Your resume doesn’t need to be boring! In the past couple of years of my career I’ve been involved in the recruitment process of software engineers, which has meant reading a lot of resumes and deciding when to move forward with a candidate based on its content.
I’ve seen some really great resumes and unfortunately, probably skimmed past great candidates that just don’t highlight their skills enough in their resumes. In this article, I’ve included some tips that I believe may help you get your resume noticed – and hopefully get you that interview!
Your Cover letter
A great cover letter includes a bit about who you are (but not too much – as this is what the resume is for), but more importantly it gives motivation as to why you want this specific role, at the specific company you are applying to and why you would be the best candidate for this role. If there is an option to submit a cover letter, don’t skip it – this is a great chance to motivate for yourself and get you noticed.
So many people use generic cover letters that they’ve found online and changed the names in the letter (even worse – some forget to change the names – yikes!). Whilst this might have worked for getting some interviews, there is definitely room for improvement. When a cover letter sounds like it could have been written for just about any job in the world, interviewers skim over them.
The best cover letters I’ve read are:
- Personal – The candidate talks candidly about the company they are applying to and shows a bit of their personality in their letter. For example: “I love XYZ Company’s mission to help entrepreneurs grow, as someone with a side business myself (I bake cakes in my spare time), I really align with this and believe I would bring a valuable perspective in this area.” Something unique about why you are excited about the role or company can really help sell yourself.
- Short – A quick intro of who you are, why you are applying and why you should be considered. I want to be able to read it quickly and get excited about what your resume contains.
- Not copy pasted – Put the effort in to double check that your cover letter is for the correct company, and please, please, please – don’t copy paste an entire letter from the internet. Use it as inspiration for structure, but please type out something that you would actually say in a conversation with someone.
Structure of your Resume
The contents of your resume are important but the structure of it is equally important.
Make sure to do the following before submitting:
- Proofread your resume, run spell check on it to ensure there are no sloppy mistakes. Even better, ask a friend to double-check it for you.
- Make it short! Surface the most important information on the first and second page. Strongly consider if you really need to make it any longer than that. Remove items that are not important to the role. Interviewers are skimming resumes for important bits, if they don’t see it on the first few pages, it is not a good sign.
- Send it in PDF format. .docx (or any other format) can have issues on certain platforms. I’ve received .docx resumes that just don’t render properly and they just look terrible in it, requiring the interviewer to fiddle around to figure out why the resume doesn’t work – or worse, them just discarding it.
- Add links to your resume! It is not the old days where we print out resumes and can’t do such a thing. I don’t want to have to go searching for the name of the app you wrote or searching for your Github profile. Include valuable links that’ll help an interviewer review your profile easily. They likely don’t have time to do searches for each resume – so some quick links are way easier to scan and find.
- Don’t include your identification number, gender, picture, marital status or residential address. It is enough to include your city/country but you really don’t need to include the other stuff – a photo and gender can bias an interviewer. An identity number/ social security number is private and your resume is likely to be passed around to a lot of people, think of the information you wouldn’t want to be public on the internet.
- Your resume doesn’t need to be plain! Choose a different font, add a bit of colour as a background or heading colours. I get very excited when someone submits a resume that has a different design from the standard word templates. Use different font sizes to differentiate between sections. But don’t overdo it – keep it readable and elegant.
Content of your resume
Once you’ve mastered the structure of your resume, you actually need to have some convincing content to get you noticed. You can’t just have a beautiful looking resume without anything inside it to back you up. A good structured resume is nothing without great content.
- Have an introductory paragraph describing a bit about your journey and why you do what you do. Use this initial paragraph to highlight your biggest achievement(s) to date. Include 1 or 2 things here, since you can highlight other items further on in the resume. Think of this paragraph as an elevator pitch about yourself, short and convincing enough that the reader will continue reading.
- Links! As I mentioned before, be sure to include links to any public work that the interviewer can go look at. Make sure they are clickable when exported. If you have notable contributions on Github or a personal blog – make sure to highlight what you want the interviewer to see.
- When listing your past roles that you’ve had, include achievements that you had in that role, instead of just responsibilities. Did you improve the crash-free users of an app? Make sure to highlight that. “Improved crash-free users from 97% to 99% in 3 months”, or “Lead a project migration to a new architecture”. These kinds of concrete examples of what you achieved in your role can really highlight the potential impact you could have in the position.
- Only include skills and history that you are comfortable talking about in detail in an interview. Last thing you want is to get the interview because you add a skill that you aren’t comfortable talking about yet.
- Deviate from templates – just don’t fill in what the template gives you. Some companies are receiving hundreds of resumes and interviewers have probably seen the same template many, many times. Be sure to customize it and make it unique (i.e. you could include logos or icons to make it stand out a bit more).
Writing a resume that stands out is tough and getting an interview can be tricky! Hopefully these tips can help improve your resume and get you the interview you want.
What are common mistakes that you’ve seen people make in their resumes? What makes a great resume? Let me know on Twitter – @riggaroo.