Technical writers serve a valuable function within any organization. By composing instruction manuals, how-to guides, journal articles, and supporting documents, they convey technical information in an easy-to-understand way to both internal and external stakeholders. In light of that, a technical writer resume should emphasize the candidate’s mastery of communication.
But how do you demonstrate that mastery? Which skills should you highlight? That depends on whether you’re a new technical writer or an experienced one, as well as your background and specialization (if any).
From the perspective of Danielle Fish, director of product documentation at Stibo Systems, it’s important for a technical writing resume to communicate that the applicant is a critical thinker. “Some of the best writers I’ve seen have a business analyst or program manager background,” she explained. “These people can bring in info, analyze it, investigate, and produce. These hard skills always lead to a person being flexible, too.”
She noted the best-laid plans go awry when dealing with projects, so technical writers should use their resume and other application materials to show how they can pivot quickly to handle the unexpected. “You must ‘bob and weave’ as you go—priorities change, resources get shuffled around, and timelines get shifted,” Fish said.
Above all, a technical writer resume should highlight their dependability, communication skills, show that they are excellent team players, display critical thinking capabilities, and prove that they are adaptable. Work ethic is also incredibly important. If you have all those skills and aptitudes, you can potentially unlock a high salary, as well.
Technical Writer Resume Template
Curious about what a technical writer resume actually looks like? Take a gander at this template:
Things to Keep in Mind as You Write
“A resume must quickly convey skills, experience and accomplishments,” said Ger Doyle, senior vice president, Experis, Digital and Business Innovation at Manpower group. “These should be highlighted and summarized at the top of the resume.”
Teamwork, communication, research and analysis, and writing and editing are among the key skills and experiences a technical writer needs to include on any resume. “Similar to other creative roles, a technical writer should have an online portfolio demonstrating a diverse set of sample work with a short summary of the project or outcome that was delivered,” Doyle added.
Art Denman, lead technical recruiter at Kelly Technology, said technical writer candidates should highlight previous job experiences in which they successfully created and delivered technical documentation. Depending on the field in which the technical writer specializes (for example, software development or hardware engineering), candidates should also include experiences that demonstrate their familiarity with that specific subject matter.
Technical writers should structure their resume by following the general rule of including the most relevant information at the top. “However, because employers are increasingly using applicant tracking systems to scan resumes for keywords that match the job description of the role for which they are hiring, the order in which information is included is not as important as prioritizing information that is directly applicable to the role,” Denman said.
A good practice is for candidates to identify keywords in the job description and incorporate those in the appropriate places throughout their resume. “It’s not enough for a candidate to list on their resume the technical writing projects they have worked on and delivered,” Denman added. “Candidates should be prepared to provide hiring managers with a body of work in the form of a digital portfolio.”
Above all, hiring managers want to ensure candidates can deliver on any experiences they have included in their resume.
Listing Your Technical Skills
Another key part of a technical writer’s role is gathering requirements from technical experts, Denman added. “Doing so requires strong communication and comprehension skills,” he said. “To translate technical requirements into easy-to-comprehend documentation, technical writers must also demonstrate empathy for the end user.”
It’s also helpful if you can use the experience section of your resume to show how your efforts have positively impacted your previous companies; including traffic and engagement numbers, for example, can help sell you as someone who contributes mightily to an organization. “Often technical writing is seen as a necessary evil of product support,” Doyle said. “Being able to identify measurable impact, say by reducing support calls by X% created by their deliverables, will set them apart from other candidates.”
Technical writers can also stand out by using industry-specific lingo in their resume. “Do you have experience with content management tools or help authoring tools, and do you know the difference between the two?” Fish said. “Because we do tend to hire technical writers without tons of experience in technical writing, I look for ways that applicants have worked to familiarize themselves with technical writing prior to applying for an open position.”
Do you have comparable work experience that makes a transition pretty seamless, or are you making a big career change—and if so, have you educated yourself in your new industry? Use your resume, cover letter, and other application materials to make the case that you’re knowledgeable about the organization’s (and broader industry’s) purpose, issues, and underlying technologies.
“In summary, I want to know what an applicant brings to the team that we do not already have,” Fish added. “Make that stand out on your resume. Tell me enough that I can understand what you are looking for in a position and what you bring to the table. Then, I can start painting the picture in my head around how we can work together.”