Formatting Your Tech Resume the Right Way

[Guest Blog by Tech Recruiter, Melissa Bieth, Senior Recruiter at Procom in Kitchener]

Melissa is also a nominee for Canada's Top 100 Recruiter Awards 2018.

Formatting your resume in a clear, concise manner is an important first step in your job search.  It’s your first impression, and when a recruiter receives an average of 250 resumes per corporate job posting, yours needs to stand out if you want to be selected to come in for an interview.

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When writing your resume, take these top to bottom format tips into consideration so you know what to do and, more importantly, what not to do when crafting your candidacy.

1.    Leave off headers (and footers)

Not all Applicant Tracking Systems and parsers are created equal. Applicant Tracking Systems can't read what's written within headers or footers, so if you've included your contact details within either, your resume won't be found. Instead, leave the headers and footers off and include your full contact details at the top of each page.

Recruiters and hiring managers will conduct radial searches by postal code to find qualified candidates closest to the job site first, so if your postal code isn’t listed, your resume won’t show up; ALWAYS include your postal code or zip code within your contact details.

2.    Replace a lengthy summary with a brief headline

A recruiter or hiring manager will only spend up to seven seconds glancing at a resume before deciding to continue with or dismiss it, so you need to gain and keep their interest – quick! Do so by leaving off lengthy executive summaries and career objectives in favour of a clear and concise headline detailing your experience and what you can offer.

3.    List a summary of technical skills

Direct the reader to your technical qualifications by including a bullet point list that details any program languages and/or technologies you’ve used. Although this information will be found within the body of your work history, it should be also have a separate section on your resume.

4.    Write your work history section in chronological order

It’s important to let your reader know what you were responsible for, but it’s more important to highlight what you did. What was the outcome of the project(s) you were involved with? What were the budgets you managed? Were you recognized for any awards? Ensure your work history is listed in chronological order, starting with the most recent role, and include these 4 key pieces of information: Project overview, quantifiable achievements, keywords and program languages used.

However, if you have an extensive work history spanning anything beyond 10 years, only include company name, dates and title. You could also include a bullet point indicating further details.

5.    Education

List your post-secondary education and any continuing studies related to your field of interest beneath your work history section. Did you receive any certifications, professional designations, educational awards or other degrees? Be sure to include these as well.

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6.    Word format vs. PDF

When uploading a resume onto a job board or Applicant Tracking System, always use a MS Word format rather than PDF. Although a PDF holds more visual appeal, it will be uploaded as an image, and any keywords within will not be read by the ATS during the radial search.

7.    Keywords are critical!

Without keywords in your resume, the ATS won't find your skills or experience. Resume keywords are the skills and qualifications used in the original job description that need to be mirrored in your resume. However, they must be formatted to echo the original job description exactly— to an ATS, there’s a difference between “Microsoft Word,” “MS Word” and “Word.”  

When formatting your resume, remember: Aesthetics can be just as important as content!

8.    Check and double check your spelling and grammar!

If a resume is littered with spelling and grammatical errors, it’s an automatic no. Sixty percent of surveyed recruiters will reject a candidate because of poor grammar or a spelling error on a resume. Once you’ve double checked, send your resume to someone else you trust to go over it as well.

9.    Use a basic font with unified text

Getting fancy with your fonts can be frustrating for the reader, and can show a lack of judgement. Stick with something basic, and ensure all text is unified and only one colour. 

10.  Leave off charts and boxes

Similar to headers and footers, an ATS can’t read what’s written within any charts or boxes, so keep your layout simple.

I’m someone who looks at hundreds of resumes a week.  I can tell you the clean and well organized resumes stand out most to me.  I hope some of these tips will yield results in your job search.

About the Author

Melissa Bieth | IT Tech Recruiter in Kitchener Ontario | Procom

Melissa Bieth is a Senior Technical IT Recruiter in Kitchener for Procom. She is also a nominee for Canada's Top 100 Recruiters 2018. To see Melissa's client recommendations, login at


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