Friday, December 6, 2013

Crafting Your Resume (Part Six): Applying for Technical Positions in High-Tech Startups

Part Six: A Few Final Tips and Strategies


Today in this final entry to our blog series we will wrap up our discussion on Crafting Your Resume with some ideas on how to present your past experiences to your benefit, some tips on editing, and a few general ideas to help you stand out as a great candidate.

General Tips & Ideas

• Be specific on your resume, but also leave something for an interviewer to follow up on.  Do your best to make the reader curious!

• It’s important to be able to explain your projects to non-technical person – in a way that they will be able to understand and appreciate what you have accomplished.  This is a skill that often needs some practice – it’s better to work on this before someone calls you to follow up on your resume.

• Make your resume self-contained.  Your reader should not be forced to Google the company name, etc. to understand what you have accomplished.


When you list your experience on your resume, your goal is to make the reader curious about you and interested enough to follow up with a phone call or an interview.  Here are a few tips to create a solid “experience” section while still keeping the reader’s interest:

• Start by making a standard, easy-to-read list of your experience: dates/title/company name

• Mention all relevant personal projects – and make sure that you are specific enough for your readers to understand what you were doing

• List the challenges your have met and the results you have achieved.  It’s critical to spell out concrete results and measurable achievements here.  Show the reader that you can be a valuable asset to their team.

• To highlight your accomplishments: create a brief, concise list with small bullet points beneath project – making sure to mention the specific things you accomplished and the key technologies you used.

• Make sure to list all of your relevant skills.  Don’t assume that they are implied by other skills or achievements on your resume.  Remember that the first reader may be a non-technical person who needs to see relevant skills listed on your resume in order to pass it on to the hiring manager!

• Leave your reader curious and wanting to know more:  be specific, but leave some details out to prompt an interviewer to follow up and ask you some questions!


Since the resume provides people with their first impression of you, take the time to make it easy-to-read, clear, and interesting.  A final edit of your resume can help you to clean it up and make a great first impression!

• Craft your own resume!  Don’t have it edited by others so much that it looks like someone else wrote it.  Make it authentic. If you write it yourself it presents a true picture of your personality and you will avoid having a resume with no personality.

  Make it unique: in general, if you write it yourself your resume will automatically be unique and won’t look packaged.

• Does your grammar matter?  Yes, it does!  Proper grammar is very important for certain positions, such as QA Engineers, or marketing professionals.  However, it’s important for ALL positions – even though poor grammar may be forgiven on an engineering resume, it’s always better to apply from a position of strength.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Crafting Your Resume (Part Five): Applying for Technical Positions in High-Tech Startups

Part Five:  How to Handle Gaps in Employment

So far in this series on crafting your resume, we have just concerned ourselves with how you can present yourself best if you have been working steadily for years.  Today we will address writing a resume when you have significant gaps of time in your employment.  Whether it is because you took time off to care for aging parents, to raise a family, or for some other reason there are some things you can do to make your resume more current, interesting and engaging.  And we will also show you a sample resume so you can see one way to position yourself well after a few years out of the workplace.

Show that you were busy during your off-years

  Did you take any classes?  List any courses you have taken during that time, show that you have some personal projects that you are currently working on, and sign up for some classes now to show that you are committed to re-joining the workforce.

• Did you volunteer during your time off?  List any volunteer positions that are relevant to the job you are seeking, or ones that highlight your leadership and interpersonal skills.

• Did you do some consulting work?  If so, make an umbrella to highlight all of your consulting activity during the past years.  You can list beginning and ending dates of all consulting jobs combined (instead of listing each one).  Definitely only list those significant projects that you are interested in discussing.  If these projects are relevant for the job you are seeking, you most likely will not be asked for the specific dates for each one.

• Emphasize the positive: that you did something during that time, gained some knowledge and experience relevant to the job you are seeking, and that you are very excited to re-enter the workforce.

