Focus Resume, Cover Letter on Employer's Issues

Susan Hall
Slide Show

Five Tips for a Well-Done Tech Resume

A tech pro's resume has to match the speed of this fast-changing industry

There are a gazillion things to make you crazy when you're writing your resume. Which font? Should you put those little accent marks on the word "resume"? If, by chance, you're asked to bring printed copies to an interview, what kind of paper? The list goes on and on.


But David Silverman's article "How to Write a Resume That Doesn't Annoy People" at Harvard Business Review (which puts in those little accent marks) won't necessarily calm your fears. He rails against people who can't tell the difference between a hyphen, an m-dash and an n-dash. Overall, though, he offers good advice. The comment string is insightful, too, with readers lamenting how often people misspell "manager" as "manger." (Spell check won't flag that.)


But I thought the cover letter he mentioned in his post "The Best Cover Letter I Ever Received" fell flat. And readers called him on it. Said a commenter named Iveta, echoing advice from my post on useless buzzwords:

It is full of the cliches that people are "supposed to" demonstrate. "Excellent project-management skills"-anyone can say this about themselves.
"The ideal candidate"? Who says that? "I have an eye for detail"-it means all and nothing in the same time.


And I really liked the comment by kclement:

I agree that there are many pointless cover letters out there. The problem is usually that they neglect the golden show-don't-tell-rule.
This approach works for me:
1) I call the company/hiring person to find out what their burning platform is. Why are they hiring, which are the most important parts/projects/tasks of the position they are hiring for, what are their criteria of success for those parts/projects/tasks? I get as specific information as possible, preferably from the person who will do the hiring.
2) I write a cover letter in which I outline how I would approach one, two or three of the parts/projects/tasks that are most important to them. I try to be as specific as possible, and to give them a clear idea of who I am as a person and how I work.
This is, of course, risky. They might not like it, and not invite me for an interview. But chances are that it will stand out and that they will at least read it twice. ...

Chris Galy, Intuit's recruiting director, when I interviewed him recently, told me you should always tailor each resume to the company to which you are applying. It should be about how you can help solve that company's problems:

I always tell people that you really have to understand the company. You really have to understand the job description. They're telling you what their needs are in that job description. The things that are most important to them are the things they put up first, those are the largest gaps.

He said people more often try to do that in cover letters because they're sending out multiple resumes. But at least try to connect the dots there, he said:

There's thousands and thousands of resumes that will come in there's never going to be enough people and today there's not a good-enough technology to really assess how successful somebody will be once they get into an organization, so if you could help us by doing some of that work for us, and say, "Here's my value-add: I know Intuit's going in the SaaS direction, here's some of the classes I've taken, here's some of the experience I have. I really want to get into a company going in that direction."

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