I have reviewed a lot of resumes over the past several years. I have had more than my fair share of jobs in the technology industry where I have been both a job applicant and hiring manager. In recent years I have returned to academia where I get to help students prepare for that job market. I keep seeing the same missteps and offering the same advice on the matter so I thought I would right this up. ADMINS feel free to pin.
Now as a disclaimer before I begin. I am speaking ONLY about my experience in the Computing technology sector (Finance, Pharma, Telecom, and Marketing). Much of this will probably apply to similar or adjacent fields. Design or office administration jobs probably none of it.
EDIT: This is LONG. Be sure to have your resume handy when you go through it so you can edit as you go. Stick around for the end where I added a sample technical resume.
TL;DR: Think like a hiring manager, focus on what they want to see. You are ultimately going to be a cog in a machine for the first few years so leave off all of the fluff. Be clear, concise and focused. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE SKILLS.Objectives / Summary
Let me begin by addressing my biggest pet peeve: Objectives. I don’t know who keeps recommending this for resumes for anyone other than Vice President or “C” level executives. Your objective is irrelevant to the company. Your objective is to do whatever you are asked to do in order to get the job. Your objective is to be the best damned cog in the machine as you can be because that is what you are being hired to be. No one cares what the Cog wants to achieve in this role. There will come a time when it is more important. Your first post-college job is not it. Sorry, not sorry.Education
If you graduate in an off month (Not may or june) then don’t list the month, people assume the worst. “BUT ProfessorOfLies, I had a really good reason for taking that extra semester!” It was because of my [internship|pandemic|family emergency|Early Graduation|Whatever]. It doesn’t matter. Anything you need to explain on your resume, you will never get a chance to.
Don’t list GPA unless over 3.5. Know what it is. If an employer asks then answer truthfully, but do not volunteer it.
- If you have a 4.0 GPA research any company you apply for. Some companies see this as a negative. IBM famously would not hire anyone with a 4.0 with the thinking that if you had a 4.0 then you would probably not have interests outside of your school work and probably won’t take any risks.
Associates Degrees are made irrelevant by your bachelors degree IF it is in the same field. IE: your BCC degree in CS is no longer worth mentioning after your CS degree from NJIT/Rutgers/Steven’s. Now you got your associate degree in MATH and then a Bachelors in CS. YES advertise that!
- NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR HIGH SCHOOL.
Skills are the most important part of your resume. Some people might say work experience but the things that are important from your work experience are the SKILLS you applied and learned while on the job. What any hiring manager wants to see is if the applicant can fit the hole in their team. They need a set of skills to get a job done and they want to get the best candidate that they can with those skills. So make sure your skills are right near the top of your resume. Make sure every project and job you have had reinforces those skills. Your resume should say “I have these skills and LOOK at all the ways I have demonstrated that I have these skills!”
To that effect I would suggest making sure your skills section is easy to read and categorized for convenient skimming. For example:
Programming Languages: C/C++, Java, C#
System Administration: Windows (Server, 10, 7), Linux (RedHat, Fedora, Gentoo, Ubuntu), Solaris
Database Administration: MySQL, SQLite, Oracle, MangoDB
Project Management: JIRA, Trello, Git, AGILE, SCRUM
Skills should be listed from MOST proficient to least proficient. In general for a technical resume I would shy away from using qualifying language. Proficient in, experienced with, once read about it in a textbook, etc. The reality is that if you put it on your resume you better be at least proficient in it enough to answer interview questions about it. Google interview questions for each skill you list. Make sure you are prepared to answer them. If you are not then don’t list them, if you are close then STUDY until you are prepared.
Read through job sites. Technology evolves constantly. Buzzwords change. New things become popular. Classwork doesn’t always make it clear what things you do in class are worth mentioning and which are not. So read through the job descriptions. Take note of the skills that they are looking for. Perhaps you have some but didn’t mention them in your resume because you thought that it wasn’t relevant. Maybe you had it down, but described it in a different or outdated way. Adapt the resume to the job description (BUT DON’T LIE).
