Sunday, May 21, 2006

8 Ways to make a good resume

Since I'm working all weekend I might as well write another blog post. I'm going to be sitting here anyway, and it's raining outside. Let's try and make this a boring, practical one.

The software industry is at the beginning of a hiring frenzy, which means people can switch jobs and probably get a raise/promotion/less boring job. It doesn't mean you can slack on your resume, because there are going to be a bunch of fakers out there trying to cash in on the employee scarcity. Here are 8 ways to write a resume that will get you job offers.
  1. Pack it with hard evidence.
    If you have every accomplished anything in your life you should be able to find some tiny shred of evidence to prove it. This shred is the cornerstone of your resume. The fact that you managed to keep a job at doesn't say much. Maybe your aunt is the CEO, maybe the company is too dumb to fire bad employees. You need to prove that you *did* something at the company/school/correctional facility.

  2. Make it a sales pitch.
    The purpose of a resume is not to give your potential boss a full picture of your history, you as a person, your goals and needs, your dreams. It is to get an interview. Delete every word that doesn't support the goal of getting an interview. (This might not be the stuff you expect, since interviews are sometimes requested based on unexpected factors, like a hobby or volunteer postion.)

  3. Concentrate on things the reader has heard of.
    My resume is Yahoo-heavy because everyone has heard of Yahoo. If you had a job at Bob's Web Design doing contract work for Microsoft then the biggest word on your resume should be Microsoft. When someone is scanning your resume nothing jumps out like a big company name, especially if it is in bold.

  4. Don't say you're a good communicator.
    If you're a good communicator it will come through in your resume. Similarly, saying you are "creative" is the least creative thing possible.

  5. Make it short.
    Nobody cares about you and your stupid resume. Make it short, bullet the text, highlight the pertinent points in yellow. When interviewing at Yahoo or Vodafone I would usually read the resume for the first time while walking to the interview. Now I give them a little more attention, but if a 5 page resume comes in I'm not going to read it.

  6. Show some examples.
    After you shorten you resume to one page, add five pages of examples. If you're a designer include huge images of your work. If you're a coder include a few pages of real code. If you're a plumber include some big photos of your favorite pipes. This is what people want to see, and unless you are bad at your job you should display your work front and center.

  7. Say what position you are looking for.
    Read the job description, then write the postion you are applying for at the top of your resume. Use the exact vocabulary the company uses. If the job is for an Interaction Designer don't list yourself as an Interactive Designer. If you don't know the difference you can't have the job.

  8. For the love of all things holy, please check your spelling.
    I have actually seen resumes with typos. Want to know where I've seen them? In the trash.


Anonymous shawn said...

I've worked for a couple of big interactive agencies for a few years now* and everyone I know has done stuff for Microsoft, so I disagree with #3. I interview a lot of people, and I'd rather know a little more about Bob's Web Design or, say, Rubyred Labs then some (probably insignificant) work for Microsoft.

As for #6, I've seen people use other people's work for their examples often enough that I take it with a very large grain of salt (if I bother to consider it at all), so I love it when ownership is crystal clear - as with a designer's personal website. Of course, there's a considerable gray area when it comes to work a person contributed to but didn't own. You and I have probably both taken credit for some of the same Vodafone work, for example.

I wholeheartedly agree with #5. Two pages max.

5:16 PM, May 23, 2006  
Anonymous shawn said...

(oh, and I obviously didn't check my spelling before I published that last comment. Did you catch the then that should have been then?)

10:02 AM, May 24, 2006  
Anonymous shawn said...

argh... I mean "than". My resume's already in your trash :)

10:04 AM, May 24, 2006  
Blogger Jonathan said...

All good points Shawn. I guess #3 is mainly about establishing what league you play in. Thousands of people have designed stuff fo huge companies, and among these people are a lot of great designers. There are also a lot of great designers who haven't done this kind of work, but group 1 has a higher concentration of good designers than group 2. It certainly doesn't make someone a good designer, and I'd never, ever hire someone based solely on past employment, especially at a company where you can skate by for years without doing anything.

I also agree with your point on #6. The first task of a portfolio is to establish that you've had some sort of association with a big successful project, which sets you apart from maybe 80% of applicants. The second task is to show that you have skills. Like shawn says, you need to show *something* that was 100% you, even if it's just your portfolio site. Of course in the end you'll be working with a team, so just showing that you can touch a project without fucking it up gets you somewhere. :)

6:12 PM, May 24, 2006  
Blogger Kent Brewster said...

Pages in the Wayback Machine from 1996 with your name on them can be useful resume items.

8:13 AM, May 25, 2006  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Nice on Kent! Love those frames...

8:21 AM, May 25, 2006  

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