverse chronological order
  • Your achievements in previous roles (especially when they're metricized to illuminate impact)
  • A link to your online portfolio
  • Relevant key achievements outside work, if applicable (e.g., publication in an important industry magazine or winning a hackathon)

In order to serve its function as a general job-seeking tool, a technical resume must also have: 

  • A header with your full name, contact information and location
  • A personal summary that succinctly describes your experiences to date
  • Your educational background

What are technical skills for resume?

Technical skills are a subset of hard skills. Emma Wedekind, a software engineer at LogMeIn, suggests one good way to think of these skills is to bucket them into three rough categories: 1) programming languages and frameworks (such as JavaScript); 2) software (such as Adobe Illustrator); and 3) methodologies and practices (such as Agile).

Some of the key hard skills you could consider listing (assuming you have them) are: 

  • Big data analysis
  • Programming
  • Debugging
  • Network security
  • Network architecture
  • Technical writing
  • Project management

A few programming languages you should list if you know them are: 

  • Java
  • Javascript
  • Ruby
  • CSS
  • HTML 5
  • PHP
  • C++

Examples

At the top, you'll want to include your first and last name, location (city and state will do since applicants no longer need to provide full addresses in an era of digital communication), phone number, email address and portfolio URL: 

Other header items you could consider are your LinkedIn URL and social media handles (only if you use social media to comment on goings-on in your industry; if your social media is purely personal, leave it off your resume). Under the header, you should have a 1-3 sentence summary that gives a resume reader a quick overview of your experiences: 

If you're an early-career employee whose resume summary is a bit thin, it may be better to have a resume objective instead of a resume summary. This could look something like this: 

Under your summary or objective, you'll want to list your work experiences in reverse chronological order (most recent experience first). This is an example of a well-crafted work experience description: 

If you don't have deep work experience, you can augment this section of your resume with past internships, volunteer experience, freelance projects, participation in hackathons and personal projects. 

After your work experience section, you should provide your educational background. This should look something like the below:

Finally, don't forget to list skills and other qualifications that prove you have the technical chops to succeed in the job you're applying for. These are especially important for a technical resume, as a hiring manager will want to know what programming languages you're familiar with. As discussed above, you should include the programming languages you're familiar with, categorizing them by your level of expertise in each; any certifications you have; and additional activities, accolades and more that illustrate your technical know-how.

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Lorelei Yang is a New York-based consultant and freelance writer/researcher. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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