If you're a software engineer or a manager in the technology sector, creating or updating your resume can be a daunting task. What is most important to consider? How should you handle the formatting, the content, and your objective or summary? What work experience is relevant? How can you make sure automated recruitment tools don't filter out your resume?
As a hiring manager over the last seven years, I have seen a wide range of resumes and CVs; while some have been impressive, many more have been terribly written.
When writing or updating your resume, here are seven easy rules to follow.
1. Summary statement
The short paragraph at the top of your resume should be clean and concise, have a clear purpose, and avoid excessive use of adjectives and adverbs. Words such as "impressive," "extensive," and "excellent" do not improve your hiring chances; instead, they look and feel like overused filler words. An important question to ask yourself regarding your objective is: Does it tell the hiring manager what kind of job I'm looking for and how I can provide value to them? If not, either strengthen and streamline it to answer that question or leave it out altogether.
2. Work experience
Numbers, numbers, numbers. Hard facts help you convey your point far more than general statements such as "Helped build, manage, deliver many projects that directly contributed to my customers' bottom line." Your wording should include statistics such as "Directly impacted five projects with top banks that accelerated their time to market by 40%," how many lines of code you committed, or how many teams you managed. Data is far more effective than frilly language to showcase your abilities and value.
If you are less-experienced and have fewer jobs to showcase, do not include irrelevant experience like part-time summer jobs. Instead, add detail about the specifics of your relevant experience and what you learned that would make you a better employee for the organization you are applying for.
3. Search terms and jargon
With technology playing such a huge role in the hiring process, it is extremely important to make sure your resume gets flagged for the right positions—but do not oversell yourself on your resume. If you mention agile skills but do not know what kanban is, think twice. If you mention that you are skilled in Java but haven't used it in five years, beware. If there are languages and frameworks you are familiar with but not necessarily current in, create a different category or divide your experience into "proficient in" and "familiar with."
If you are not a recent college graduate, there is no need to include your GPA or the clubs or fraternities you participated in, unless you plan on using them as talking points to gain trust during an interview. Be sure that anything you have published or patented is included, even if it is not relevant to the job. If you do not have a college degree, add a certification section in place of education. If you were in the military, include your active duty and reserve time.
Do not include expired certifications unless you are trying to re-enter a field you have left, such as if you were a people manager and are now looking to get back into hands-on programming. If you have certifications that are no longer relevant to the field, do not include them since it can be distracting and unappealing. Leverage your LinkedIn profile to add more color to your resume, as most people will read your resume and your LinkedIn profile before they interview you.
6. Spelling and grammar
Ask others to proofread your resume. So often, I have seen misspelled words in a resume or mistaken uses of words like their, they're, and there. These are avoidable and fixable errors that will create a negative impression. Ideally, your resume will be in active tense, but if that makes you uncomfortable, write it in past tense—the most important thing is to maintain a consistent tense throughout. Improper spelling and grammar will convey that you either do not really care about the job you are applying for or do not have the level of attention to detail necessary for the job.
Ensuring your resume looks up-to-date and appealing is an easy way to make a good first impression. Ensuring consistent formatting, e.g., similar margins, similar spacing, capitalization, and colors (but keep color palettes to a minimum) is the most mundane part of resume writing, but it's necessary to show that you take pride in your work and value yourself and your future employer. Use tables where appropriate to space information in a visually appealing way. If given the option, upload your resume in .pdf and .docx formats, and Google Docs exports to the .odt format, which can be opened easily in LibreOffice. Here is an easy Google Docs resume template that I recommend. You can also purchase templates from companies that do attractive designs for a small fee (under $10).
Updating your resume regularly will minimize your stress if you're asked to (or want to) apply for a job, and it will help you create and maintain a more accurate version of yourself. When working on your resume, be forward-thinking and be sure to ask at least three other people to review it for content, spelling, and grammar. Even if you are recruited by or referred to a company, your interviewers may know you only by your resume, so ensure that it creates a positive first impression of you.
Do you have additional tips to add?