Friday, September 25, 2015

What belongs on your resume, and what does not.

Assuming we all agree that a resume for a job in technology field should be under 3 pages, what exactly should go on it and what is better to leave off?

When deciding on this the guiding principle should be, “What am I communicating with this?”

So let’s go down the resume and see what we can come up with.

1st line - Your name. It is OK to have just your first name when you place your resume on a job board, but when you submit it to a recruiter or a hiring manager, please make sure your full name (or a name you want to be used) is there.

Next couple of lines: Your email - very important.
Your phone number where you prefer to take calls. If you’d rather not receive unscheduled calls, leave it off.
Your address - just a  city/state/zip code is enough, no need to broadcast your full address. If your current address is far enough from the location of the job you are applying for, mention your plans for relocating to the area.

Your work authorization status - if your education or experience sections include foreign countries, it makes sense to indicate your current visa status - are you a US Citizen, have a Green Card, have a work visa or need one?

Optional but highly recommended - your LinkedIn profile and any other professional sites you *want* a hiring manager to see. For example, if you have a GitHub repository, put it on your resume, but ONLY if it has a really clean working code. Do not expose your “work in progress” or a repository with only one check-in, or the one you have been last active on a year or more ago. You can refer to it during an interview instead.

Next section - Objective.  
There is a school of thought that it is not needed, and I tend to agree. One of the few circumstances when you do want to include objective is when you are changing fields, another one if you are just starting your career, and have very little experience in the industry.
Instead of Objective you may want to use Summary, but it has to be written in a way that a hiring manager will actually read, not skip over.

If you are a recent graduate - 5 years or less out of college/university - next section should be “Education”: If you have more than one degree in the field related to the job you are applying for, mention all of them.  For a recent graduate, GPA is important.  If your “in major” GPA is better than your overall GPA, use it. If your GPA is so-so … it probably makes sense to mention it as well, because omitting it is still an indication that your grades were not that great.

Next section - Skills. Very important. Sort your skills and competencies into categories, and arrange them from your strongest first to your weakest.  Do NOT mention skills that you are not absolutely confident about! Be prepared to discuss all the details of a tool or a language that is on this list. Do not mention MS Office.

Next section - Experience. In the software industry, technology evolves so fast, that, most probably, what you have been doing ten years ago is no longer relevant. That is why we recommend to have full details only on your last 10-15 years of jobs and only list major, relevant accomplishments during the previous years of professional experience. Try to describe what you have done in terms of achievements, not in responsibilities. Do mention the key technologies that you were working with on major projects. It can be done inline or as a separate line - “Tools used”, for instance. If you are a software developer, for instance, it is assumed that you write code and check it into a source control system, so no need to mention those activities on a resume.

Next section - if you graduated more than 5 years ago - Education.
If you had graduated more than 15-20 years ago, no need to specify dates.  Do include the relevant, recent classes you took, even if you do not have a certificate.

You can also include Personal Projects (if they are relevant), and publications.  If you have a lot of publications, it might be better to list them on your personal website and include a link to it on your resume.

If you follow those recommendations, your resume should fit on 2-3 pages, and will be read in its entirety by an interested recruiter/hiring manager.