Tech Dreams is a series where we explore how you can stand out to startups, large tech companies and innovation labs during the hiring and onboarding process; from start to finish – resume tips and beyond.
A resume is a funny thing if you think about it. It’s essentially a single document that’s meant to capture your professional worth as a person. While it serves an important function in principle, modern hiring practices have forced resume writing to become a game of arbitrary keywords – especially with the increase of relentless Applicant Tracking Systems.
Whether you’re getting connected to a company via a friend, recruiter or applying online, the resume remains the first (traditional) step in being considered for a role. It can be a necessary evil, but also a great opportunity to showcase your genuine suitability. But you need to go about it the right way. Designers and product managers are typically pretty good at creating a solid resume as they deal with visuals and easy-to-understand concepts like markets, users and features. However, it can be trickier for developers and systems people to communicate what they do and have accomplished in easy-to-understand terms for the average tech recruiter.
Here are some practical resume tips to help you present your best self and land an interview in tech. Your resume is your chance to show off you, the product, and to be your own brand advocate. It should be mentioned that a cover letter is generally pretty useless for tech applications. You should embed all relevant information into your resume – who wants to read two docs when they can read one?
Quantify Your Accomplishments
Provide specific metrics of your work to really highlight all of your accomplishments – because numbers don’t lie and leveraging them to communicate the impact you’ve made will always trump the generic, “I have done X” statements.
Examples we LOVE:
- “Led the team in the introduction of 10 new microservices which, compared to the monolith, resulted in 35% performance improvement and service uptime of 99.998%.”
- “Part of a team that defined and implemented an automated deployment pipeline that increased production releases from 2x per week to 25x per day.”
- “Scaled the platform to support 5000 concurrent users from 250 concurrent users by introducing auto-scaling and re-architecting high-use features.”
- “Systematically evaluated Google Cloud Platform, Azure and AWS service offerings to support our machine learning needs and selected GCP based on Tensorflow’s ability to model our early stage ML requirements.”
- “As engineering leader, scaled the team from 5 developers to 25 developers while simultaneously increasing diversity, employee satisfaction, productivity and quality.”
- “Through a 50 customer interviews and user feedback collected from 1000 people, we introduced a new product that increased our user base by 20% and revenue by 75% in the first year.”
Demonstrate Your Expertise
Emphasize your specialized skills and interests, and connect them to the impact you have made at current and past companies or your own passion projects.
Expressing your opinions on technology and what you find exciting today (e.g. machine learning & AI, IoT, usability, etc.) not only shows you’re in the know about tech industry trends and changes and what tech skills are most in demand right now, but it also provides an employer with a glimpse into what excites you to ensure you’ll be a good fit. If Cloud is your jam at the moment, but the company isn’t deploying in the Cloud, it’s probably not a fit for you.
Examples we LOVE:
- “I’m passionate about AI and the positive impact it will have on people’s interactions with systems. I closely follow the work of Fei Fei Li, Geoffery Hinton and others and as you can see on my GitHub account, I have begun to experiment with Google APIs.”
- “While I’ve focused much of my career on building large scale Java applications, for the past 2 years I’ve been using a combination of Scala and Go as my tech of choice as they provide me the ability to rapidly prototype and eventually scale to production.”
Show You’ve Got The “Soft” Skills
Culture fit and communication is hugely important in tech, especially at startups where each team member has a proportionately bigger effect than in larger organizations.
Along with the specific attributes mentioned in the job description, make sure you have done a good job demonstrating how you’re a resourceful, collaborative, proactive and innovative problem solver that works well in a team environment. There really is no greater soft skill in tech other than generally not being an asshole.
Examples we LOVE:
- “I enjoy contributing to a team-focused environment where my resourcefulness and ability to learn quickly allows me to create pretty interesting solutions, as I did at Company ABC when we introduced automated deployment pipelines.”
- “I volunteered at a local high school to mentor students that are in their computer science club because I think it’s important to get involved in the development of new talent.”
Link To Any Passion Projects
Be sure to include links to your side projects or open source contributions that showcase your skills and creativity (e.g. GitHub, Dribbble).
This shows your passion and commitment continuous improvement of your craft that extends beyond just doing your job. It’s also a good opportunity to insert a bit of your personality. It’s true that side projects aren’t for everyone – if you have a busy day job and don’t have time most employers are cool with that – just be prepared to be able to demonstrate your work in some capacity.
Care About How It Looks
Put some thought into visuals, as appropriate.
The look will matter much more for a position as a UX designer than for a back-end dev. But for every resume, things like simple layout and tasteful use of colour can go a long way in bringing out your career journey to the reader. You can find some design inspiration even on Pinterest, so don’t feel like you need to create from scratch.
Examples we LOVE:
- Joe Coleman’s “hire me” website that really gives us a sense of his personality.
- Robby Leonardi’s interactive Super Mario-inspired resume that went viral in 2013.
Don’t Forget The Basics
Submit your resume as a PDF to ensure all the work you’ve done to care about how it looks remains.
If a recruiter tells you to send a Word version, proceed with caution as recruiters really shouldn’t be editing your resume. Keep it short too, typically 2 pages is all you need. And for the love of all things tech, make sure it’s spell-checked and proofread – believe it or not, this is a real issue. It’s also a good practice to include some kind of statement of what type of company, culture and role you’re after (at the beginning). If you’re super interested in a company, this is where you can also try to align your needs with what you think the company can provide.
Beyond The Document: Build Your Online Presence
Applying for a job isn’t just about submitting a resume then waiting.
Having an updated LinkedIn profile is a given; you can even incorporate LinkedIn recommendations into your actual resume. Create and promote your own blog, portfolio or website. Increase your exposure even more by engaging with company blogs and their social channels. If you don’t have a profile already, get on Twitter to show your interests, passions and opinions on the industry.
Proceed With Caution | Resume Blacklist
- Don’t assume the reader will know all the places you’ve worked. Include one sentence summaries of your previous organizations (e.g., Company ABC is a 200 person startup that provides a cloud-based accounting platform to over 1 million SMBs).
- Don’t stretch the truth. You (or your reference) will be asked to explain the details at some point.
- Don’t list every single skill, programming language and insignificant accomplishment. No one cares that you hacked an HTML file once when your designer was on vacation. Focus on the important stuff, not beating the ATS screening bot (sometimes disguised as a bad tech recruiter).
- Don’t use an email address that sounds unprofessional, is old school (e.g., no ISP email addresses), or as if was created in high school like firstname.lastname@example.org. Get a personal domain name and email or use Gmail. While none of this should matter, don’t let your email create a question mark out of the gate.
- Don’t include education that you haven’t completed, or if you haven’t make sure you call it out and explain the rationale. Don’t let a failed education check be the reason you don’t get a job.