Resume Writing 101

In the past few years, I've had the opportunity to review resumes from job candidates, friends, family, and random ones that I find online.  Some have been great, some have been good, but the vast majority are boring, worthless crap.  Considering the current economic times, I thought I should share some tips.

 Parker 75' taken by Churl Han Disclosure: I didn't come up with these myself.  I went to a fantastic undergraduate school – Rose-Hulman – where the Career Services team hammered us on most of them.  From there, I've gotten more creative and added a few of my own.

First off, use the spell checker.  Spelling mistaces macke yuo look liek a maroon.

Next, be specific.  What does it mean that you "particpated in project X" or you were "involved in effory Y"?  Did you define what the project was and its goals?  Did you estimate the tasking and assign tasks to people?  Did you proofread the documentation afterwards? Did you approve expenditures?  Did you come up with the User Interface?

It's easy to say you were "involved" in something but it's an empty statement.  Some hiring managers will imagine the worst, don't give them the opportunity.

Next, use action words.  If you "Designed the database structure for X" or "Reviewed and provided professional comments on documentation" or even "Obtained all office supplies, including coffee for 100+ employees", that not only says something specific, but it tells me what your role was.  More importantly, it gives a hiring manager or interviewer something to focus on and ask about.  

Next, don't hesitate to tune your resume for the job.  If you have a wide range of varied experience, don't hesitate to make multiple versions of your resume and send specific versions to specific organizations/openings.  When I was making the transition from Java to PHP (circa 2003), I did just that. The Java version highlighted which libraries I had used and contributed to prominently and listed PHP as an "additional skill" while the PHP version highlighted my (still meager) experience and listed the Java stuff secondary.  By using this tactic, I landed a deadend job as a Classic ASP guy… er… wait a minute.

Finally, and most importantly, make sure your resume is up to date.  A number of years ago, I lost my job unexpectedly.  My resume had been updated 8 months earlier and I had to scramble to update it before I could send it out.  If your resume is years out of date, not only will it take time to update it, but odds are that you've forgotten a number of important things.  You can't include something for consideration if you don't remember to include it.

Now you're probably saying "But if I do all that, I'll have a huge resume with all kinds of stuff on it and no one will ever read it!"

Yes, you're right. Now go back and tune your resume for the job.

And by the way… If you're not reading Nick Corcodilos' "Ask the Headhunter" site and newsletter, do it now.  I have no interest or connection with him, but I have read his newsletter for a few years now.

Are you interested in API Design? Check out our new book "A Pragmatic Approach to API Design." In it, we cover the basics on why you might need an API, how to get started on modeling your API, and finally some design patterns and anti-patterns to be aware of. Available soon from LeanPub