Help me get across my awesomeness to the 5 second quick reader of resumes
May 11, 2011 6:50 PM   Subscribe

Where in a cover letter or resume can I make it clear how tech savvy I am? I am a middle-aged woman and I am afraid that potential employers will see my years of experience and bypass my resume as my field is becoming very techy and many older professionals in the field are way behind the curve.

There must be a simple way to clarify this, but I know from being on the other side of the equation, in the hiring seat, everybody and their mother makes all kinds of claims about computer experience. It is in the interview process you find they can do no more than type.

On my resume I list the jobs I've had as it portrays me as a well-rounded professional in my field. But one only becomes this well rounded with years of experience and the other side of that coin is age discrimination, especially when there can be the perception that older means technophobe.

I was playing with a sentence that says something like " De facto IT person at any small firm I've worked at", but I'm not sure if this is as easily understood as cover letter language needs to be. I have no professional accreditation with IT besides being a nerd. I do not have the money at present to pursue any additional formal education.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (14 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not well versed in this, but my 2 cents: Make sure the formatting shows you're familiar with word processing (I'm not kidding: I once saw a resume for a tech person that looked [unironically] like it was done on a typewriter).

Also, what about "functioned as the [IT, systems, whatever] tech...." if that isn't clear enough, there is a communication error on their end. Good luck!
posted by cestmoi15 at 6:55 PM on May 11, 2011

I would acknowledge it right up front in the cover letter so it's clear before your resume is viewed.

"My recent roles have enabled me to stay well ahead of the curve in XYZ technology, working heavily in A, B, and C. I am able to combine years of experience in IT with fluency in the latest [Widgets]." And of course make sure that your resume accurately reflects this statement more formally.

Good luck!
posted by dayintoday at 7:10 PM on May 11, 2011 [12 favorites]

In my experience, people who are unfamiliar with technology write things like "skilled in MS Word" or "familiar with Windows". If instead of that you are writing something like "familiar with multiple operating systems, most common software packages and competent with troubleshooting hardware and software", that already makes you sound competent. Also list any programming languages or scripting languages you are competent with.
posted by lollusc at 7:12 PM on May 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

1. truncate your resume history at ten years
2. have a bullet point in each position on your resume where it's appropriate, reading something like "function as IT point person for company and updated X systems to keep them current"
3. do not assume anyone is going to read your cover letter, but go ahead and throw it in there just in case they do.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:16 PM on May 11, 2011

Ha, I am in the same position: middle age female doing technology only in education which is the biggest hen party on the planet, yes, I DO say it, and yes, many older females ARE computer resistant! However. Ahem. On my resume right beneath name & current position I have a Technology Skills heading in bold where I list all the products and softwares and toys I use at work (and at home if relevant). Do not be afraid: if you have strong stuff, bring it to the resume readers' attention straightaway.
Also as cestmoi said, strip the resume so it looks tech savvy - no embellishments or graphics or colors, pared down fonts - you know.
posted by henry scobie at 7:18 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've decided I also need to make it clear that I'm technically competent, for the same reasons. I just started studying for the Microsoft Office Specialist certification so that I can put that on my resume. (That encompasses Excel, Word, PowerPoint and either Access or Outlook.) There are places you can go to take classes, but a friend who teaches them just suggested I buy the books, study on my own, and then take the tests (offered at many community colleges).

The books I'm using are published by Element K and are about $21 each -- (although I've found many of them much cheaper used from amazon booksellers). There are two books for each application. They're really easy to go through and the test near me is $75. Being able to say that you have a certain certification lets employers know that you have a known level of competence.

I'll be watching this thread for others' suggestions. Good luck!
posted by la petite marie at 7:24 PM on May 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

I chime in on these questions about once a week and it's always the same answer. Tell me what you've accomplished.

We employers don't care what your IT responsibilities were. "De facto IT person" tells me you answer questions about Word. I'm an IT manager and based on what you've stated, I am currently completely unconvinced of your suitability for a technical role. This has _nothing_ to do with your age and everything to do with you portraying yourself as a weak candidate. You're giving me hand-wavy crap, and with well rounded experience I expect you to know better.

I want to see your quantifiable accomplishments. Tell me about how you are better than another warm body in the chair. Have you rearchitected a network to reduce routed traffic by 50%? Have you implemented a HIPAA compliance program? Have you implemented a solution with software X and saved the business Y dollars?

