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petdance (2468)

AOL IM: petdance (Add Buddy, Send Message)
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I'm Andy Lester, and I like to test stuff. I also write for the Perl Journal, and do tech edits on books. Sometimes I write code, too.

Journal of petdance (2468)

Tuesday October 15, 2002
04:14 PM

Eliminate gaffes on your resume

[ #8395 ]
I'm in the final stages of hiring a programmer, and the variety of resumes in the mere 100 or so that I've seen is amazing. Here are some tips that may help you out next time you're looking for a job (assuming that you're getting your resume directly to me, the hiring manager).

First, and most important: Tell me what you can do for me. Start your resume and cover letter with a summary of what you can do for me. Imagine me reading your resume: It's Monday morning, I have 50 file attachments in my inbox, plus I have Real Work to do. I'm not going to read your resume word for word. My own resume, while tailored for the book publishers for whom I freelance, is a good example. In the top 5 lines, you know what I am.

Here's what I want to know right away:

  • How many years you've been programming
  • What you're most interested/proficient in
  • Skills that make me say "Oh, that would be cool to have in the department."

Here's what I don't want to see right away: Irrelevant skills or experience that hides your talents. I'm not looking for a FORTRAN programmer, so that FORTRAN, while potentially interesting, is not the first thing I want to see. So many people drown the "signal" of their strengths in a sea of visual "noise". Again, my resume lists those extra things, but the key things (Perl, Unix, etc) are bolded to stand out.

Once you get past that, you're halfway there. Now, just don't commit these sins:

  • Put your name on everything.
    Just because it's in your resume, don't neglect to put it in your cover letter and everything else you send me.
  • Don't tell me about your money problems.
    Never discuss money in a resume or cover letter, unless it's specifically requested. On a higher level, your money concerns are yours, not mine.
  • Use the right terminology.
    When I see "Perl/Cgi" or "PERL", I know the writer either
    A) doesn't really use Perl that much,
    B) doesn't pay attention to the printed word
  • Back up your claims
    Don't just put "Perl" in your "Languages I know" section, and then fail to include either on-the-job explanation below. If you haven't used Perl on the job, then explain how you do know it. I don't have any problem with "Wrote Foo::Bar and Mail::Glonko modules available on the CPAN." What I don't want to see is only one occurrence of the string "Perl".
  • Have a decent website
    If you have a website as a web programming professional, I expect something a little bit better than something on geocities. I'm no Jakob Nielsen, but at least it's my own domain.
  • No typos. None.
    Maybe in the cover email, but certainly not in an attached doc.
  • Always include dates in your employment history.
    I won't be fooled that they're missing, and I'll wonder what you're hiding.
  • Learn about what I need.
    Try to know something about what my company does. I take my job and my company seriously, and I'd like you to, too.

And, as always, I wholeheartedly recommend Nick Corcodilos' excellent book Ask The Headhunter

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  • Always include dates in your employment history. I won't be fooled that they're missing, and I'll wonder what you're hiding.

    I'm curious why you prefer to have dates on the CV.

    • I'm curious why you prefer to have dates on the CV.

      Two reasons:

      • So I can see how long you've been doing what you're doing at the job.
      • So I have some idea how long you stay at your jobs.
      Neither of those are criteria for hiring (for me), but they will lead into questions if there's an interview. "I see you were at WidgetCo for only 4 months before you left for SpamInc. Why is that?" etc