Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. : Oscar Wilde

Thursday, May 24, 2007

IT résumés: go carefully

Susan Buckingham[1] and I were discussing a résumé written for an IT worker yesterday and here are a couple of the observations that we made. Put briefly, there are some big downsides in mentioning certain specific details of technical competencies or too many educational credentials relating to technical competencies, rather than any results that have flowed from these competencies.

Quite a few highly skilled IT professionals who work with Microsoft Windows seem to think that they must mention specific skills with Microsoft Word, Excel and Publisher. However isn't it likely that employers will assume competence with such fairly standard Windows applications? Mere mention of MS Office should often be enough—unless the worker can claim skills with VBA or some other more technical or administrative aspects of these products, or with the suite.

Related to this, some IT professionals mention competence with languages or products such as Javascript, for example, that would be implied by a knowledge of more advanced or more up-to-date technologies. Be careful! A mention of something like Javascript might make you look like a hacker when you want to be viewed as a skilled professional programmer. If you have written Ajax products, or even some Greasemonkey scripts, then you might choose to omit Javascript from your list.

IT is one technological area—but obviously not the only one—that is subject to rapid change. Most worthwhile employers will expect you to keep up with that change. Although some of these will have the good sense and wherewithall to fund courses for you they will not expect you to attend courses involving the acquisition of tiny increments ("baby steps") of skills and knowledge at the employer's expense. You will be expected to acquire a lot on your own. Therefore, be careful in you résumé about what you expose about how you keep up-to-date.

You will have read this a million times, I know, if you are reading about creating résumés. So: do skip this paragraph if you wish. Better you should indicate your acquisition of skills and knowledge by describing results than by listing courses. But, if you can't prove competence with results then pass a few of the tests that may still be available on the 'net. (As an employer, though, I know what I would prefer. There is a lot more to building software than what is covered in passing tests.)

[1] Niagara West Adult Learning & Resources Centre