An Example of a Resume Used to Re-enter the Workplace

Here is an example of what a solid resume can look like, even after several years out of the workplace:

·       Motivated professional with solid analytical and programming skills
·       Committed, hard-working person focused on thorough comprehensive research and development
·       Fast and efficient self-learner
·       Uncompromising worker aiming at on-time delivery and clear meaningful results

Technical skills
·       Languages: SQL, PL/SQL, Java
·       Databases: Oracle, MySQL
·       Environment: Eclipse, Git, Unix, Windows, Tomcat
·       Other: Excel, C, JavaScript…

·       Stanford University courses:
-        Machine Learning: Linear and logistic regression, neural networks, SVM, clustering, recommender systems and general ML system design and evaluation methods; programming in Octave
-        Introduction to Databases: Relational design theory, SQL (basic, constraints and triggers, indexes, transactions, views, authorization and recursion), XML, Xpath, Xquery, XSLT, UML, OLAP and NoSQL
·       Web Intelligence and Big Data (online IIT Delhi course): classification and prediction principles and approaches
·       Statistics: Making Sense of Data (online University of Toronto course): descriptive and inferential statistics, programming in R
·       M.S. in Mathematics, …

January 2013 – current: Personal projects
-        competing in machine learning challenges at
-        exploring AWS EC2/S3/EBS/EMR

Concise list of previous positions held

 A Few More Little Things You Can Do

• Don’t mention why you were out of work on your resume.  It can be discussed during an interview if necessary.

• If you held a position for several years, just list the years (ex: from 2001-2004) on your resume, instead of including the months.

• You can use your cover letter as an opportunity to explain long gaps (taking care of an aged parent, raising children, etc.)

• Make sure to mention awards earned in any competition that highlight your problem solving capabilities or any other skills relevant for the job you are seeking – even if they are from a long time ago.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Crafting Your Resume (Part Four): Applying for Technical Positions in High-Tech Startups

Part Four – What to Include & What Not to Include

Lets continue our discussion on Crafting Your Resume!  We have previously talked about length and format; today we will go over which information we think you should include on your resume, and what you can leave out.  Hopefully this information will help you to create a resume that engages your readers and compels them to discover more about you.

5 Things to Include:

(1) Write about those interests and accomplishments that you really value and would like to talk about in an interview.  Your resume should ignite the right discussion, one that will highlight you both as a person and as a potential employee.

For example, if you have several major projects you can talk about, you might only want to mention the ones that are more interesting and important.  Only list those things you wish to discuss with an interviewer, nothing mundane and boring.  Also, if you list something interesting, don’t give all the details – this will tempt a reader to ask more about it, giving you the opportunity to shine!

(2) The order in which you mention your skills and interests is important!  Whatever you list first generally carries more emphasis.

For example, if you are listing programming languages that you use, put the most relevant or important one first.  Avoid including old or stale information that isn’t necessary.  And put what you are interested in doing most at the beginning (ex: test automation / software engineer.)

(3) Make sure to include relevant skills or hooks that companies are currently seeking.  You can take a look at job postings to get more information on this.  List anything (even classes you have taken) that shows that you have the experience a company is seeking.

(4) Don’t be shy or too uncomfortable to show who you really are – by listing your interests you may click with the reader.

For example, if you are excited about gourmet food, travel, or ballroom dancing, add it on your resume under your interests.  This can make you seem more three-dimensional to the reader, which can spur to ask you more questions and choose to learn about you more on a human level.  A discussion like this offers you a chance to highlight your inter-personal skills, especially if you are looking for a position where you will need to deal with people.  Also, it can give the hiring manager an example of your proficiency at explaining things to people who are not involved or knowledgeable about them.

(5) Make sure to include relevant personal projects.  This will show your interests beyond your daily job duties and can highlight a passion for technologies you may not have had the opportunity to work with at your current job. It is critical to emphasize these projects if they are relevant for the position you are applying for. 

A few examples of this are: applications published in the AppStore or the Android market, GitHub repositories with many references, or Open Source contributions.