Human languages (as opposed to programming languages) DO require qualifying language. Having taken a French class in high school is not the same as a native speaker. Being fluent in a language means more than a casual speaker. If you mention a language make sure you list your level in the language. It may actually help if you are applying for a company that has business dealings in different languages.
NOTE: IF you mention a non-English language, be sure to mention English and your level in it. You may think that English is a given, it is not. People will also assume that if you know another language that your English skills are probably poor. So PLEASE remember to list English and your level in it. Especially if you grew up in a bilingual household.
EDIT: I don’t want to forget to mention that if you come from a technical field you do NOT need to mention Office as a skill. That is a muggle skill, we are better than that.Work Experience
Work experience can be a tough one for a college student. Not everyone can get or afford to take an internship or co-op. Sometimes your work is hard to justify on your resume. There is pressure to list every job you have ever had, but the reality is that it is just not necessary.
If you have had a string of retail / clerk jobs, you really don’t have to show them all. Pick the most recent one to list. IF you managed to do anything related to the field (Helped with the company website for instance) then list that as a bullet, but do not feel the need to go into detail about it. We all know what hell you go through. The only purpose this serves is to show employers that yes indeed you can hold a job.
For each job you held you want to list the standard information in the top line for it: Company, Title, Location, Dates (year – year is fine unless you NEED to be more granular because you worked a few in the same year). Then a BRIEF one line description of the role. You can even leave it off if you are doing that clerk job (Sales Associate at BLAH).
Then you want to list 2 or 3 bullets about your SPECIFIC accomplishments while in that role. Resist the urge to go through ALL the responsibilities you had in the role. Yes there is paperwork and teamwork and meetings and documentation in every role. Those are not going to highlight your technical skills!
Back End Developer, South Hill Apparel Newark, NJ Summer 2019
Supported and developed new features for the remote procedure calls for retail websites.
- Created a custom recommendation system using Node.js, MySQL, and ZeroMQ
- Automated support for order from Amazon through AWS using Google Dart
Note how each bullet mentions what the achievement was and then name drops the technical skills used in the process. This will now reinforce the assertion that your skills in Node.js, MYSQL, ZeroMQ, AWS, and Google Dart are legit.Projects
Passion projects, Hackathon / Game Jam projects, and class projects are excellent things to put on the resume. Treat them like jobs (But make sure they are under the correct category) in formatting. Since few college students would have had relevant work experience you really want to focus on the projects section. This is something that I wish I knew when I was a recent graduate. I never had an internship but I had a TON of passion projects.
Not only will projects show that you have experience in the skills you are claiming, but it will also tell the employer that you are actually INTERESTED in the field you want to work in. That you will constantly be learning new skills and technologies that may benefit the company. Your projects will likely have exposed you to things not mentioned in the rest of the resume that could pay out in the future.Professional Associations
If you belong to one of the industry related professional societies, be sure to list them. I am talking specifically about IEEE, ACM, IGDA, etc. For other extra curricular activities see the section below (Spoilers: DON’T list them). These will again show that you are serious about your interests in the field.Conclusion
At this point I have gone over everything that SHOULD be in a resume (everything after Objective that is). As a new job seeker I would even recommend it be in that order:
Education, Skills, Work Experience, Projects, and Professional Associations. The minute you have that industry job though, Put Work Experience at the top and move Education to the bottom.
You may be wondering at this point that I left some things out. If you keep reading below “Additional Thoughts” you will see what I left out and why.Additional ThoughtsOne Page Resume
The one page resume is largely a thing of the past. When the most common way to get your resume in front of an employer was to attend a career fair or trade show, the one page resume made more sense. You basically need it to be your elevator pitch and no one at a busy fair wants to go through a long resume.
These days we mostly distribute resumes digitally (PLEASE USE PDF, not DOC)…Read the rest of this great post from the original post on Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/NJTech/comments/gzytiw/blunt_resume_advice_for_recent_graduates_in/