With Tech Résumés, Think Depth, Not Breadth

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If you’ve read the latest Dice Salary Survey, you know that the average salary for technology professionals in the U.S. is higher than ever—up 7.7 percent to $96,370 annually. And that growth isn’t limited to salaries, with bonuses and contract rates also on the rise.

That’s great for tech pros when it comes to negotiating for a new job: those with the right skills are clearly commanding top dollar, especially in hot segments such as Big Data and cloud infrastructure. But rising salaries may also translate into more tech pros hitting the open market for the best-paying positions, which means anyone hunting for a new gig could end up locked in competition with experienced peers.

Confronted with the prospect of a fierce contest for a position, some tech pros might opt to load up their résumé and application with every skill they can think of, along with every possible type of experience they’ve accumulated.

While such a strategy might work in certain circumstances, you may stand a better chance of landing a position if you go for depth of skills and experience, rather than breadth.

For example, let’s say you’re applying for a Big Data job. You might be tempted to fill a third of your résumé with every skill you’ve learned over the past several years: Apache Hadoop and its various distributions, along with Cassandra, Cloudera, PAAS, Chef, Pig, CloudStack—in short, pretty much every skill you’ve ever seen on a whiteboard (and all of which pay well, by the way).

But doing so won’t necessarily help your case; for all the recruiter or hiring manager knows, you’re just listing skills that your professor covered briefly in class, back when you first earned your degree.

Instead of dumping as many technologies as possible into your application package, read the job posting and highlight the skills sought by the employer. If the company wants someone who specializes in Hadoop, for example, rewrite your résumé and other materials to highlight your extensive skills with the framework. If you’re debating which jobs or internships to mention, choose the ones that best demonstrate your familiarity with the sought-after technology. And if a skill doesn’t seem to fit within this schema, leave it out.

When you go into detail about your specialties, keep in mind that the recruiter or HR staffer who first reads your résumé may not be familiar with how the technology works. That’s why it’s important, whenever doing a “deep dive” into your background, to paint as broad a picture as possible—describing the end result of your work, in terms of how it helped the business—before getting into the nitty-gritty. Doing so will increase the chances of your résumé landing in front of a manager who’s technically inclined, and likely to see your skills’ true worth.

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