Résumé-Building Without a College Degree

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Some of the tech industry’s leading luminaries—including Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg—never graduated college, and still went on to found multibillion-dollar companies. That’s something to keep in mind if you’re applying for tech positions without an undergraduate degree in hand.

Yes, many tech firms require degrees for certain positions, with no exceptions. And yes, it can often prove more difficult for someone without a degree to complete in an applicant pool against candidates who graduated from college. That being said, it’s not impossible to land your desired position off a combination of certifications, skills, and accomplishments.

The first step in landing such a position is a well-crafted résumé. If you don’t have a degree, here’s what to emphasize on it:

Certifications

Certifications show you’re adept at a particular area. Listing them can help convince an otherwise-ambivalent recruiter or HR staffer that you know the technology behind the offered job.

Classes and Some College

Even if you don’t have a degree, chances are good that you’ve taken at least a handful of classes, or even worked your way through a couple years of college. Detail that academic background. If you’re attending classes with an eye toward completing your degree, put down your expected date of graduation.

Work Accomplishments

Perhaps you have a lot of on-the-job experience. List as much of it as possible, with a focus on accomplishments and results. Many tech firms place a premium on applicants who have a history of completing complex tasks on a tight deadline, whether or not those people have a degree.

Previous Projects

If you’re a software developer who actively participates in online forums and repositories such as GitHub, take a day or two before you start applying for jobs to “clean up” your various public projects. Recruiters and HR staffers often take a look at a candidate’s “outside” work in addition to their résumé; if your coding is particularly impressive, chances are good they’ll weigh that factor heavily when debating whether to set up an interview. Use your résumé to refer to your GitHub page and other online profiles.

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