I frequently receive requests for resume advice from a diverse range of job seekers, including recent college graduates, boot camp attendees, and seasoned developers. While I often share tips verbally, I've recently realized that I haven't documented these insights.
While there is no shortage of resume advice out there, these are the tips I've found the most helpful. They have not only helped me personally but have also supported friends and mentees in landing interviews with various companies, including FAANG for tech roles but also across multiple industries.
Crafting Your Elevator Pitch
Think of your resume as your personalized elevator pitch for potential employers. It should effectively communicate your accomplishments in past roles and emphasize the contributions you've made to your teams.
Crafting an impactful resume involves presenting a concise list of your achievements, showcasing what you've achieved in teams previously and how that can translate into value for a potential employer and their organization.
I've noticed that individuals who struggle at this stage often find it challenging to determine what to emphasize. A well-constructed resume centers around key accomplishments during your time in each role, showcasing where your experience aligns with the requirements of the position.
For instance, let's consider a hypothetical job posting for a Senior Transmogrification Engineer with the following requirements:
- Proven mastery of Transmogrification magic demonstrated through a track record of innovative and successful transformations.
- Profound understanding of magical theory, particularly in shape-changing, object manipulation, and energy transference.
- Strong aptitude for problem-solving, capable of navigating intricate magical challenges and devising practical solutions.
An ideal candidate might spotlight their expertise by referencing successes in similar positions at other organizations.
- Senior Technical Wizard - Wizards Guild, Remote | Nov 2020 - Current
- Standardized Transmogrification techniques across the guild, ensuring consistent and safe transformations of objects and creatures. This lowered onboarding time for team members swapping teams from 2 weeks to 3 days.
- Developed advanced methods for maintaining the stability of transmogrified entities, reducing instances of unintended reversions. One customer saw a drop in unintended reversions by 30%
- Led cross-disciplinary team to integrate Transmogrification with other magical disciplines, resulting in innovative hybrid spells to suit client specifications. This led to a 15% net cost saving at scale for the business.
- Conducted workshops and seminars to train junior wizards in the intricacies of Transmogrification theory and practice.
These qualities might seem commonplace for any engineer, but their value is magnified when backed by quantifiable achievements. I commonly recommend following this format when crafting bullet points:
- Describe the team or individual initiative.
- Specify your personal involvement in the initiative.
- Highlight the outcomes achieved from the initiative.
In my experience, this structure effectively highlights your expertise. For example, a Software Engineer aiming to showcase CI/CD proficiency based on a job description's requirement:
- Expertise with CI/CD deployment infrastructure such as Azure Pipelines and Jenkins
This could be described as:
- Set up a CI/CD pipeline on GitHub Actions to build, test and deploy daily builds to a staging environment. It enabled the development team to discover bugs before being sent to test engineers or seen by stakeholders reducing the overall number of bug reports by 60%
Though succinct, it paints a very clear picture for the reader.
Structuring Your Resume for Efficient Reading
A well-structured resume can be quickly scanned in 30 to 45 seconds, yet comprehensively absorbed in about 2 minutes. Within this span, a reviewer should gauge whether you're a promising fit for the position. Failing to deliver your message succinctly, particularly as a cold applicant, could compromise your chances of securing an interview.
Therefore, striking a balance between brevity and content density is paramount in your resume. Key information should be placed at the top to capture immediate attention.
In my view, this should encompass:
- Your desired job title, expressing what you're seeking.
- Your most relevant experience, outlining why you're a fitting choice.
Let's take a closer look at a sample resume to create a more comprehensive picture.
Starting with the header, this sample resume boldly showcases the desired job title of the applicant. Beneath it, the contact information is furnished, along with links to supplementary resources for those interested in delving deeper into the candidate's background. As we move forward, the resume directs its focus towards the candidate's most relevant experience, effectively illuminating their accomplishments across their professional journey.
The subsequent section zeroes in on spotlighting pertinent projects. This strategic choice is rooted in the author's recognition that the value of these projects in a professional context not only underscores their ability to apply skills in practical scenarios but also underscores their proficiency in driving products to fruition.
Following this, we encounter the educational background segment. To ensure the resume maintains its conciseness, this section exclusively highlights the candidate's graduate program as a pivotal achievement. It effectively captures their experiential learning during their academic journey and showcases their involvement in research endeavors.
Lastly, we encounter a skills section that concisely summarizes the candidate's relevant competencies in keyword format. This section also accommodates other pertinent skills that might not have been as prominently emphasized in the body of the resume.
It's important to note that these sections are adaptable. They possess the flexibility to be rearranged based on their relevance to your profile. If your work history boasts strength and depth but lacks formal educational background, consider omitting the education section and dedicating more space to expounding on your work experience. Conversely, if you're a recent graduate with limited professional experience, prioritize your educational background and the projects section.
A free editable version of this sample resume is available at the bottom of the page.
- How vital is resume theming and style? - In my view, your resume should exude careful thought. A consistent, easy-to-read layout free of errors is pivotal. However, beyond this, the spotlight should remain on the information presented. Elaborate styling might hinder skimming, and while style matters, no one gets hired based on it alone. Personally, I lean towards simpler layouts.
- Should I include side projects? - It depends. Side projects are especially potent for recent graduates and boot camp attendees lacking extensive practical experience. Yet, they can be impactful for Senior Engineers too, depending on relevance to the role. The crux lies in alignment with the job you're applying for. Seasoned engineers seeking to pivot might demonstrate their abilities through a well-designed side project.
- What if my resume exceeds one page? - This is often a positive predicament, signaling ample content to showcase. Begin by reviewing the job description to pinpoint essential role elements. Similarly, highlight areas where your experience shines. Remember, your resume is your elevator pitch. Supplemental qualifications that don't fit on your one-pager can find space in supporting resources like LinkedIn, your portfolio, or a cover letter.
- Is the skills section important? - I often find myself on the fence about this, but I believe their main role is to navigate through resume filters. I usually construct these by meticulously going through the job description and selecting keywords, technologies, and frameworks that I am well-versed in. This section might also encompass technologies and frameworks pertinent to the role that you're experienced with but might not have been prominently highlighted in the main body of your resume. Nevertheless, it's crucial not to compromise relevance by cramming in as many terms as possible.