Preparing a stellar resume is an iterative process. It’s a short document but it takes hours every couple of years to keep it up-to-date and ready to go. A good job starts with an interview call and good resume is the first entry point to that. It is time well spent. Let me talk about about how I went about writing my resume to get the right visibility. I am no expert but I was the first person after a 4-5 years hiatus to get a call from Microsoft in my University even though they didn’t recruit from our campus.
- Pro-tip: FIT IT IN A PAGE
I am surprised at how many people don’t do this. Doesn’t apply to PhD candidates with a lot of research papers. The rest of you, its absolutely doable. Recruiters don’t have the time to look at long resumes. One page is standard. After 10 years, I still cram it in a page. Marissa Meyer crams it in a page. So can you! Let the rest of my tips guide the way…
- CONTACT INFORMATION
Center align and add the following information to the top of your resume in an equivalent format:
<CITY>, <STATE> <ZIP CODE>• <PROFESSIONAL EMAIL> • <(AREA CODE)- PHONE #>
In the US, recruiters prefer to see this information on top. Just the city is enough. You could put your whole address too. I don’t, because of safety/privacy reasons. I don’t remember the last time a recruiter needed to post a letter to me either! 🙂 They want to know if you are a local candidate. They’ll save money on relocation and they know you like the city already. There is also, no need to mention which is the phone and which is the email etc. Rather give the recruiter some white space to look at. If you are paranoid, share a google phone number.
- SUMMARY/ RESUME OBJECTIVE TIPS
Give this a heading, left align and write a short 2-3 lines (this is very subjective) to the effect of:
Self-starter and Dedicated Software Engineer with 7 years of Object-Oriented programming experience. Communicative and committed to Timelines and Quality. Ramps up quickly on new industry technologies. Seeking a full-time position as a software developer.
You could indent this depending on how much total content you have. I don’t have that luxury anymore. If you are just starting out, its a good use of space. Pick one favorite adjective that you think defines you. Avoid ‘fluff’. Rants about soft skills are not quantifiable. No one cares. Recruiters don’t use it in their searches and its a criminal waste of resume real estate. Mention how many years of experience you’ve had with your expertise. Job descriptions often have hard requirements of duration of experience. Get this information out of the way quickly. My second line, I admit is some more fluff but I wanted to convey that I know what the industry values and I try to align 🙂 The third one is trying to convey I am very open to new technology and not intimidated by change. The last line is a clarification that I am not looking for a change of discipline and that I’m looking for full-time opportunities only. If you are looking for anything else, say so and mention when you’d like to start. If you are looking for a research position, mention what background makes you the ideal candidate for the job.
- RESUME WORK EXPERIENCE TIPS
Note: Education, academic projects and papers and presentations will come first if you are still in school or just graduated. Work experience will come first if you are working full-time already.
Use the same format as the above block. I personally use formatting, bullets, structure, alignment and indents to make up for lines and tables. I’ve pasted a block of my latest experience below. Let me explain carefully why this works for me:
Application Developer – Project Lead – VoiceBox Technologies, Bellevue, Washington (November 2014 to present)
C++, C#, SVN, GIT, Visual Studio Professional 2015, Virtualization, SQL, VUI, YAML, Microservices
- Authored and maintained voice user interface components for various Samsung devices.
- Kept the project team and stakeholders informed about key developments, design changes and overall status and progress of the project.
- Led a team of 4 developers, planned & allocated work tasks & timelines to all team members.
- Trained offshore client teams about our VUI components.
- Owned client and sister team integration issues, build breaks.
- Set up standards and infrastructure for fresh projects
I started first with mentioning my current title. Recruiters hunt for current job titles that match what they are looking for. So, I put that first. Where and since when is also information they care about so I placed it in order of importance. The Skills section below is my own invention 🙂 I’ve seen people cram a lot of skills, and I did too, in a skill section. I prefer this way because it lets them know how recent your expertise is. I’ve been embarrassed but how little I remember of something I did way way back and was really good at but have just a faint memory of. If you structure it this way, they know better what to expect. One of my former colleagues shared an awesome idea about skills. Recruiters usually do a word search. So he would use alternate spelling so that he wouldn’t filter out either way. He used ‘theater’ at one place and ‘theatre’ at others.
