The Art of Resume Building

The Art of Resume Building

When applying for any dream job, there are invariably three main things you need:

  1. Previous experience
  2. A resume
  3. Interview skills

While a resume is not something that alone guarantees any job, it’s definitely a big part of any recruiting process, and many people have spent countless hours trying to best present themselves on a piece of paper for that chance to interview.

Their effort is usually worth it. A good resume gets good results — it will increase your chance to interview in noticeable ways.

The first question — How Your resume is screened?

While many engineers can be rather qualified for the role they are applying for, they miss out on getting a shot at the interview as they might never get past resume screening. The main issue was that they do not understand how recruiters worked.

Before writing your resume, it is important to understand the recruiting structure and how recruiting is done.

The 10 seconds glance by Christina Ng

When I am looking at your resume, I am doing a keyword match against the skill set checklist. If I see a good amount of the right keywords in your resume, it is a pass. If I need to spend more than 10 seconds trying to figure out what you are writing about, it is a fail. If I see an excessive amount of keywords (much looking like spam), it signals a red flag and goes into the “maybe”. Depending on whether I think I have enough candidates for the day, you could eventually go into the pass or fail stack.

There are lots of articles writing about how recruiters only spend an average of about 10 seconds to screen each resume. The news is, this is true because resume screening is such a menial, robotic and repetitive task. In fact, many applicant tracking systems (ATS) now are so advanced that they can parse your resume automatically, search for specific keywords in your resume, and score your resume based on the weights pre-assigned to each keyword.

Finding a job is a two-way fit — the company wants someone with the relevant skills required, but it is also important for the applicant to fit in the company culture, and be able to gain something out of their stint. Hence, honesty is the single most important criteria in a resume.

There is a delicate balance between finding the right job vs. finding a job. Getting rejected does not always mean you are not good enough. Sometimes, it just means you are not a right fit for what the company is looking for.

When hiring fresh grads, I know that many of them will not have as much experience as someone who has years of industry experience. Hence, I would look out more for soft skills, such as attention to detail, initiative, passion, ability to get things done, etc. Note: this applies only if you have met the minimum threshold of proficiency/competency in the skill set checklist.

Points to remember while building a resume:

  1. One Page Resume: Recruiters do not read your resume; they do a 15–30 second “spot check” of your resume. When your resume is too long, it just takes your best stuff — the stuff that would have made the “one page cut” — and dilutes it with more mediocre content. Lengthy resumes do not make you more impressive, and there are many other reasons to keep your resume short too. A good rule of thumb is to keep your resume to one page if you have less than 10 years of experience or at most two pages if you have more than 10 years of experience. And if you think you can’t get your resume to just one page, trust me, you can! You just need to think about what is really important for a recruiter to see.
  2. No Objectives: All an objective does is state, in a wordy way, what position you’re interested in. The company already knows that because you applied for a particular position. At best, it’ll just waste space. At worst, it’ll limit you since it’ll exclude other positions that might have been interesting to you.
  3. Use a Resume Template with Columns: Unless you’re great with design, you probably shouldn’t be creating your own resume template. It’ll most likely look sloppy. Use a template, and make sure it has multiple columns. Using three columns, for example, will allow you to put the company name, position, and date all on one line. This makes it easier to read and saves space.
  4. Use Tables: If you’re using Microsoft Word to create your resume (which you probably should), use Microsoft Word’s “tables.” Just make sure to hide the borders afterwards.
  5. Short Bullets: Because resume screeners only spend 15–30 seconds on your resume, length bullets — anything that feels like a paragraph — just won’t get read. Keep your bullets to one to two lines (with one line being better than two).
  6. Accomplishment Oriented: Your bullets should focus on your accomplishments — that is, the impact you had — rather than your responsibilities. What did you build, create, design, optimize, lead, etc?
  7. Quantify: Whenever possible, you should quantify your accomplishments. If you optimized something, by how much? If you won an award, out of how many people?
  8. Resume: The general rule of thumb is to list your GPA if it’s at least 3.0 or higher, but there are two important rules to know here: (1) You may choose to list your in-major GPA if it’s higher than your overall GPA, but you need to specify that it’s your in-major GPA. (2) If your school uses a different scale (such as a 10-point scale), you may want to convert your GPA to a 4.0-scale which will be more widely understood.
  9. Projects: Most candidates should pick their top 3–5 projects to list on their resume. These can be academic required project or independent projects. They do not need to be completed or launched either. As long as you’ve done a “meaty” amount of work on them, that’s good enough!
  10. Additional Experience: You can put additional experience, like leadership activities or awards, in a section like this (changing the name of the section depending on what you list). Be careful here to focus on what really matters. If you’re applying for a coding role, your role as an eagle scout in high school is probably not very important!
  11. Languages and Technologies: It’s a good idea to list your languages and technologies, but remember that anything you list here is “fair game” for the interviewer to test. If you want to list a language but you happen to be a bit rusty in it, consider listing it as something like: “C++ (Proficient), C# (Prior Experience), …

Some additional points to improve your resume

1.GPA does matter

Everyone wants the cream of the crop. In the absence of a standardized test, GPA serves as that indicator. While GPA may not necessarily be a good indication of how well you can code, a high GPA would definitely put you in a more favorable position to the recruiter.

