3 Steps to a Winning Resume

I have been recruiting recently for a couple of positions available on my team at work. It always seems so difficult to find candidates that seem to be a good match for the position even though I just know that there are tons of people out there who would be great for the job. I thought I would take some time to share a recruiter’s view of the candidate search process so that you might be able to better let me know if you are a good match for the job. If you are a good match, I want to teach you how to make sure you are noticed and that I get the chance to talk with you about the position. Keep reading to learn how to create a winning resume that gets past the screening process and will get you hired!

For candidates, this is the most difficult phase of the job search, you have likely applied online to a job posting or your resume was picked up during on-campus recruiting and passed along to me. You are likely in a large pool of other candidates with 50-150 candidates applying for a single posting. I will be trying to narrow this large list of resumes down to a few qualified applicants that will make it through to a phone screen. You only get about 10 seconds of my attention to stand out from the crowd and your resume has to do all the talking. During a first pass, I look for the following three things as I screen out candidates for a position.

  1. Are you qualified? – The first thing I look for when screening resumes is that you have some of the basic skills in the technologies we use. I will just be scanning the resume at this step to see if you have enough keywords to justify reading it fully. Look for the clues in the job description and then specify which of those keywords you have experience with. I’ll give an example. If I’m recruiting for Systems Engineers, I would be looking for keywords showing that you have some experience in the following order of importance:
    • Operating Systems: some flavor of linux (preferably CentOS or Redhat), and Windows Server operating systems such as server 2012 and 2008 R2. You should be comfortable enough in these to be able to install software, assess system health, install patches, audit log activity, secure the system, etc.
    • Networking: Nothing too fancy here, but you must understand basic IP Addressing, subnetting, and basic routing and switching concepts. A CCNA certification would be ideal as it proves mastery of these basic concepts and then some.
    • Scripting Languages: BASH for linux, Powershell for windows, experience writing scripts to automate tasks, etc.
    • Software Engineering: Some basic experience in programming with PHP, Ruby, Python, JAVA, etc. It would be awesome if you can write code, but being able to understand and fix code written by others is a minimum.
    • Web Servers – Apache, Nginx, etc. You should be familiar with one of these if you are going to be working on supporting a web-based application.
    • Database – MySQL, Postgres, Microsoft SQL – Some familiarity with SQL.
    • Configuration Management Experience – Chef, Puppet, Ansible, Salt Stack, CF Engine – The hottest technology skill to have on your resume. This alone will bump you to the top of my list. I will likely write a post about the importance of this skill soon.
    • Related Technologies – Redis, Memcache, Mongo, etc.
  2. Do you have any experience? – The second thing I look for is relevant experience. We hire mostly through college recruiting, but I still expect you to have relevant experience. This doesn’t have to be a previous job or an internship. It could simply be working on school projects or projects on your own to help you gain an understanding of the technology. I will be posting about this in more detail soon. There are tons of ways to gain experience.
  3. What makes you unique? – If you have gotten this far, I have likely put you into one of 2 buckets. One is for candidates that are just following their school’s curriculum in systems administration or networking and happen to be a good match based on their areas of study. The other is for candidates that really stand out because they love technology and I can tell that they are not just following the beaten path. This means your love for technology is evident in your resume, through your objective and your experience. I see your passion for technology coming out of your resume. You would be surprised how many students in the same degree program at the same school have nearly identical resumes that simply read like a listing of courses from the degree track they have chosen. Would you rather be just like everyone else in your class, or would you like to jump out from the crowd?

If you have made it this far, congratulations! You will likely be getting a phone call or an email and we can start getting to know each other. Stay tuned to learn how to get through the next steps of a recruiting process. And don’t forget to subscribe to my updates so you can get an email when I make my next post.

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