Good Resume, Bad Resume

May 19, 2008

Sometime back we were interviewing for the position of a junior developer in my group, at my place of work. One of those days the HR called as soon I reached office and said a candidate was waiting in the lobby and would like to leave before lunch. As I gathered pen, paper, marker , I quickly browsed through the resume in the email. The objective caught my eye. It read something like this-

“To secure a challenging position in the field of software development where I can effectively contribute the best of my abilities, and proficiency in the growth of the organization with the same of myself, to furnish new heights.”

The candidate did not make the cut for various other reasons, but that particular resume got me thinking.

Why do so many resumes look like they’ve been scribbled (okay, what is e-word for that?) in a hurry? Why do people invest so little on making themselves presentable on paper? People get extremely creative while listing ‘Other Interests’ or ‘Hobbies’, but forget to mention the name of their college 🙂 Spelling mistakes, bad English, bad formatting, over decoration, atrocious font selection, lengthy project description with absolutely no details about their own contribution – majority of the resumes have these problems.

So, what makes a good resume? What do interviewers look for when they short-list candidates based on resumes? How should one go about creating that favourable first-impression with the aid of resume? What are the “dos and don’ts” while writing a resume?

Heres are a couple of things that I care about and look at when I’m looking at a resume-

  • I care for correct spellings, correct language, good formatting and the document format. I think they speak a lot about an individual. Of course they are not above the content of the resume, and you can probably ignore them if you are a genius, a geek or a guru in your area. But, I doubt any real geniuses, geeks or gurus would really ignore them.
  • I personally prefer resumes in dot text or HTML, even PDF is acceptable. But, the world being what it is and where it is, a well written resume in MS Word format is okay too provided the individual does not consider the resume as a place where she needs to showcase all her Word skills!
  • I care for the ‘objective’, _if and only if_ the person knows what she is talking about. A crisp, clear, unambiguously stated objective can go a long way in creating a favourable impression. But, vague and paragraph-long objective written in flowery language only serves as distraction. If you are not sure what to write, jut skip it. No point in copying a seemingly impressive objective that your friend herself picked up from elsewhere.

And objectives have to be line with the position you are applying for. It is heart-warming to see a junior developer trying to align his interests with the goals of the organisation, but it just doesn’t ‘cut’ in a resume. I would rather prefer more direct, but honest objectives where you may simply desire to use your skills and strengths and learn new skills, technologies, work on new platforms etc.

  • Summary of work experience/skills is what I look at next. That gives a good starting point while conducting an interview. But, a summary should really be a summary. The space should not be used to list all the cool sounding acronyms used in the industry, or to list ALL the tools you’ve ever used in your life time. Write what you really know, and only that which you know really well.
  • A listing of _relevant_ degrees, diplomas and courses undertaken, year of passing and the college attended also help if the candidate is a fresher in the field. Sometimes people wonder if the school one attended should also be listed. Well, I don’t have any opinion on it. It makes sense for a fresher to list it, but after a couple of years of experience it can probably be dropped. Personally I would just leave it there, no harm.
  • Finally the details of the work-experience or the projects executed. It helps and makes more sense if it is listed in reverse-chronological order. I mainly look for a short description of the project or the scope of the project, but I’m not really interested in the project itself. My main interest lies in knowing the individual’s role in the project and her contribution to the project. So, naturally I look for a detailed description of the roles played, responsibilities handled and the individual contributions made to the project. But, contrary to my expectations, I mostly find resumes where the projects are described in great details, but the contributions or responsibilities find very little space or sometimes they are completely skipped! I just don’t get the logic. And if you try to get the details during the interview itself, people again start explaining the project. I don’t understand how hard can it be to put what you yourself did on paper!

Thats it. Thats what I look for in resumes. What about you?


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