I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while, specially after my short stint as a hiring manager for the Service Engineer position at GitLab. What finally notched me was this tweet by Stephanie Hurlburt where she asked her followers if they wanted their résumés reviewed. I realized it made sense to write some advice around this topic, and not just for résumés, but for applying to a job in general. So, let’s begin…
While looking through resumes for the Service Engineer position at GitLab, I came across a high number of résumés that where more than 4 pages long.
It is not necessary to list every single thing you have done in your résumé. List your most proud achievement first (if it’s relevant to the position), and follow up with the most recent positions you have held. Try to keep it single page, 2 pages at most. The people reviewing your résumé have a whole pile of them to go through. It helps if it’s short. I have seen profiles being discarded just because the résumé was too long, and they didn’t even give a glance to it.
It is highly encouraged to tailor your résumé to the company and the position to which you are applying. This way you can showcase the particular skills you already have that match perfectly with the open position. List them first, or close to the top, and add information about projects on which you have worked that are relevant to the requirements.
Your personal information should be highly visible, preferably at the top of the document, and it should stand out. Use colors to highlight and contrast this information.
Unless highly relevant to the position, education can go further down. It usually suffices to say the highest degree you have attained, no need to list specific courses and grades, unless, again, it’s highly relevant to the position. In this section you can also list the languages you speak, certificates you have attained, etc.
At the very end, add something interesting about yourself. Something that might let the hiring manager relate a bit to you.
Make your résumé shine! There are amazing résumé templates available that you can easily tailor to your needs, so you really outshine the competition. Word has gotten better in later versions, but it still cannot hold a candle to what you can do with LaTeX, or InDesign.
PDF, PDF, PDF! It is called Portable Document File for something. It renders pretty much the same way on any machine. A Word, or other word processing document has its own weird way of rendering a document. It will most likely look different in my computer than it does on yours. I might not have the proper fonts, and the layout will get really screwed. This is a no-go. Always submit your résumé as a PDF.
Having a lot of toy projects or tutorial projects on your GitHub profile and submitting that instead of a proper résumé will be detrimental to your application. These types of projects do not showcase your ability to work with other developers, or to grasp complex code, or that you actually have vast knowledge of the framework in which your toy projects are written.
On the other hand, if you contribute to open source projects, in whatever form (documentation, issue triaging, helping people out on the issues or other forums, etc.) now this does showcase your ability to work with other developers, or to communicate complex subjects, or to prioritize. This kind of contributions can be more appealing to potential employers.
Now I know there are great developers that are not able to contribute to open source. If that is the case for you, have some code samples of work that highlights your abilities, so that you can send to the technical interviewers upon request.
A lot of people seem to hate on LinkedIn, but it is a tool that is used by a lot of recruiters. Keep your profile updated, with your latest skills, your latest projects, your education, etc., and you might get job leads just for having a profile. A lot of recruiting software also allows you to pre-fill information on the application form from your LinkedIn profile, so it will save you some time.
Keep it updated!
After you have the perfect résumé, it is time to apply to the job opening, which it’s actually the most important part. No point on having the best résumé ever, if no one will see it.
Nowadays most openings require you to write a cover letter, but even if they don’t, you should always submit one. This is your moment to shine! It is a freeform letter in which you get to tell them who you are in your own words. Put some thought into it, and take your time. A great cover letter can be more valuable that a résumé.
Write about what makes you you, what inspires you, what excites you, and tailor it to each specific position. Showcase what you’ve done in a way that is relevant to the open position and makes you stand out.
Having a personal blog can only benefit you. It can show your ability explain complex topics in understandable ways, your communication skills, etc. It is also a great indicator that you will most likely be able to write good documentation.
This is feedback that I have gather over the past 4 years of applying to different jobs, from my short stint as a hiring manager, and from watching other hiring managers at companies I’ve worked at. This is just my humble opinion, and should not be construed as professional advice, though. And with that I bid you good luck on the job hunt!