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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

Ask an HR Professional: How Do I Make My Tech Skills Stand Out?

There's a lot of career advice out there and it can be overwhelming to know who to trust.

That's why we're going straight to the source and asking HR professionals your biggest career questions. Here, Rich Thuemmler, a Tech Recruiter at The Washington Post, discusses how to stand out in the tech industry.

Dear HR Professional,

I feel like there is a lot of competition in the tech industry so I need to somehow differentiate myself. What can I do to make myself more attractive to the companies I want to work for?

Tech Star in the Making

Dear Tech Star in the Making,

On average, an organization’s HR department spends six seconds reviewing the resume of each candidate that applies for a position. As you know, this is not a lot of time to make a good first impression.

So how do you make a good first impression with your resume? There are a number of things that you can do, but the best advice I have is to put your technical skills at the top of your resume. Since the top of your resume will be the first thing seen, that is the best place to showcase your skills. This placement of skills is especially helpful if you are a recent graduate or applying for internships since those candidates typically have less experience. Focusing on your tech skills is a good way to neutralize your lack of experience.

I also suggest using bullet points or columns to list your skills so the person reviewing your resume can easily see the information. In addition, make sure the skill requirements listed for the job are represented in your resume if you have those skills. And don’t be afraid to tailor your resume for each job that you apply to; this way you can highlight your resume to match the requirements of the job. But, don't provide misinformation or exaggerate your skills or experience.

Finally, a well-constructed cover letter is a great place to explain the skills you have and how you've applied them. Don't begin your resume with a short paragraph explaining skills or excitement for the job. That information should be in your cover letter. You have six seconds to make an impression, the more organized and concise the information is in your resume, the better.

In preparing for an interview to make your skills stand out, you should think about scenarios where you have used the particular skills that are required for that role. This way you can easily discuss those situations and provide the interviewer with valuable information about a task you performed and the skills you used to complete the task. Prepare three to five scenarios that exemplify the requisite skills and you'll stand out. But don't memorize the scenarios, just have general ideas outlined so you don’t sound like you're reading from a script. You want the interview to be conversational.

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