7 Deadly Sins for Tech Job Applicants

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My eyes are blurry from reviewing over 40 resumes for a network administrator position, and for good reason. More than half of the resumes did not make it past my initial review. While I had to reject some candidates because of lack of experience (or, rather, lack of clearly demonstrated required experience), others had errors in their application packages that lowered their ranking -- errors that could have been easily corrected.

(And yes, I literally do rank resumes, based on years and type of experience but also on other nontechnical variables such as communications ability.)

Of course, the traditional job-seeking advice still applies. Always follow resume best practices -- proper spelling, good organization, consistent font and so on. Realize, too, that if you simply do not meet the required minimum experience, it's very unlikely that you will win the job. Beyond that, if you avoid these all-too-common mistakes that I have seen over years of filling network administrator positions, you'll boost your chance of landing the job.

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Mistake 1: Your objective is unclear.

When I review resumes for a network administrator position, if the applicant chooses to include a section about his objectives, I hope to see something related to networking. Likewise, managers filling spots for security, databases, Web development and other specialties are looking for specifics that show a candidate is a good fit for the job. However, I often see nonsensical statements such as, "I'm seeking an interesting and challenging career position." This conveys very little.

Instead, something directly related to the position you're seeking would be appropriate. Suppose, for example, that you applied for a network administrator job at a community college. "Utilizing my experience to expand and maintain the network to enhance the pedagogical mission of the college" says that you see this as a challenge and that you understand the business of the place you are applying to.

This leads to two subpoints. First, whenever possible, show you understand how technology affects the business. Second, decide if an objective section is really necessary. Some people opt to substitute a short description of their professional offerings, which, if done well, can effectively convey both your goals and understanding of the business as well as serve as a snapshot of your most desirable skills.

Mistake 2: You've listed old skills.

I'd like to say it has been some time since I've received a resume that listed in a skills section "Windows 3.11 for Workgroups," but unfortunately it hasn't. At least it's been a while since I've seen DOS 3.2 referenced.

I'm not trying to downplay achievements from over 10 years ago. Yes, I also remember loading Trumpet Winsock before Microsoft Corp. incorporated TCP/IP into Windows, and back in the day, I was a Novell 3.12 CNE. But how relevant are those skills today? They're really not, and including them in a resume gives the impression of trying to fill the application with fluff.

If you do want to mention that you were proficient in tapping ThickNet, leave it for the job description section. When I look at a skills section, I am trying to directly correlate the candidate's skills with what I need. Of course, some network skills that don't change much over time can be listed. If, for example, the ad calls for Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol administration experience and you managed DHCP 10 years ago, by all means put it in the skills section. It's the technology no longer in use that should be left behind.

Mistake 3: You've created an 'alphabet soup' explosion.

What is one thing that unites all aspects of information technology? Acronyms. Sometimes I think there is a secret subcommittee of the IETF that follows some obscure RFC for creating network acronyms. It follows that network administrators are often guilty of AERs (acronym-enhanced resumes).

Like listing older skills, a seemingly endless stream of acronyms is like data padding in an ICMP packet; it adds only space. If you indicate experience configuring enterprise core LAN routers, I would expect that you understand TCP/IP, SNMP, TFTP, VLSM, VLAN, possibly NTP and VPN, and at least one routing protocol such as OSPF or RIP. There is no need to list them.

That's not to say that acronyms and protocols should not be mentioned at all. But if you do, be prepared to back it up. My favorite interview question is to have applicants describe the differences between TCP and UDP, and if you've put TCP/IP anywhere on the resume, you'd better get the answer right. Actually, that's one of those questions a netadmin candidate should be able to answer correctly no matter what.

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