The University of Texas at Dallas

Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science

Content

Technical Resume Best Standards and Practices

TECHNICAL RESUME BEST STANDARDS AND PRACTICES:

Format+

  • Limit the length of your resume to one page.
  • Keep the resume straightforward and easy to read by using a simple format created in a word processor.
  • Your resume will almost always be parsed through applicant tracking software (ATS). Be mindful that your resume format is readable by ATS.
    • ATS cannot read images, logos, shading, less common fonts, oddly shaped bullet points.
    • Do not use templates, multiple columns, tables, text boxes, headers and footers, or uncommon section headings (ATS won’t know how to sort the information).
    • ATS can read styling elements such as bold, underline, italics, standard bullet points, and colors (but know that ATS will convert all text to a single color once parsed).
  • Use the same font throughout the resume. The entire body of your resume should be the same font and size; don’t make your titles or headings more than two font sizes larger than the rest of the text in your resume (your name is the only exception to this rule).
    • Use a standard font such as Arial, Calibri, Cambria, Helvetica, Tahoma, or Times New Roman.
  • Keep the margins to 1” or smaller (but not smaller than .05”); all four margins should be the same width.
  • Align the information and justify the margins.
    • Having your timelines right-justified helps draw the eye across the page, which facilitates easy scanning.
  • Your information should be divided into sections, and make sure the sections are located where the recruiter knows to look for them (i.e., education and skills just below contact information), otherwise the recruiter will waste time searching for your information instead of focusing on the content of your resume.
  • Leave space between those sections, and between entries within each section. The blank spaces between sections and entries facilitates the quick and effective scanning of your resume.
  • Standardize your writing, styling, and grammar – double-check for consistency.
  • For projects and work experiences, be brief in your descriptions of responsibilities and accomplishments. Avoid using paragraph format, as it is difficult to scan. A bulleted list is preferable.
  • If you lack technical work experience, place emphasis on academic or personal projects.
  • Follow naming and format instructions if provided on the job posting.
    • Name your document appropriately: “Jane Smith Resume” or “John Smith Position Title Resume”
  • Always submit your resume as a Word document (.docx) or a PDF (.pdf) unless otherwise specified.

Content +

  • Be accurate and honest throughout your resume from dates to position titles, to accomplishments, and technical skills.
  • Student resumes should be limited to one page. If you need help judging how to summarize your experience to fit on one page, please contact your Internship Coordinator.
  • Emphasize your accomplishments during school, internships, and jobs.
  • Use action-oriented verbs in past tense (unless it is current project/position).
  • Current students and recent graduates should always have their education and skills sections at the top of their resume.
  • Keep your resume updated, especially after semester grades have been posted, as you complete relevant projects, and learn new skills.
  • Review job description or posting to learn what type of candidate the employer wants to see in this position. Look at the skillsets, both technical and soft skills, that are required for the position. Where applicable to your own experience, be sure to use the same language in your descriptions
    • A well-written resume will usually pass through ATS without issue, provided you’ve used the same language on your resume that is provided on the job posting.
    • Focus on including important keywords or phrases from the job description where applicable to your experience.
  • Do not try to trick the ATS or use gimmicks. Do not include keywords in white text – it will be immediately discovered because ATS will display all text once parsed.
  • Include quantities and measurables in your descriptions whenever possible.
  • List awards/ honors with the entry (job position/educational entry) where you earned the award. Awards do not need their own section unless you have many.
  • Including memberships and professional affiliations shows initiative and ambition.
    • Avoid listing social, political, or religious affiliations, unless relevant to the position.
  • If you held a title within a group you are a member of, include it in the activities/volunteer section (Ex: Treasurer of a student organization, Fundraising Captain of a sports team).
    • Shows ability to use additional skill sets. This section isn’t about getting recognition for your volunteerism, it’s about showing versatility.
  • Never include photos, date of birth, hobbies unrelated to your industry, marital status, gender, or nationality.

