Having been a hiring manager on and off over the last 25 years, I’ve reviewed thousands of resumes. And I have to tell you that 95% of the resumes I see are – for lack of a better word – shit. This has never wavered whether I’ve looked to fill business positions or technical positions. Most resumes I get are crap.
I understand that I might be missing out on some potentially talented people, but the way I figure it, a resume gives me a first impression as to whether or not to talk to a candidate. And those whose resumes don’t possess a couple of critical traits will cause me to immediately pass on those candidates.
And when I say a “couple of traits,” I literally mean that I look at two traits, and no, unlike what seems to be popular these days with certain Mountain View, CA companies, one of those is NOT education.
The first thing I look at is a professional summary or summary of qualifications. This is a simple paragraph that describes who you are and of what you’re capable. I really don’t care about an objective. After all, those are usually tailored to a specific position. Look, I know what you want to do. Your professional summary tells me why I should even take a closer look.
I’m not going to give examples here as there are plenty to be found online. So suffice it to say that your professional summary is your “elevator pitch.” In sales, this is your 10-15 seconds to catch the attention of your prospect, as if you were in an elevator and only had a little time to sell your product. In this case, the product is you, and the prospect is the hiring manager.
Here’s where I’m going to rant a bit because this is where so many resumes get thrown in the trash. I can’t tell you how many resumes I’ve seen where instead of describing what they did or accomplished in a company, they use that space to describe what the company does! When I see this, my immediate reaction is, So WHAT?!!! I don’t care what the company you worked for does, I care about what YOU did there! This is said while the crumpled resume sails through the air on its way to the trash.
For software engineers, you need to have the following:
- Projects you worked on and your role in said projects
- Any professional accomplishments/achievements while employed there
- Technologies, frameworks, libraries, and methodologies you employed.
For more experienced engineers, the lists might take up some space. You can keep to your top three for items 1 and 2, but you should list as many as you can remember for item 3.
I realize that you might be worried that your resume will take more than three printed pages when you do this. But I really don’t know who prints out resumes any longer. Besides, at least for me, I don’t mind scrolling if someone takes the time to describe what they’ve done and what they’ve accomplished.
And since employment history is in chronological order, it gives me a great picture of how an engineer has progressed in their career; not just from a technology perspective, but how they’ve grown professionally over time.
The reason I wrote this rant is that I saw the resume of a former employee who is looking for employment. They actually had a great professional summary, but when it got to their work history, they only described the companies for whom they previously worked! I, of course, sent feedback to them and shared – albeit in a much more gentle way than this – how they could improve their resume. Hopefully, they’ll heed the advice.
In any case, especially for those of you entering the workforce, even though you may not have much experience, you’ll raise eyebrows if you tell the hiring manager:
- Who you are
- What you’ve done
- What you’ve accomplished
Simple, right? And no, it’s not “easier said than done.” We sell ourselves every day. A resume is just another form of expression.