Red Flags on a Technical Writer Resume
Landing your first few technical writer jobs isn’t easy. Technical writing positions require strong software development skills and strong writing skills, and not all applicants are going to have both at the level that hiring managers need.
But, in my experience reviewing new technical writer CVs, a large number of applicants squander their chances by not presenting themselves in the best light. Most applications are disqualified by the presence of a few common red flags. These include, for example, the quality of writing displayed in the CV and in the pieces of content offered as writing samples.
This article will list the most common technical writer red flags that you should try to avoid. If you can prevent these problems from appearing in your resume, you should easily land among the top 5 percent of applicants.
Lack of Technical Skills
One of the biggest red flags to potential employers is a lack of technical expertise. Most employers want a technical writer who has software development experience, preferably in the domain of the company. The good thing is that this experience doesn’t need to be extensive. Internships, open source work, and hobby projects may give you enough qualifications for the recruiter’s needs.
Still, don’t worry if your technical skills don’t exactly match up with what the company wants—for example, if you’ll need to cover a frontend development technology like React but you’re experienced with Vue.js, or if you’re experienced in video streaming but you’re applying to a company that’s building a SaaS application.
As long as you have a baseline of familiarity with software development, the specific technical skills can usually be learned on the job, and most recruiters know that. If the rest of your resume looks great, the company shouldn’t mind taking the time to get you up to speed with the technologies.
No Previously Written Work
If there’s one thing that your future manager or editor is looking for in your CV, it’s examples of your writing. Even if your other articles aren’t in the area you’re applying to work in or if you don’t think your articles are impressive, the best way to prove that you can perform as a technical writer is to show that you have published work.
If you don’t have any articles or posts published yet, be proactive. It’s a good idea to create a few quality articles on your own and post them on websites like Medium, DEV, or your own blog. To enhance your work and make the best first impression, you can hire a freelance editor to go through your writing samples. You may find that the reward is worth the expense.
Typographical and Grammatical Errors
As a technical writer, you’re expected to care about the fine details of your writing. And if a technical writer’s resume has misspellings, poor punctuation, or grammatical errors, this points to one of two things: either the writer doesn’t care enough to make the resume look good, or the writer isn’t capable of doing so. Both usually lead to instant rejection by the hiring manager.
Most spelling, grammar, and other mistakes can be easily solved by using a typing assistant tool like Grammarly, so take the time to run it or a similar tool on your CV and example pieces.
Incorrect Technical Details
Though it’s important that you write well and steer clear of general errors, that alone isn’t enough. You also need to ensure that the technical details you include are accurate. If the name of a tool is misspelled, it calls your research into doubt. If a piece of code is incorrect in the smallest way, readers won’t be able to follow your tutorials. And if you include incorrect web links, readers won’t be able to find the documentation you’re citing.
Understandably, the person looking at hiring you will be watching for any slipups in this important area.
When you apply for a position, you should adjust the wording in your CV to match the exact needs of that position. Different companies will be looking for different skills and qualities in their new hires. If you showcase that you have the skills or qualities that the company is looking for, you can give yourself an edge over other candidates, many of whom will send their resume to multiple companies without changing the wording.
If you have experience working in the same field as the company, even if it’s not as a technical writer, make sure to include it. For example, if you are applying to a video streaming service provider and you have user-side experience streaming on Twitch, you’ll have an advantage since you’ll be able to better grasp the problems that users may encounter.
Customizing your CV enables the hiring manager to quickly check it for the information they need, and it demonstrates that you’re willing to go the extra mile for your job—a quality valuable to any business.
Lack of Career Progress
In most cases, good employees rise to higher positions in their companies. If you stay at the junior level for a long time, this signals that you either can’t or are not willing to perform at a more senior level. A potential new employer may see this as a red flag, as it could indicate that you don’t have enough expertise in your stated topic to write about it effectively or that your work ethic is lacking.
Unfortunately, if you’re already in this position, there may not be much that you can do. Your best option is to demonstrate that you’re in the mindset of always progressing in your role by listing what you’ve learned or explaining how you’ve improved on the job recently.
Unprofessional Email Address
While a lighthearted or silly email address is not the deal breaker that it might have been a few years ago, your email address still contributes to the overall impression that people form about you as they read your resume. If you want to appear professional, keep the address simple—first and last name, and nothing more if possible.
Your resume should contain only the details that are most relevant to the specific company and job that you’re applying for. Other personal information is off topic and could potentially be harmful to list here, such as your political affiliation, your hobbies, or any unrelated skills.
Of course, hobbies that are relevant to the job—such as leading a software development book club or running a tech channel on YouTube—could make the difference in whether you get a job offer. Just be sure that such activities are connected with some tangible output, as many people in tech participate in these kinds of activities.
This list of red flags may seem extensive, but ultimately, the path towards a great technical writer resume is not that hard. Your resume must offer proof of your technical skills and include well-written tech content pieces, and it must look tidy and professional. The story it should tell about you is that you’re hardworking and always ready to improve. If you can accomplish these goals, you’ll put yourself ahead of the competition.
If you’d like to strengthen your resume with great pieces of tech content, you should apply to write at Draft.dev. We publish your articles under your own name, letting you add to your portfolio and boost your writing career.