The best way to get the job I'm hiring for is to let me imagine you in that role and being successful. You do that by telling me how, in the past, you've been successful doing similar things to what I want you to do.

Retool your resume to have short paragraph form descriptions of your responsibilities for each job. Bullet accomplishments under that. Highlight your success that makes you a star, not the rote stuff that everyone in the department does.

All this advice and more in the Career Tools podcast Your Resume Stinks. Listen, learn, and listen to more career tools to be an even better candidate.
posted by bfranklin at 7:54 PM on May 11, 2011 [9 favorites]

I would go with "I have maintained computer systems for small offices."

You can put the details in the resume.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:05 PM on May 11, 2011

You need to be more specific in your IT capabilities statement and forget that you're a middle-aged woman because IMO it's irrelevant.

Anything vague will come off to the reader as being BS (and this is really advice for any resume/cover letter).

I can say that I'm well-versed in IT all I like, but I could be lying through my teeth unless I use the lingo (and correctly) and demonstrate/show what I've specifically done to my reader.
posted by mleigh at 12:17 AM on May 12, 2011

Essentially, you need to say what you have done rather than what you can do. Give details of blogs/websites that you maintain, software you have written, open-source projects that you've contributed to. It doesn't matter if they're not directly related to the job you're applying to - the skills are the same. Put them under "hobbies and interests" if they don't fit anywhere else.

A nice touch might be to include contact details which subtly indicate a certain degree of technical expertise, e.g. an email address that is obviously self-hosted.

Use correct and specific terminology. "De facto IT person" is waaay too vague. If you have built and maintained computer systems, what were they used for, and what platform?

The same applies to stuff like "maintained computer systems for small offices" and "familiar with most common software packages". The former could mean anything from "I administered web and database servers, applied security patches, implemented backups, rebuilt hard drive arrays, etc" to "I ran antivirus software once a week and switched everybody over from IE to Firefox". Either end of the scale could be enough to impress an employer, depending on the job, but you have to be specific. Similarly, your idea of "most common software packages" could be Word, Excel and Outlook, or it could be PostgreSQL, Eclipse and Apache, but there's no way to tell unless you say.
posted by primer_dimer at 2:53 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

If this is a key differentiator in your industry, make sure you have a Technical Skills section on your resume that lists various languages and software packages out, probably grouped by function.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:05 AM on May 12, 2011

i agree with @fingersandtoes about truncating your resume experience at about 10 years. if your experience before 2001 is completely relevant to the job you want to get, find a way to incorporate that into the 'technical skills' section of your resume. once you get the interview, you can talk about the other jobs in detail if you think it's important. for the most part, hiring managers are going through the stacks of resumes trying to eliminate people, and listing employment experience from 1987 is no longer impressive (even though the skills you gained are probably extremely valuable and may make you a better candidate).
posted by andreapandrea at 5:09 AM on May 12, 2011

Have an extremely well laid out CV (I've known people to check whether Styles were properly formatted to pare down CV's), have a well-filled out Linked-In profile etc (are you professionally google-able?), and use email account at your own domain name (ie buy a domain name, and preferably have your CV on that domain. A redirect to Linked-In is ok too).
These are all things that are relatively easy to do, but having your own domain etc is a good subtle geeky-signal.
posted by Elysum at 12:12 AM on May 13, 2011

la petite marie: "Microsoft Office Specialist certification so that I can put that on my resume. (That encompasses Excel, Word, PowerPoint and either Access or Outlook.) "

If you (OP, or lpm) are looking for an IT job, don't put this on your resume unless you also know and have used VBA, or have created and maintained databases (in Access, not Excel), or have provided significant technical support to users (especially with Exchange). For an IT professional, familiarity with the basics of Office* (how to format a doc, create a spreadsheet, etc.) is pretty much assumed as a baseline skill, or something you can pick up on the job with little effort.

If you're not looking for a job as an IT professional, then the cert would be great to have on a resume, but I still wouldn't make a big deal about it, because, again, basic familiarity with an office productivity suite is becoming more and more a skill that hiring folks would assume you have. It wouldn't necessarily distinguish you as a candidate.

However, I'm not a hiring manager. (I do teach Office though, much to my eternal frustration.)

*or any similar office productivity suite, like Google Docs or OpenOffice...
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:22 AM on May 13, 2011

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