As always, there are no absolutes in the resume creation process and the ‘Technical Summary’ is no exception. However, for the technical professional (especially those performing in a hands-on individual contributor technical role) here are some tips on creating a technical summary. By the way, if you are a technical professional without a technical summary in your resume, I’m here to convince you that you absolutely need one… pronto!
The most important contribution I can make is explaining how recruiters, HR professionals, technical hiring managers, etc. most often review a technical resume. Keep in mind that the technical summary is simply one component of your resume, but for tech professionals it’s a major ingredient of an effective resume and something resume reviewers appreciate and utilize.
Essentially the purpose of a technical summary is simple: present your technical skills in a concise fashion so that the reader knows what specific technologies (e.g programming languages, databases, operating systems, etc.) you are currently ‘proficient’ with. I highly suggest that the summary is placed just above the work experience section. Feel free to also list sub technical summaries in the body of each job description (I suggest at the end under something like Environment or Tools, etc. but don’t use that in lieu of a Technical Summary up top – just my opinion. A good summary is succinct, accurate/honest and organized so it’s easily digested and comprehended by the reader. Less is more in most cases so keep that in mind.
As a resume reader, I want to know quickly and specifically what your CURRENT technical core competencies are. I don’t want to read through a laundry list of technologies that include tools that you worked with in the 1980s (especially if you haven’t touched it since) or include simple things like Word, Excel, WinZip, etc.. Of course you can list anything if it’s put into proper context (see next section), but be careful when placing something in the summary that you are not ready to address in a technical interview.
If you list technologies that you’ have only read about or covered in a class (yet never used) or even utilized off-the-job (unless you specify that when listed) are not going to add true value and could get you in a pickle come interview time. I’m all for categorizing certain tools (e.g. Academic Knowledge of: or Working Knowledge of: and other ways to make your proficiency levels clear.
I suggest you don’t list anything in your technical summary that will not appear somewhere in the body of your resume. More specifically, if I (as the resume reader) see a technology listed in your summary, I want to be able to scan your resume and see when/where/how you used it. For example, if you put C# in your technical summary but I can’t find it anywhere on your resume, I’m likely to be suspicious about your actual experience with C#. If the explanation is that C# is a language that you are dabbling in (e.g. home projects, self study, etc.) make it clear up top in your technical summary … or just don’t list it unless you’re ready to answer questions about it.
Approach your technical summary with the following philosophy – under promise, over deliver. The opposite approach is what gets many folks into trouble as there is nothing worse than making a claim and not really being able to back it up with experience and/or proficiency. Therefore, think twice about what you list in your summary. A good litmus test is if you feel you can address technical interview questions on any given technology listed in your summary.
Keep in mind that there are endless ways to present your summary, but the goal is to keep it organized. Why? Because a resume reader (especially one that may have already read a lot of resumes before yours) could very well move on to another resume if your summary is not easy to read and clearly conveying whether or not you have experience with whatever technical skills they are looking for. My advice is to simply categorize the items.
For example, sort them by Languages, Operating Systems, Databases, Programming Methodologies, Misc Tools, etc. If you are only listing a small handful of items, feel free to just list them like the following example but I’d still opt on the side of categorization. T
TAKE AWAY – here is no silver bullet on this but the key is to try to see it from the reviewing parties perspective who is looking at your resume for the first time. I suggest you have somebody else read your resume as they have objectivity and, as mentioned before, ‘less is more’ and ‘under promise and over deliver’.