Tips/Other Considerations +

  • Don’t include something on your resume just to fill out blank space- everything you include should be relevant.
  • An objective or a professional summary statement is optional. It is important to understand the difference and carefully consider whether either is necessary for you. If using, place directly below contact information and just before education section.
    • An objective statement allows you to briefly summarize your goals. However, resume objective statements are generally considered an outdated custom and are only recommended if you are making a significant career change, to explain why your experience isn’t exactly in-line with your job search.
    • Instead of an objective, you could consider a professional/career summary statement. A summary statement will briefly describe your achievements, experience level, potential value to the employer, and your immediate career goals. If you use a summary, be sure to use declarative statements such as, “Recent graduate of….”. Do not use complete sentences with pronouns such as “I am a recent graduate of….”. Limit your summary to a couple of sentences and only a few lines of text. Avoid large blocks of text in a summary and throughout your resume.
    • If you have a lot of technical experience to list on your resume, this space might be put to better use displaying your experience with the skillsets that are required for the position you’re seeking.
  • Don’t apply to a bunch of jobs at the same company. Employers will be able to view this, and they won’t be able to tell if you’re genuinely interested in each position or if you’re not self-aware of your skills and abilities.
    • If multiple roles are similar and you’re qualified, definitely apply to both.
    • If you have a wide range of skills, experiences, and interests and are genuinely interested in multiple roles, make sure your resume and cover letter are tailored to the different positions before submitting applications for multiple roles within the same company.
  • Always bring your resume to recruiting events and informational interviews, as recruiters will want to see it.
  • If your voicemail is customized, make sure it sounds professional. Don’t use music. Make sure your voicemail box is set up and not full.
  • Ask for permission to use someone as a reference prior to giving their contact information to a potential employer. Send a thank you note to your references.
  • The further along in the hiring process you are, the more likely someone is to view your online profiles.
    • The information on your resume and the information on your LinkedIn do not have to be identical, but they should be similar.
    • Every few months, search for yourself online so you can see what recruiters see.
  • In the United States, a Curriculum Vitae (CV) is very different from a resume, although other countries might use the terms interchangeably.
    • CVs are most commonly used in academia.
    • The CV will be significantly longer than a resume, usually two pages or more.
    • Can also be important if you are applying for a fellowship or grant, or research positions.
    • In addition to the usual resume sections, a CV might also contain research, fellowships, teaching experience, manuscripts, and publications. The education and honors section might also be more expanded on a CV and include the dissertation or thesis title.
    • PhD students should work with their faculty advisors on crafting their CV, but your Internship Coordinator can help with formatting considerations.
  • PROOFREAD! It is very easy to overlook typos and language/styling/grammar inconsistencies when you’re editing a document, but these are mistakes that will make you stand out for negative reasons.

Contact Information +

  • Your contact information is always at the top of your resume.
  • Your name should be the focal point. Use font size 18-20.
  • You must list phone number, email address, & geographic location.
    • Do not list full street address, but you do need to say city and state. /li>
  • It is optional, but you may choose to provide your LinkedIn and/or GitHub account, or a personal website (if relevant to your job search).
  • Make sure your email is professional – a derivative of your name, and not Yahoo or Hotmail domains.
    • Make sure the email address on your resume is one you frequently check and be sure to use the same one on both your resume and application.
  • If you have employment restrictions, your work authorization status needs to be listed somewhere on your resume. It makes the most sense to it within your contact info. (Ex: “F-1 Visa” or “Work Authorization: F-1 Visa”)
  • Disable the hyperlink in your email address, as it makes it easier to read.
  • Ensure your contact information is accurate. A typo in the phone number or email address could cost you an opportunity.

Education +

  • Current students and recent graduates should have their education section be just below contact information.
  • Educational entries always contain the same information.
    • 1st line: Full institution name (NOTE: UTD has a “The” in front of it), city and state (Ex: “Richardson, TX” for UTD), then your expected graduation month/semester and year.
      • You typically only list GPA if it is a 3.0 or higher.
      • If you list your GPA, it should come directly from Orion. You may drop numbers from the end, but do not round. You always list your cumulative GPA, not your major GPA.
      • When you list your GPA, always provide the scale (Ex: 3.6/4.0)
  • If this is your first semester at UTD, your timeline can list the current semester and the expected ending semester (Ex: “August 2021-May 2023”) to explain why there is a missing GPA. However, once you have UTD GPA, you would remove your starting semester and only provide your graduation information (Ex: “Expected Graduation: May 2023”).
  • If you are a freshman, once you have a UTD GPA, you will remove your high school educational entry (and most other high school experiences and/or activities).
  • If you attended another institution for a significant amount of time and then transferred without completing a degree, you may still list this educational experience. Your second line would say “Pursued Coursework in Computer Science/General Coursework/etc.” or “Completed __ credit hours toward ____” in place of the degree and major info. Additionally, your timeline would be the starting semester and ending semester.
  • When listing information that provides timelines, always use reverse chronological order, so your most recent would come first.

