Tips for building a solid SQL Server resume

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One of the most common frustrations we hear from people during their job search is "I've applied to so many places, but I haven't heard anything back." Having a quality resume that does an effective job of marketing you as a candidate is incredibly important to ensuring you get the opportunity to interview. Unfortunately, there are some common resume mishaps typically made that end up being a roadblock in terms of getting a qualified candidate an interview.


Here is a snapshot of the top 12 resume blunders we have seen throughout our combined 20 years of staffing experience:

  1. Not geared towards the position being applied for.

    It's not uncommon for candidates to have multiple versions of their resume. While it's not necessary to update your resume for every single job you apply to, it's important to ensure that your resume is geared towards the position you're considering. Do your job titles, key responsibilities, technologies used, etc. match the basic needs of the job description? We've seen candidates use uncommon job titles and unfortunately their resumes are passed over because of that. For example, if you're applying for a SQL Server Developer role make sure that anyone looking at your resume would know that you're a SQL Server Developer!

  2. Misspellings and incorrect grammar.

    I can't say this enough, but spell check your resume even if you've read through it several times. At least 50% of all resumes we review have some type of spelling or grammatical error. It's a great idea to have a trusted co-worker, mentor, recruiter, friend, spouse, etc. read through it to check for errors too. We'd also recommend reading it out loud to ensure it flows well and is grammatically correct.

  3. Blocks upon blocks of text.

    It's acceptable to have a paragraph at the beginning of your resume outlining your skills and experience, but stay away from paragraphs in the body of your resume. Bullet points are easier to read and help draw the eye from point to point. If your resume has too many words, especially blocks of text, and not enough white space, it will look cluttered and it won't be reader-friendly. I've had numerous managers tell me they skip over resumes with long paragraphs because it's too cumbersome to read and digest all that information!

  4. Relevant information and key differentiators / achievements are hidden.

    What do you want the resume reviewer to know about you within a few seconds? Key skills relevant for the position being applied for should be evident within a couple seconds, but this isn't the case on the majority of resumes. These applicable skills and experience need to be visible first, to help capture the attention of the reader's eye. If you haven't served the employer's needs in the first page, the others probably will not be read. Ask yourself: "What accomplishments am I most proud of? What technical skills, and other skills, do I have that are in demand? What other experience and skills do I have that differentiates me amongst others?" Consult with other people on these questions too and jot down some thoughts. Then make sure the first page of your resume encompasses many of these skills/attributes.

  5. Inconsistent formatting.

    When it comes to resumes, consistency is key! The following are areas you want to consider the consistency of when formatting a resume: spacing (line, horizontal, and character), past vs. present tense, layout / indentations, paragraphs vs. bullet points, font, sizing (10-12 is preferred), and overuse of bolding, italicizing, and/or underlining. Unless you are applying for a creative role, it's best to keep your resume simple and easy to read.

  6. Missing project details, key technologies, and versions of those technologies.

    Be wary of including every single technology you've worked with throughout your career on your resume. Remember, if it's on your resume, you should be able to answer technical questions around it during an interview. So if you're uncertain as to your current aptitude of a particular skill or technology, it's better to play it safe and remove it. On the same note, if you've had the opportunity to test out or work with a hot technology but don't feel quite competent with it yet, you can include it on your resume with a phrase like "working knowledge of." That way the resume reviewer knows you've worked with it, but that it's not one of your top skills. Under your job descriptions, make sure you're including information like environment size (i.e. # of servers and if you've supported environments with multiple instance of versions of SQL Server), team size (and if you've led a team), any client / stakeholder interfacing experience, etc. Complete project details help the resume reviewer get a full picture of your role and responsibilities at that particular client.

  7. Extent of experience with certain technologies is unclear.

    This is a major point. Hiring Managers want to understand your knowledge base with the main technologies they're looking for experience with. Therefore, you need to communicate when and how you've used technologies, especially ones that are part of the requirements list of the position you're applying for. Don't just list SQL Server 2014 as a skill on your resume. Go into detail on what specifically you've done with it. Also, in addition to having a 'Skills Summary' or 'Technical Skills Summary,' you can add a small section like 'Technologies Used' or 'Technical Environment' as part of each job description.
  8. Lengthy to the point of overwhelming.

