As my company, TeamDynamix, grows, I find us in the situation of always recruiting. Which, by the way, if you’re looking for a job, check out our openings at https://www.teamdynamix.com/careers. Anyway, being in charge of all these engineers now, I’m very involved in the hiring process. Specifically, I’m the point-person who fields incoming resumes for technical positions. Since we have job postings in a handful of spots, we receive a reasonable volume of resumes. I think I’ve become good at reviewing resumes. So when my friends are looking for jobs, I always offer to take a look at their resumes because I see a lot of them.
I always have the urge to explain my perspective on how I look at resumes, the things I notice, and the things that make resumes stand out (in good ways and in bad ways). This is simply an explanation of how I review resumes, though your mileage my vary – every reviewer obviously has a different perspective.
Firstly, I will say that a resume is an inadequate mechanism for communicating your candidacy for a job, but the fact of the matter is that this is the way the world works. The way I look at them, they can indicate certain personality traits or qualities, and while I don’t weigh a resume very heavily, there are certainly some red flags which can eliminate you from candidacy.
In general, I look for consistency. I’ll explain more about this as I go. Also, your resume should prove a very precise, deliberate point: “you should hire me.” Every line in your resume should tell the person who’s reviewing your resume that they should hire you. If it doesn’t serve to prove that point, don’t put it on your resume. It’s noise, and honestly, it’s annoying.
The format of the resume itself communicates something about the person who wrote it. I review a lot of resumes for software developers. And while all good software developers are creative in their own way, I fully expect 99% of the resumes I review to be in Times New Roman, or whatever the most un-creative, default font is in the word processor they are using to write their resume. No points off for that. However, if you are a graphic designer, or have skills in the visual arts (no matter what job you’re applying for), express your creativity through your resume. I will say though, that if you go for the creative play, make sure you’re good at it. It’s quite difficult to come up with a visual format that stands out from other resumes, is creative, and also communicates well enough to be useful. If you’re in doubt, you’re probably not skilled in the visual creativity area – go with a tried and true format.
Consistency. If you say you have visual creativity in your resume, your resume needs to be visually creative. If you say you’re organized, your resume needs to be organized.
Also, never EVER use Comic Sans.
If I’m reviewing a resume that was submitted for a software developer role, and 25% of the resume is devoted to bullet points outlining the hardware you worked with on a project, I’m confused. Do you want to be a software developer, or do you want to be a hardware person?
Consistency. Your listed experience and interests should align with the job for which you’re applying. It’s OK to list experience and skills and activities as long as you’re sure it reinforces the point you’re trying to prove: “you should hire me.” If it doesn’t, don’t put it on your resume. Great! You have 4 months’ experience as a part time worker at McDonald’s in high school! How does that make you a good software developer? Again, it’s OK to put this on there, but make a point with it. Maybe you quickly escalated up the management chain because you were so smart, hard-working, and reliable. That’s something. But don’t list irrelevant responsibilities like “worked the cash register”, “served a diverse set of customers by utilizing state-of-the-art POS software and deep-fryer technology.” This doesn’t matter, and the more details like this you include, the less confident I feel in your ability to understand the skills and/or experience this job requires.
People want to hire smart people. Actually, let me clarify. Smart people want to hire other smart people. And you’re smart, and you want to work with smart people, right? Your resume should reflect your intellect in any way you can. If you had great standardized test scores in high school, include those. If you graduated in the top 10% of your class in high school, list it. If you got an academic scholarship for college, list it. If you got into a high-pedigree school, list it. If you achieved a high GPA, list it. These things indicate that somewhere along the line you proved you were smart.
Now, if you’re not proud of your test scores, by all means, DO NOT LIST THEM. Some people are not great test-takers, and that’s OK. But don’t list a 2.0 GPA thinking that it’s a good GPA and will help your candidacy for the job.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever accomplished? Climbing a mountain? Running a marathon? Getting a 4.0 GPA? Losing 30 lbs.? If there’s something you did that required hard work, discipline, and determination, list it! This can communicate that when you set your mind to something, you accomplish it.
Reviewing software developer resumes, I don’t see a lot of athletics listed. However, I see it as a very good sign if a candidate has been a part of competitive sports teams on a consistent basis. Naturally, this engenders discipline and teamwork, and you learn a lot of important, applicable lessons and habits while playing sports on a team (even though you probably don’t realize it).
If your resume has spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, weird capitalization mistakes (such as accidentally capitalizing two letters in a row, like SKills), or punctuation inconsistencies, remove them. Find your most anal-retentive friend (you know, the one who corrects your grammar all the time – “it’s he and I, not him and me“), and let them rip your resume apart for problems like this. If you submit a resume with these kinds of mistakes, as a reviewer, I think that you really didn’t put a lot of effort into representing yourself well on your resume. If it’s clean, I don’t necessarily believe that you have great English skills, but at least you pulled from the people around you to help you make sure you put your best resume forward.
And by all means, double, triple, quadruple, and qunituple check that your name and contact information is correct. You would not believe how many resumes I see where people mis-spell their street address or mis-capitalize their name. Not a good sign if you can’t even get your name right.
OK, so here’s the deal. The way I do it, if you have one thing on your resume that at least somewhat impresses me, even if you have some mistakes, I don’t care that much. I’ll give you a call and talk to you. But it certainly doesn’t start you off on the right foot, and not all reviewers are as forgiving as I (see what I did there?). And if I had hundreds of resumes to go through every week, I probably would not be as forgiving either.
Just always remember that your resume communicates something about you, and that you should be proving a point with everything on it: “you should hire me.”