One of the most important things you can do to advance your career is to make a good resume. As someone who made a really successful career out of getting jobs for myself as a contractor, and as someone who currently works with the hiring process, I’ve got a lot of expertise in this area. Let me tell you what has worked for me, and what I like to see in a resume, and then I’d love to hear about your own experiences in the comments.
As a forewarning, these tips are geared towards technology jobs. Your mileage may vary in other fields, but I’ve had friends and colleagues in non-technical fields apply my suggestions to their resumes with great success. So this information is of value no matter what field you’re in!
This is part one of a … hmm, probably three, maybe four part series on how to make an awesome resume.
Understanding the Process
So for our first article in this series, let’s talk about the audience. When you write a document, you need to know whom will be reading it and what they want to see. Writing a resume is no different. This will be old hat to a lot of you, but especially people new to the job market might not know all this, so let’s touch on it.
When you apply for a job, there will usually be between two and four people or groups of people who will see your resume. In order, they are: the recruiter, HR at the company you wish to work at, technical screeners, and the hiring manager. Not every job has all four, but at a minimum, HR and the hiring manager are pretty common unless the company is a very small shop.
Let’s talk about each one and what they want to see.
The recruiter often doesn’t work for the company hiring; their job is to fish for people, do some basic screening, and pass them along to the company actually doing the hiring. Often jobs are posted by recruiters, so it is common to apply for a job and for the first contact will be with a recruiting company.
Most recruiters simply check off boxes and may not know your field very well. They may ask you simple questions and ask for your “years of experience” in different technical skills. “Years of experience” is the most meaningless metric I can think of; does it mean a literal count of how many days you’ve worked with the technology? Does using a technology a few times a year for multiple years count as several “years of experience”? Who knows; I, personally, really dislike this metric.
Which is why Epic Force uses technical people to screen technical people. As recruiters, we can have a good conversation with hires and actually talk like tech with people. Candidates can make up whatever “years of experience” number they wish, but having an actual conversation about the technology will reveal if they’re actually any good. Look how cleverly I tucked in a sales pitch there!
But I digress; when talking to a recruiter, be prepared to talk about your “years of experience” for each of your skills and have some plausible number for each. The recruiter is also doing a text search of your resume for the skills he or she is looking for, so laundry listing your skills is important.
If your resume is being submitted directly to a company without a recruiter, it is probably going through the Human Resources department. HR is overworked and, in some cases, really doesn’t know what job you are going to do. It varies a lot; I have worked with HR departments that know a lot about what their employees do, and I’ve worked with some that don’t know or don’t care.
HR often gets hung up on things like “does this candidate’s education level match the requirements?” rather than more important things like “can this candidate do the job?” They are sometimes a much cruder filter than the recruiter. Though again, not always.
Like a recruiter, they operate off a check list with varying degrees of effectiveness. I’ve worked as a hiring manager for companies where HR would let pizza drivers with no education or experience get through the filter for senior level jobs, and I’ve worked with HR departments that are capable of giving pretty technical interviews, so it is definitely a mixed bag there.
A huge part of your resume is making sure you check the boxes so you can get past the recruiter and HR and on to the real interview.
The Technical Screener and Hiring Manager
Once you’ve gotten past the often crude filters of the recruiter and/or HR, your resume will land in the hands of the people you will actually work with on a day to day basis. These are the people you ultimately want to talk to in order to get the job.
The hiring manager is probably stressed out, short staffed, and probably needed you to start yesterday. They don’t want to read your resume; it is a chore when they’ve got twenty other things to tend to.
Therefore, you want your resume to stand out without making the hiring manager “work for it”. You also want to have detailed past job experiences so that, if the hiring manager is interested in you, they can look through your experience and see some evidence that you can do what you say you can do.
The same goes for other members on the team, or those doing a technical screening; not all companies have this step, but many will have you talk to your team or to technical screeners before having a final interview with the manager.
Why This Matters
As you can see, there are roughly two “audience groups” for your resume. There’s the recruiter/HR who probably don’t know the intimate details of your job and are mostly working off checklists, and who are going through probably hundreds of resumes. They really want to see a nice, concise set of skills.
Then there is the hiring manager and/or the team you will be working with; this audience is more interested in your work experience and if you can prove that you can do the job you are applying for — at least on paper.
The perfect resume caters to both groups and gives everyone what they need to see in the most efficient way possible.
So that’s it for this first article of the series. I will be continuing on about how to actually write the resume in the next article. I’d love to hear your comments; are you someone that has done hiring? What do you look for? What has worked for you when it comes to resumes? Until next time!