Engineering resumes are a misguided bag of keywords showing an unwillingness to edit and poor emphasis. Next!
It is not your fault–convention, hiring manager expectations and the ability to apply, search, and post everywhere and anywhere encourages noise rather than introductions. Many large companies have old systems that enforce typing out your employment history. Poorly written job descriptions spell out X years of experience using Y tool to qualify. We already have a better way we use all the time: the common introduction.
Imagine introducing a friend to your close circle by reading his or her resume. You start by sharing a lengthy list of facts about him/her in reverse-chronological order. It would be crazy to do that in person, and it is just as insane on paper/pdf/document, via email or web form, to someone you do not know at all.
Accept that you do not need a resume at all, and certainly do not use it to start an introduction.
To really stand out, write a short, actionable cover letter for that exact role and company.
Meet My Friend
When you introduce someone to your group of friends, you quickly cover:
- His/her name
- How you know him/her
- Context of who is in the group (and maybe some names, if the group is small)
- Something that connects them to get the conversation started
Everyone, this is Sally. I’ve known her since sophomore year and she’s an awesome skier. Sally, I know these guys through the area hiking club – Bob, Hassin, Yasmin …
See how that worked? You quickly introduce common interests, goals and experiences.
A warm introduction is preferable to the cold introductory email, but not always possible.
- Know an advocate inside who will bypass the most painful steps and steer the process
- Have a notable tl;dr trajectory / expertise
- Have distinguished accomplishments relative to your peers
- Earn your reputation internally
When you apply to a company, the approach is the same, with your letter playing your friend’s role.
- Who you are
- How you fit into the organization, acknowledging the group/role
- 1-2 brief, tangible anecdotes enticing them to continue the conversation
Reshaping Your “Resume”
Your resume is certainly too long. Even a few decades of experience can be readily cut to the most critical, relevant, and noteworthy points.
By far the most common issue among thousands of resumes is lack of editing for content. Hiring managers know you are trying to get noticed, cramming possible keywords so your resume turns up in searches and passes filters.
Including Weak Points
- Including non-highlights and accomplishments everyone in that role can claim
- Weak verbs, such as helped, worked on, and facilitated
- Failing to quantify accomplishments, or quantifying using a non-critical metric
- MBA buzzwords–especially drove (unless you worked on autonomous vehicles)
Cut weak points completely, unless it is all you have. There is no need to list CS 101 and other core classes and projects. Reference a specific project, including only the most notable, tangible result.
The other temptation to fill out a resume may be to inflate experience or use flowery language to make it sound more impressive. Which leads to my best interview question
- Including pages of low-interest or relevance bullet points suggests an inability to edit.
- Emphasizing search key words in bold to make theme visible amidst the clutter.
Remove your least relevant experience (specific points and entire positions). Repeat. Repeat again. If you still feel the need to bold keywords and phases, keep only the emphasized items, remove the bold and start fresh.
Summaries of the Summary
- A skills, summary or empty objective at the top is the most common keyword cramming section.
- An obvious objective such as “get a job at your company”
Remove the rest of your resume, and add one tangible highlight to each summary bullet. If you do not have a highlight, remove that bullet. Demonstrate your objective by removing points not relevant to that position.
- Rating and summarizing skills via stars or worse, as a pie chart1
- Icons, emoji and other embellishments
Self-applied qualitative ratings show relative ignorance. Demonstrate depth, breadth and velocity of your skills through tangible highlights.
- Broken links to projects, websites or an otherwise emtpy GitHub
- Failure to include projects when you actually have them
Use GitHub pages or a personal site to organize your supporting evidence, giving you one place to keep links, screenshots and example code up to date.
Write a proper introduction and you will stand out from the other applicats still using a tired list of boring facts to say hello
1 Real life example, suggesting learning new skills diminished his/her other skills