If there’s one thing in this world I know about - it’s resumes. I’ve read resumes of technology professionals all day, every day, for the good part of 20 years - dating back to when mainframe computers were “cool & cutting edge.” Let’s just say that was not recent history. I discuss resumes with candidates, hiring managers & staff members every single day. I have stacks of them (yes, still enjoy the tangible nature of a hard copy resume) in my home, in my office, in my car - they’re everywhere! I’ve seen them ALL - everything from Courier fonts that look like they’re from 1980, to the 1-pagers, the 15-pagers (UGH -spare me!), to the ones where people think that the more creative/confusing they get with formatting/grid lines/boxes, the better off they are (not true!). However - as the seasons change, and the years have passed, I’ve seen *(many)* resumes go from bad to worse as of late (to, in some cases, flat out pathetic & unacceptable), and I’m literally to the point of a nervous breakdown. WTF happened to the quality of a resume?!
For those of you who have worked with my staff and I at TripleScreen over the years, you know we’re always here to help revise and add a helping hand to making your resume & presentation perfect - even to the point of being annoying about it. Why? Because IT’S IMPORTANT! We’ve literally helped to secure jobs for people that they probably wouldn’t have gotten on their own (you all know who you are!) just because we helped turn a bad/average resume into a good/great one. We didn’t give them more experience, or make them more likable, or inflate their background - but we helped to OPEN THE DOOR. That’s what a resume is for - right? It doesn’t get you the job, it OPENS THE DOOR. Isn’t that what we were taught in grade school - to try and open as MANY DOORS as possible? So, everyone -WTF happened to making YOUR resume a marketing TOOL for yourself? What happened to making it an extension of YOU? What happened to opening all kinds of doors? Call me “old skool,” but c’mon guys, let’s end the sloppiness, let’s end the madness, and let’s get back to our ABC’s.
Here’s some food for thought, as you venture down the path of finding a new role:
1. Spelling and grammar: The crown jewel of the resume. If you ever think about sending your resume out without looking through it word for word, sentence by sentence, and THEN sending it through spell check - shame on you. You literally don’t deserve the job you’re applying for. Wonder why you never got that interview? Maybe it’s because you spelled “excellent communication skills” wrong! Maybe it’s because you used the wrong version of they’re/their/there or principal/principle. Maybe it’s because you spelled the name of your company wrong! Or maybe you spelled the name of the technology wrong that you call yourself an expert in? Yes - I have seen ALL of these occur - way too often! English 101 guys - let’s get back to the basics & have some damn pride, you’re not busier than anyone else out there. Fix your damn resume.
2. Simplicity, Cohesion, and Formatting: Enough with the crazy formatting! Simple is better. Choose a basic modern font that everyone is used to seeing, with a size 10-12 font size, leaving enough white space on the page to not make your resume look like the Iliad. Unless you’re a UX person, where creativity is better seen than discussed, STOP! Remember, hiring managers are excellent SCANNERS - give them a reason to sit and read the whole document and make it EASY to navigate. You can use a different font for your name or section header, but make it cohesive. 5 different jobs with 5 different font sizes and types? That tells me your lazy and sloppy. Try to have bullet points and information reflective of how important (or relevant) your job is to what you’re applying for. You can’t have a job for 5 years with 2 bullets and then have a job for 5 months and write a novel. Keep it cohesive.
3. Avoid the stupid/empty buzzwords words that everyone uses: Stop using the buzzwords that don’t mean anything. Be different. Be unique. Excellent verbal and written communication skills? Guess what - that’s like having saying you have a brain – but everyone has one, so who cares? I once worked with a guy that was the absolute worst communicator & writer in the UNIVERSE literally write that on his resume. I called him out on it. You know what he told me? “Everyone has to have that - right?” Yeah - if it’s true! You’re “innovative” eh? Don’t say it - find a way to prove it by discussing a patent you have or a policy/procedure you brought into your company. And - if you want to use the word “team player” or “synergy” - please - don’t! Stop with the stupid, overused words - you’re not impressing or fooling anyone.
4. Get rid of the objective statement unless you’re going to revise it EVERY time: The objective statement was cool in 1990, but honestly, unless you’re going to revise it EVERY time you send your resume out, to cater it to specific jobs or companies, ax it and save yourself some time. I once had a person who sent me their resume that had an objective of “actively pursuing a software engineering role in a fast paced start up.” The problem was, he was sending it to large banks and Pharma. firms and wondering why he wasn’t getting any interviews. He didn’t even want to work in startups anymore! I pointed it out and he told me “Oh - I forgot that was there!” Bad answer. As Street Fighter would say - YOU LOSE.
5. Consider a redirection: It’s becoming more and more important for technology professionals to redirect people from your resume to other things, interests, user groups, and works you are a part of. Your LinkedIn profile, your personal website, a Git account, an online portfolio - have at LEAST one of these and keep it up to date and current. I’d rather see you NOT have a portfolio than have one that is out of date or incomplete or half-ass, but try to have something. Redirecting your resume to another site or medium can add another dimension and layer to YOU.
6. Tech guys(and gals) - be specific (my personal pet peeve): There’s nothing more annoying than a software engineer or technology professional having a huge laundry list of skills at the top or bottom of their resume and then very light language within each of their jobs discussing it. Incorporating technology jargon and skills into the written bullet points of your job history is PARAMOUNT - how else does a manager or recruiter know where you used each skill? It’s an effortless way for people to inflate their experience, but again, you’re not fooling anyone. If you used VB.Net & C#/Winforms in your engineering role 8 years ago, and then you started coding in C#/ASP.Net with web services in your next role 4 years ago, and then you added Angular and MVC/Entity framework in your next job 2 years ago- then SAY THAT!!! It shows a progression and continued learning/development. It should be easy for hiring managers to follow the progression, so help take the guess work out of it. Be specific.
7. Be nimble and refresh every year: You have no idea how many times I hear: “Mike - this job sounds awesome, but I haven’t updated my resume in 3 years and I have some MAJOR work to do - can I spend the next few days working on it?” The answer is always “sure,” but 5/10 times the job is filled or closed to new applicants by the time I get the new resume. What happens if your dream job comes around? What happens if you get laid off? You really want a few days to lapse before you take action? Bad idea. And - not only is timing important, but are you going to honestly tell me that you’re going to remember everything you did, every milestone you achieved, every project you worked on, during all your years at a company, all at once, when it comes time to finally add that entry on your resume? Refresh every year and add bullets and achievements as you think of them. Your resume should be an evolving, living work of art that constantly gets updated and tweaked.
8. Drop the cover letter: No one cares. Honestly - don’t even write one. Incorporate anything important into the actual resume.
This list can and will go on and on, but I wanted to share some pain points we’ve been experiencing as of late, in an effort to give you all some food for thought. Let’s stop the madness! Your resume, just like your friends, your spouse, the way you dress, the way you communicate - it all tells us something about YOU. Don’t you want that “something” to be positive?
Get after it -
Michael J. Butti hails from the Philadelphia suburbs, and is a highly regarded technology staffing expert, who has helped companies large & small solve their most complex staffing problems and has helped shape the Delaware Valley technology landscape since 1997. Michael is co-founder and Managing Partner of TripleScreen Search & Staffing, based in Downingtown, PA.