5 Things to Leave Out

(1) Definitely remove projects, interests, or skills if you are not comfortable talking about them.  Even if the projects you list are from 15 years ago, you HAVE to remember the details and you must be willing to discuss them – otherwise they have no place on your resume.

One hiring manager mentions that he randomly chooses something on a candidate’s resume and asks for more details about it – often the person is unable to elaborate on that topic at all.  Make sure that if you put something on your resume, you have something interesting to say about it!

(2) What should you do with skills that you have some knowledge about but you are not proficient in?  Don’t put them on your resume!  Instead, save them as a “nice surprise” that you can mention during an interview.

(3) Take care to not include something that can be a “Red Flag” for a hiring manager.  For example, don’t signal that you have a strong preference for working in a corporate environment (ie. Six Sigma) if you are applying for a position at a start-up.

(4) Don’t highlight an extremely time-consuming hobby if you don’t want to signal that you won’t work many hours.  You may want to downplay your passion for an activity if you think it will lead people to believe that you will not have enough time and energy to devote to your job.

(5) Leave off any trivial or obvious tasks, especially if they are implied by your job title.  It’s a waste of space on your resume and can actually irritate your readers.  It may also cause them to merely skim through your resume, leading them to miss the vital things they are seeking.

While these guidelines can help you figure out what to include in your resume, you also need to remember that you want to position yourself in the best light possible.  Make your resume interesting!  If you believe in your resume and the way you present yourself, it shows!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Crafting Your Resume (Part Three): Applying for Technical Positions in High-Tech Startups

Part Three – Format – Does it Matter?

So far we have discussed getting started on your new resume and guidelines for its length.  Today we thought we would give a framework for formatting your resume.

(1) Does Format Matter?  And Why?

In a nutshell, yes, format matters!  Think of your resume as an extension of your self, providing your readers with their first image of you.  Don’t underestimate the importance of making a good visual impression.  While a poor format will most likely not cause a resume to be rejected, a good one will help showcase the reasons (such as your experience and accomplishments) why you are a good candidate for the position. An online template can be a useful tool in crafting your format, but it’s important to try to make your resume feel somewhat unique and personal.  And by all means make the format (fonts, bullets, spacing, etc.) consistent throughout your resume. 

We have seen many examples in which people have mixed different fonts and styles.  This lack of consistency can expose extensive editing of a resume over time.  It also gives the impression that a candidate does not pay attention to details.

(2) Is There a Specific Format I Need to Use?

We don’t believe that you need to follow a specific template to craft a good resume.  Formatting in a way that you like will show some individuality and help the reader learn more about you.  Take care to ensure that your message comes through clearly.  Here are a few ideas on organization:

• Summary – We have found that it’s often effective to place a small summary at the top of a resume – try to use this to catch the reader’s attention and make them want to read more!

• Start with your strengths – Is it your past work experiences, your accomplishments, or your education that make you a strong candidate?  Showcase your most important qualities and start off strong by listing your relevant skills and achievements first. You may need to change this order and tailor your resume to emphasize different strengths for various positions.

• We have noticed that bulleted lists work well for most sections in technical resumes.  They are easy to read and help to highlight a person’s main skills and accomplishments.  Of course, this is just a suggestion.

• Hobby/Interest Section – Some people find that including some outside interests can help them connect with resume readers.  If you would like to include this, you can add it towards the end of your resume.  But only mention things you are truly passionate about here.  Who knows? You may find you have something in common with the hiring manager and this “extra” information on your resume may spark a connection!

(3) A Few Things to Remember

In general, we recommend that you choose an organized, legible, and consistent format.  Be mindful of your readers, and do your best to make it easy and pleasant for them to read your resume.  Is the font large enough for someone to comfortably read it?  If not, make sure you reformat it.  Does it look good when read on a smart phone or on a tablet?  Make sure that it does!

Do your best to submit an easy-to-follow resume that shows your individuality, illustrates your qualifications for the position, and helps you make a great first impression.