How to Write a Network / Systems Engineer Resume (with examples)
In this video I walk you through how to write your resume for a network or systems engineer job role. We’ll look at some examples so you can see exactly what to do and what not to do, and I’ll cover the common mistakes that nearly everybody makes.
I have passed the exam and am now CCNA certified. The company I work for has already given me a promotion along with a raise.
Thank you Neil for sharing your knowledge with us.
When you write your resume for a network engineer or systems engineer job role, you need to remember that the whole point of a resume is to get an interview. I know that's obvious, but a lot of people seem to lose sight of that fact.
The person that's going to decide whether you get an interview or not is the person that reads your resume. When you're writing your resume you need to put yourself in their shoes. Everybody is always busy and the person that's going to read your resume does not have that as their main task of the day. They've got a hundred other things to do. If your resume is too long, over detailed or difficult to read, then you're not going to create a good impression or they won’t even read it, and you're not going to get an interview.
The aim is the reader quickly scans it, they can see that it's written professionally and you can do the job. They'll then get you in for interview to see if you're the right fit for the team or not.
Keep It Short
The person reading the resume doesn’t care about you, yet. If you get the job, they'll care about you then, but right now they've got maybe another hundred resumes on their desk. They don't have time to spend a long time looking at yours. You're going to get maybe 30 seconds in front of them at first. You need to be concise and create a really good impression.
You need to tell them exactly what they want to hear to give you an interview, no more and no less than that.
Only include absolutely relevant information. Nothing that is not important to get the interview. If you do you’re wasting the time of the person that's reading your resume and they're not going to appreciate it. Keep it short – a maximum of three pages but two pages is better.
Make Sure Your Spelling, Grammar and Formatting are Perfect
Along with keeping it short, it needs to be easy to read. Your spelling, grammar and the formatting must be absolutely perfect. This is not just to make it easy to read, it's also to create that good first impression. If your resume has got spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes and terrible formatting, then if you couldn't even be bothered to get that right before you show up to work for the company, what kind of job does it look like you will do if you do actually get hired? Probably not very good, right? You want to give an absolutely professional impression with your resume. That means perfect spelling, grammar, and formatting.
Now, this might be difficult if English is not your first language. In that case, get a proof reader to help you with it. It could either be a friend who does have great English, or you can hire somebody from a freelancing website like fiverr.com or upwork.com. It shouldn’t cost any more than $50 maximum. If you think of how long you're going to be in the job market and how much difference a good resume is going to make to your long term earning potential, then the cost is definitely going to be worth it.
Customise your Resume to Fit the Job Position
Another thing to do that a lot of people don't do is edit their resume to fit the job that they’re applying for. Now if you're sending your resume into a recruitment agency and are not applying for one particular job, then just edit your resume for your current dream job that you're really wanting to get.
If you are applying to a company directly for a specific job then look at the job description and make sure that you are highlighting that you meet those requirements in your resume. If you don't meet all the requirements, that's okay you might still get an interview, just make sure you are tailoring your resume to match exactly what they are looking for as much as possible.
When you're listing your experience you’ll have bullet points saying what you did in each job role. Edit those bullet points to match the job description as closely as possible. For example, let’s say you were working on Help Desk before and your company had Microsoft and Linux servers and you also had some exposure to networking. If you're now looking for a networking engineering job, don't be talking so much about your work on Microsoft and Linux servers, talk up the work you were doing on the networking side. Whatever the job is that you're applying for, tailor your resume to really highlight your skills and experience in that particular area. Tell them exactly what they're looking for.
These are real resumes but I’ve removed the personally identifiable information. They show the mistakes which I see in nearly every resume I receive. The fact the mistakes are so common is good news for you - you can come out way ahead of more experienced candidates by submitting a concise resume with perfect spelling, formatting and grammar, where you tell the reader exactly what they want to hear.
Everybody makes these same mistakes so my point is not to criticise these specific examples, rather I want you to see how you can improve your own resume.
Resume Example 1
The first thing to discuss here is the objective up at the top. Most people include this in their resume now, but the vast majority just say something completely generic. If you say the same as everybody else then it’s meaningless and just wasting space. If you say something like you're ‘a good team player’, you've got ‘great problem solving skills’, you're a ‘hard worker’, guess what? Every single other person says exactly the same thing, so basically you haven't said anything at all.
The top of the page is of course the first thing the reader will see. Don’t waste it by irritating them with the same old meaningless fluff. What you want to use that space for is to highlight your skills and how they match to that particular job.
The Technical Skills section in the example is better. If the job was looking for this exact experience, this would be a really good thing to do.
Going further down…
The Career Contour section shows their previous experience. It’s way too long with too much detail about every previous position.
Remember, put yourself in the shoes of the person that this is going to land in front of. Imagine you're the IT manager at that company. You are busy with production affecting tasks that need to be done. You don't have all day to sit around reading resumes, and you definitely don't have all day to read all of the information here. You want to be able to scan the resume and quickly see if the person is qualified to do the job or not.
You can also see that the formatting is messed up, different font sizes are used where they shouldn’t be. Doing that creates a terrible impression. It looks like you're slap-dash and haven't put care into writing your resume. There’s also grammatical and spelling errors in here as well.