Technical Skills +

  • The technical skills section is vital for a technical resume. All students and recent graduates should list technical skills directly below the education section.
  • Provide categories that make the most sense for your degree. For example, a Computer Science students’ skills sections will vary from and Electrical Engineering students’ skills section, but all ECS students will provide Programming Languages as a category.
    • Focus on skillsets that are relevant to your job search.
    • You do not need to be an expert in a skill to list it on your resume, but you do need to feel comfortable working in the skill and talking about it if it is listed.
  • General rule of thumb is that if it’s listed on your resume, it is fair game in an interview, so be truthful.
  • Technical resumes do not list soft skills. This section should be limited to technical skillsets.

Technical Projects +

  • Listing your technical skills and your technical projects are what separate a technical resume from a general-purpose resume.
  • Most students don’t have prior technical work experience, so technical projects are how they demonstrate that they’re qualified for the positions they’re applying to. This is how most students get jobs if they don’t have prior technical work experience.
  • Technical projects are anything you’ve done – whether as part of your classes, if you created it on your own, or if you worked on a project with a major-related student organization – anything you’ve done that demonstrates your experience with the technical skills that are required for the position you’re applying for.
  • While your skills section shows the theory you’ve learned in class, your projects (and technical work experience), show that you can put that theory into practice.
  • Each project should have a full ID line that gives the project a title, provides identification (“Personal Project” if that’s what it was, a course title if you did it in class, etc.), and a timeline.
    • Because timelines are provided, use reverse chronological order.
  • It is important that you reference the technical skills used on the project within the context of the project description. When a recruiter knows they need to hire someone well-versed in a particular skill, they will scan your skill section to find that skill listed, then scan below to find it referenced in the experiences.
  • For your project descriptions, be brief and follow the STAR Method: Situation or Task, Action, and Results.
    • Basically, answer three questions: What did you do? What skills did you use? What were the results.
    • Employers like to see quantification of results, if possible.
    • If it was a group project, focus on your own involvement and contribution.
  • Experience descriptions always begin with the action verb in the past tense (unless it’s a current or ongoing experience).
  • If you lack projects to demonstrate your experience with the technical skills that are required for the positions you’re applying to, you may list your relevant coursework instead.
    • You can list the courses where you learned the technical skills required for the position.
    • You can have a separate section for Relevant Coursework, or if you’re only listing a few courses, you may list them in a bullet point titled “Relevant Coursework” beneath your educational entry.
    • Do not list all courses – only those relevant to your current job search.

Work Experience +

  • Work experience is any paid work.
  • Your ID line contains the position title, employer name, location (city/state), and timeline (right justified).
  • Use reverse chronological order.
  • Your description should be brief and follow the STAR method (situation/task/action/results). Use bulleted points to answer describe what you did in the roll, what skills you used, and mention accomplishments.
  • Non-technical work experience can still be beneficial to list, but your description should focus on what from the experience is relevant to your current job search. Meaning, if you worked part-time in retail, the work duties might not be related to your current job search, but the soft skills you gained (like communication, teamwork, working with clients, adaptability, etc.) are relevant, so frame your description around the transferable skills.

Activities +

  • Located at the bottom of your resume, an activities section can include extracurricular activities, certifications, awards, publications (with full citations), volunteer work, etc.
  • Entries in these sections should be brief, providing the Organization Name, then your role within it/the award received, with the timeline right justified.
  • Focus on activities that that showcase skills and experiences that are directly relevant to the role you’re applying to.
    • Reference these relevant skills and experiences in a bullet point below the entry if needed.
  • Choose to activities that will tell a recruiter something about you as a candidate. For example, an officer position in a student organization shows leadership, participation in a group sport can show teamwork or a competitive spirit, or volunteer work shows involvement in your community.

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