In a different scenario, some students have low GPA, but it might be due to some irrelevant classes which they did badly in. E.g. Student X is scoring A for all his programming classes, but did not do well for his language classes. If I am hiring a developer, Student X would still be a suitable candidate despite his low GPA. In such cases, it might even be recommended to attach a transcript along with the resume.

Also, when you list your GPA/results, try to benchmark it. Instead of simply listing 4.6, write 4.6/5.0 (First Class Honors or Summa Cum Laude). To the recruiter, 4.6 does not mean anything if he/she is not familiar with your grading system.

Reverse chronological order

Always list your resume in reverse chronological order — the most recent at the top. Recruiters are more interested in what you have worked on recently than what you worked on 3 years ago. Chances are, you probably forgot the details too anyway.

Make sure you are contactable

  • Get a proper email account with ideally your first name and last name, eg. “” instead of “”.
  • If you are using your school’s .edu email, try to have an alias like “” instead of “”.
  • Avoid emails like “” or “admin@[geeksmate].com” — because it is very prone to typo errors.
  • Make sure the number you have listed is the best way to reach you. The last thing you want is to miss the call from the recruiter because you typed the wrong number, or you are not available on that number during office hours (most probably the times the recruiter will call).

Layout/Formatting/Design

  • Be consistent about the way you format your resume. Italics, underline, bold, and how they are used.
  • Keep to a single standard font (avoid fancy fonts like Comic Sans or whatever) and do not have too many varying styles/font sizes/color
  • Be consistent about the way you list your dates (eg. May 2011 — Aug 2011). Avoid using numerals for both month and date due to the difference in style for MMDD and DDMM in different countries. Dates like “Aug 2011 — June 12” just show that you have zero attention to detail.
  • Unless you are applying for a design job, just stick to the standard “table” style for the resume. There is nothing wrong with the standard style, and it helps the recruiter screen your resume more efficiently since they are trained through experience to read that format. It would also help in the automatic scoring by the ATS. The last thing you want is for your application to be rejected because the system could not parse your resume for it to be scored. That said, I am not discouraging you from coming up with your own design. It is nice to read something different. Just be aware of the risks you could be taking.
  • Name your file firstname_lastname_resume.pdf instead of resume.pdf - it is easier for recruiters to search/forward.
  • PDF preferred over Word doc.
  • Be consistent about bullet points.
  • Your resume should not look sparse. (Come on, it is only 1 page!) If you really have trouble filling it up, you are either not thinking hard enough, or not doing enough. In the case of the latter, consider working on your personal projects (i.e. stuff you can post on GitHub). That said, do not write stuff just to fill space. Read point 4.
  • This should be common sense, but do not commit fraud, i.e. apply for the same job using a different name, or using your friend’s resume to apply for the same job. Some ATS issues an indicator if they suspect the application to be a duplicate.
  • It’s important to note the layout of your resume. If you choose to quickly upload your resume via an auto-fill program, understand that the program will read your resume from top to bottom, left to right. This is good to keep in mind when developing the layout of your resume.
  • Try to keep white space down to a minimum. This will also help reduce the length of your resume to one page. Reduce margins and paddings reasonably.

Listing your skills

It is useful to list your relevant skills in a quick summary section for easy reading/matching. However, many people make the mistake of listing as many skills/programming languages in the resume as possible. This may get you through the ATS scoring, but it definitely would not leave a good impression on the recruiter — the actual human reading your resume and deciding whether to call you up for an interview!

Ideally, if your resume is good enough, the recruiter should already know what you are proficient in. The skills section is just a quick summary/reiteration. Listing a bunch of technologies you claim you know without actually showing how you have worked with them is pointless.

Projects

  • Ideally, 1–2 lines about the project, 2–3 lines about your role, what technologies you used, what you did, your learning, etc etc. These can be Final Year Projects, Research projects, projects for a particular class, freelance projects, or just personal projects (ie. GitHub stuff).
  • Ideally, 2 to 3 projects that align with your interests/position you are applying for.
  • Avoid using titles such as “Project for [module code]”. Sorry, the recruiter has no idea what class is represented by the module code. Ideally, you want the project section to demonstrate your personality and skills, and be the talking point during the interview.

Online profile/other interests

Here’s the news — Recruiters do search for your name! Definitely pre-empt that by Googling/Facebook-ing/searching yourself on all forms of social media to see what turns up. Make sure your privacy settings are restricted so your online profile shows only the image you are trying to project.

If you have some space on your resume, it is good to list additional interests outside of coding. Eg. skiing, water sports, soccer, etc etc. Gives the interviewer something to talk to you about. It also shows that you are a well-rounded individual/cool person to hang out with.

References

#Happy_Coding 💻

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