The final section includes information like the blood group. I can't imagine any job in IT where your blood group is going to be important, or who your father is - do not include this information.
There might be some cultural differences in different countries. This is a resume from an applicant in India, and if everybody includes this information and it’s expected then it’s okay. It is however completely irrelevant information to the job.
If the recruiter needs to know any kind of this information they can ask you at interview. The same with things like your hobbies and whether you have a driving licence or not. If the job advert says that you need to have a driving licence then include it in the resume. If it does not, then don’t. If they want to find out, they'll ask you at interview. Only include the relevant information.
Resume Example 2
Okay let's have a look at another resume.
This is from an applicant that's based in the US. There’s summary of qualifications at the top which is a good idea as long as it’s relevant to what was being asked for in the job description.
‘Over ten years of IT experience’ is good, it wasn’t necessary to put ‘10’ in brackets. I know I’m nit-picking here, but you want your resume to be perfect.
‘CCNA Routing and Switching’ is great.
Then it goes on to say ‘IOS and routing protocols, RIP, EIGRP and OSPF’, and ‘DTP and VTP protocols’. Those are technologies that are covered in the CCNA so it’s basically repeating the same information and wasting room on the resume. Because the writer is trying to fit in too much information the text size is very small, making it difficult to read.
The text should be easily scannable with the main points they need to hear popping off the page.
If the job description asked for IOS and routing protocols, RIP, EIGRP and OSPF, DTP and VTP protocols then you should specifically list them. Resumes are often screened by a junior member of the HR staff before reaching the IT team. HR personnel will not know that having the CCNA shows you have this knowledge so it is important to match your resume with exactly what the job description asks for.
If the Summary of Qualifications had included the ten years of experience, the CCNA and the experience with SonicWall and Windows servers then that would have looked great up at the top.
Did you read all those bullet points? The vast majority of resumes that I see have way too much detail. Nobody is ever going to read all this information. Remember, the person reading this has probably got 50 resumes in front of them. 50 resumes that are all this long, with small text and bad formatting is not a fun day at work for anybody. If you've got an easily scannable resume they're going to love you before they even read it.
The last section covers certification.
Titling the section as ‘Certification’ or ‘Qualifications’ would look better than ‘Certificate’. The candidate shows that they have studied for various different qualifications but hasn’t completed them by passing the exam. This gives the impression that they start things but don't finish. Write your actual qualifications down here. Training courses you’ve sat are also good. If you're currently studying for a certification then specify the date you will be qualified.
Let's have a look at what I would actually recommend for your resume. Here's mine from a few years ago, optimised for a networking role where I’ve specifically mentioned everything that was asked for in the job description (note I would also include my phone number and email address at the top):
For the summary of my experience I have the job title, where I worked, and the dates. Then just a few bullet points with what my main job role was.
Further down I've got my qualifications which again are listed in simple bullet point form.
When this gets in front of anybody they can quickly scan through it and see that I have the required experience and qualifications. The spelling, the grammar, the formatting are all good. I’ll get an interview which is the whole point of the resume.
What If You Don’t Have Any Experience or Qualifications?
I'll address this here even though it's really off topic for the post. What do you do if you don't have any experience? I'm bringing this up because I see it in a lot of comments online where people complain they have no experience and it's impossible for them to get a job. Well, everybody starts off with no experience. I had no experience when I started, the same as everybody else.
What I did was volunteered. You can check at your own workplace or speak to your family or friends or a volunteer organisation, to ask if you can sit with the IT department on your spare time. Say you'll get the coffees for them, carry any boxes, do all the heavy lifting, crawl under desks fixing cables, whatever they want. People love to help each other in general, especially someone who’s going to really appreciate and make the most of that help.
If you do this for a few months, you'll make contacts, learn how IT works in the real world, have experience that you can put on your resume, and probably get a good reference from the people working there.
You’ll maybe have to go outside your comfort zone to ask for the opportunity, but if it was easy then everybody would do it.
The answer to the lack of qualifications issue is obvious – pass the qualifications! Study material is readily available so all you have to do is work through the material and then pass the exam (don’t kid yourself by buying the material and then leaving it untouched while you watch TV).
One of the best things about working in the IT industry is that anybody can work their way quickly up the ladder with hard work and hustle. With most trades (law, accountancy, medicine etc) you take the standard qualification on a set schedule of study and then advancement is mostly based on time served in the industry. With IT there’s a virtually limitless variety of topics you can learn to improve your resume and you can take exams on your own schedule. The quicker you work through the exams the quicker you can advance. And you can start from zero, there are no entry requirements.
If you do not know how to prepare good resumes or are nervous and just need a bit of help, many service providers can assist you. ResumeThatWorks are known for creating well-written resumes. You can seek guidance from the resumes they have on their websites or even ask them to prepare one for you.
Connect With Me
I’m connected to over 10,000 contacts in the IT industry on LinkedIn. Connecting with me opens them up to you as well and is a really quick and easy way that you can build your IT network and job prospects. If LinkedIn asks tell them we’re friends and my email address is neil (at) www.flackbox.com
You can also check out (and subscribe to) my YouTube channel if you'd like more IT career advice. I’ll have the 2nd part of this series about what to do in the job interview there soon.