Resume and Interview Pitfalls To Avoid
Lee Badman, Network Computing 804 Times 579 People

The lack of skilled IT workers is hurting the deployment of emerging technology, according to a new survey from Gartner. In areas from cloud to cybersecurity, this crisis is expected to last for years to come.

It’s satisfying to be great at what you do, but when it’s time to interview for your next gig, it’s easy to botch the process of re-inventing yourself. Here are four common mistakes to avoid in your IT job resume and next IT interview.

Don't get mired in old experience
Your last IT job might have been that of the core networking or VoIP head honcho, but finding an exact match to that role could be tough. If you’re applying for a position that calls for an IT generalist, make sure your resume and cover letter read that you have the depth to move past your last gig.

Most resumes read like a form letter the applicant came up with years ago and didn’t update for the specific position they are applying for. If you really want the job you’re going after, break down the position description and make sure your resume hits as many of the desired skills as possible (without embellishing).

Technology has its own jargon and lexicon, and it’s not uncommon to be in a room with other system administrators that sound like they are speaking a foreign language. They know what they know, you know what you know, and there may or may not be overlap. Even within the same discipline, your frame of reference for networking might be far enough from others that don’t easily click.

This is the very effect you want to avoid both when applying for a position and if you get called for an interview. Marketing yourself as an experienced professional that isn’t fully defined by your last job is a hard skill to master, but it’s an important one.

Steer clear of jargon
For those transitioning from another area to IT, avoid using jargon from your previous job however impressive you may think that is. That jargon will not be relevant to the current position you are applying for. Leave out the parts that don’t apply to the specific position that you’re interested in, and try to put yourself in the place of the person reading your resume.

This applies specially to veterans who are transitioning to non-militray jobs. Stay away from military jargon when applying for a job. Unfortunately, if you don’t package it properly when applying for a position, your proud record can be hard to digest by those who have never served. There should be little on the page they need to translate to “civilian.”

Be careful with certifications
When it comes to certifications you’ve achieved, caution is also the watchword. If your certificates are even remotely relevant to the position, then list them along with numbers and expiration dates. But if you are still putting down the PBX school you went to in 1995, your IT resume will appear outdated to the reviewer.

Also be aware that “working on” a cert sounds pretty hollow unless you have a specific test date scheduled. Everyone under the sun seems to be working on their CCNA, but simply having a study guide doesn’t make listing that on your resume a good idea. For that matter, claiming any skill that you don’t really have is playing with fire should you get called for an interview. That C++ you took years ago in college doesn’t belong in your list of programming skills if you haven’t touched it since then.

Avoid using "we"
Finally, beware of the “we factor.” Many people make it to the interview stage only to fail to sell themselves. Instead, it’s easy to talk about your last job as if you were marketing your entire ex-team to the search committee. “We did BGP and OSPF” or “we used Cisco wireless” doesn’t say much about you personally.

Develop the ability to tell your own story of personal strengths and specific experiences first, and stitch that into a conversational fabric that shows you understand the value of teamwork.

It’s seldom fun to change careers, but your success starts with you and how you present yourself to potential employers. Throughout the job screening process, the key is to leverage your deeper skills without coming across as irrelevant to potential employers.


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