    The last thing you want to do is overwhelm a resume reviewer with a 10 page resume. Don't feel the need to include the details from positions 10+ years ago. It's completely acceptable to write the company, title and dates worked when you're outside of the 10 year window. You can also leave out details of previous experience that do not relate to the job you're applying for / role you're targeting. We recommend keeping resumes to 2-3 pages if possible. If you need help condensing your work experience, ask a trusted recruiter, colleague, or mentor if they can assist you with shortening it.

  9. Lots of short-term positions without explanation.

    Although contract work is extremely popular and widely accepted these days, it's important to note on your resume when you were a contractor and/or consultant so the resume reviewer doesn't view it as job-hopping.

  10. Missing non-work experience that's related and/or other branding components.

    Remember that you can include experience and relevant community involvement that's outside your day-to-day job. I'm always surprised when I get a resume from someone I know through technical charity or user group involvement, and that involvement isn't listed on their resume. One example that stands out is a very seasoned Lead Database Developer whose resume didn't have his experience presenting at the local SQL Server user group as well as his contributions as a volunteer for a local charity hackathon, where he'd been a Team Lead on database projects. Not only is this additional relevant experience, but there are several positive traits hiring Managers and Recruiters can gather when they see a candidate who has that level of involvement in groups and other community initiatives. If you're a member of the technical or nonprofit community, consider adding a section such as 'Community Involvement.' If you've published any relevant articles, videos, etc… include that in a 'Publications' section. All these contributions help positively influence your professional brand!

  11. Reverse order of experience.

    It's important to have dates on your resume for all of your jobs and for other relevant experience / activities. We've often seen resumes where dates and experience are listed in chronological order, which makes it difficult and confusing for the resume reviewer. It's best to list information in reverse-chronological order – newest to oldest – so the employer knows exactly where you're currently working and how long you've been there (or when your most recent position ended if you're in between jobs).

  12. Excessive repetition of information.

    It's likely you've had similar roles and responsibilities at more than one of your jobs, but don't copy and paste the exact same sentences under each position. Find a way to word those roles and responsibilities a little differently and it'll go a long way!
Next Steps

In any job search, it's critical to remember that your resume and any online platforms you might be on, such as LinkedIn or a personal website, need to be strong, professional marketing pieces. A resume is typically your main communication channel in landing you an interview. Therefore, keep the following in mind:

  1. Use a resume builder, if necessary, to ensure you are starting with a quality format. One example we recommend is Live Career's Resume Builder.
  2. Outline your key strengths, achievements, technical skills, etc. before you start writing your resume. Then, make sure you review after you've created to ensure all of those clearly stand out.
  3. Ensure all of your technical skills are clearly laid out and that you explain how you used specific technologies. That's a response we commonly get from hiring managers, i.e. "I see they have SSIS listed in their resume under 'Skills,' but then I see no mention of how and where they used SSIS."
  4. Ask yourself "what else have I done outside of work related to my field that could be viewed as positive? Have I attended conferences, spoken at user groups, written articles, built personal applications, helped a nonprofit with their technology needs, etc.?" Ensure those are included.
  5. Do some quality assurance on your resume and consider the above points. Remember, spell check can be your best friend as a QA measure to ensure accurate spelling and grammar.
  6. Always have someone review and ask them questions such as:
    • What stood out in the first few seconds?
    • What are the key traits demonstrated?
    • What are at least two suggestions you have for how I could better market myself through my resume?
About the author
Erica Woods has nearly a decade in the IT staffing world, an MBA, and is a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches.

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Cate Murray Cate Murray is responsible for managing the nationally-based talent acquisition strategies of the Apex Systems PMO and Business Analysis Practice and holds her PMP certification from PMI.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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