Now the main part, your responsibilities. Use bullet points please. Talk about what you did and what the business impact was. Sell yourself! I mean, figuratively. Compare ‘Sent a daily project report to developers, programs managers and domain managers. Updated team documentation’ and ‘Kept the project team and stakeholders informed about key developments, design changes and overall status and progress of the project’.
Compare ‘Gave a power-point presentation on various features of the product’ and ‘Trained offshore client teams about our VUI components’. They are the same thing with a different delivery. But one makes it sounds like you just do the job, don’t really care and take no pride in it. The latter makes you sound like you understand and effectively deliver the objective of the process.
Don’t put your campus job at your university cafeteria. It’s OK to have time gaps here. When you have to fill the company’s application form/PERM labor certification, they’ll ask for that information.
I am a big fan of bold formatting. No heading and change of line required! My education is as below:
M.S., Computer Science at USU, UT, USA, August 2010. Cumulative GPA-3.59
B.E., Computers at Mumbai University (MU), Mumbai, Maharashtra, India, August 2006. Upper Second Class
These are 2 lines packed with information: my education, my university, the year and month (make this bold if you still haven’t graduated) and my GPA. Mine isn’t great so I am not fleshing it out more. If you have space and if you had a distinction, scholarship, were an honor’s student or on the dean’s list, please do mention it here. If you are searching for your first job out of college, throw it in the summary. This is no place to be humble 🙂
For heaven’s sake, don’t put a table of all your classes and your grades at all. Its just a metric recruiters don’t work with. Tables just look bad and ruin the aesthetic.
- ACADEMIC PROJECTS
Mention ‘academic’ for projects you did in school. Give the title, technology used and which course it was a part of. The month and year is good to add too. For example:
Bug Classification and Search tool – Developed using the Acquia Drupal stack – Masters Project at USU, March 2010.
Put only relevant projects and keep this very very concise please. If your potential company cares, they’ll ask you when they see you. Hyperlink the title with your actual project if it’s hosted somewhere.
- PAPERS AND PRESENTATIONS
Almost the same format as before.
C# beginners’ errors (poster) – Grace Hopper Celebration for women in computing, October 2009, Awarded 3rd prize in the 2010 Intermountain Graduate Research Symposium by the college of science
I didn’t even use bullet points. Just making the title bold calls out the separation. See why I love bold 🙂 If you won a prize, mention which place, year, for which category and which conference or Symposium.
- COMMUNICATION AND LEADERSHIP SKILLS
Volunteer, Assembled kits for Syrians refugees, Medical Teams International (January 2016)
Dev lead, Women’s startup weekend, SHEROX.CO (September 2014)
America places importance on what you give back to the community. Here, I am calling out my volunteering experience and leadership skills. Also, I am conveying what world issues are important to me. Good conversation for after the interview 😉 Now the dev lead one. I didn’t have recent dev experience when I wanted to make the discipline switch from test to dev so desperately. This was good to show for that even if it was just a weekend. See, I can develop. I am interested! Pick me!
Tip: Preferred resume format is pdf.
I prefer to not put interests, languages and other fluff if its not relevant. If they want to hire you, they’ll ask you after the interview. Resume is not the place.
This should seem obvious, but do not embellish. Its as easy as asking a co-worker of yours, ‘Did she do this?’. Answer: ‘No she didn’t’. And your credibility is over.
Have several eyes look over your resume. A trusted classmate, a recruiter friend, a native speaker are all helpful. A lot of the tips I mentioned are not my own, but borrowed. Now they are yours to use and pass on. Good luck!
Author: Nazneen Malik.
Nazneen is a software engineer based in the Greater Seattle area since 2010. She is originally from Mumbai. She did her B.E. in Computer Engineering and then worked as a Software Developer in Mumbai for 2 years. After that she moved to Utah to do her Masters in Computer Science in 2008. She is passionate about her career and serving the community. For fun she likes to read, hike, salsa dance and travel!