For many people I know, this might be the first time in many years that you are looking for a new job. You may have a resume; hopefully it is up-to-date. But it might be a while since you’ve worked on your resume. If Google was your first job, you might never have written a resume before. I’ve reviewed literally over a thousand resumes in the context of evaluating people for jobs, and I can assure you that a resume does make a difference.
Resumes are important because they are how you introduce yourself to potential employers. A good resume communicates who you are, what you’re looking to do, what you’ve worked on, and what skills you have. Resumes should be succinct, straightforward, and easy to read.
As you write your resume, think about your career as a story: why did you go from one job to another? What did you accomplish in earlier projects that gave you the skills to be successful in your following projects? What do you want to do in the future? Not just in your next role, but in the position after that?
Think about the people who will read your resume: recruiters or people from Human Resources, interviewers, and hiring managers. Each of these groups look at your resume differently. Recruiters and resume screeners may be more keyword and phrase-driven than other groups; recruiters do not necessarily have in-depth technical knowledge. Interviewers are looking through your resume to understand what questions they should ask of you. They’re looking for points of discussion to help them make a recommendation. Finally, your resume helps sell you to hiring managers. They want more than just keywords or phrases: they want to understand your accomplishments.
Consider changing your resume based on the position you want. For example, if you were a Tech Lead/Manager (TL/M) at Google and are applying for a manager position, you might want to focus on your management accomplishments in your resume. On the other hand, if you are applying for an individual contributor (IC) position in software engineering, you might want to focus on your technical accomplishments and skills. Look at the qualifications in a job posting to get an idea of what the company is looking for in an ideal candidate.
Customize your resume to the type of company. For example, if you worked in ad technology over the past ten years, but you are currently applying for roles in a financial services industry (FSI), think about how your work is relevant to a FSI company. At the very least, check your resume for jargon: for example, do not assume that an interviewer in FSI knows the phrase CPC.
Jargon is especially a problem for former Google engineers: if your entire career at Google was working with internal technology platforms, you need to be able to describe what you accomplished without using Google technology or acronyms. If you must discuss Google-specific infrastructure, consider linking to technical papers or longer talks about the technology or providing a link to an equivalent Cloud technology. For example, if you want to talk about the Global Software Load Balancer (GSLB) you can link to a chapter in the SRE Workbook. Or you could include a phrase like, “GSLB is an internal version of Cloud Load Balancing.”
Describe what you want to do. An objective at the start of the resume that is no longer than three sentences can both introduce you and make it clear what you are looking to accomplish. This is especially true if you are an experienced industry hire or if you are applying to a company that is not primarily a technology company.
Some people feel an objective is unnecessary. If you omit an objective, make sure that the rest of your resume makes it clear what you work on, and that the job you’re applying for fits your experience. For example, you may not need an objective if you have been an IC software engineer who primarily writes code throughout your career and are applying for another IC software engineering position.
Omit what you don’t want to work on and minimize work that you don’t want to do anymore. For example, if you know you hate the X programming language and never want to work with the X programming language despite being a whiz at the X programming language, you should probably not state “Expert in the X programming language.”
Your resume is not meant to be a comprehensive list of everything you’ve done in your career. It’s not a CV. Had a six-month project or job that you hated or failed at? You don’t need to list it on your resume. On your employment application, you should be honest about your employment history. But your resume is an introduction to who you are. It’s not a biography.
Keep your resume concise. Recruiters and hiring managers receive a huge number of resumes each day. Resume screeners will quickly scan the resume for keywords, but most people will focus on the top half of the first page. The length limit of your resume should be one page for every ten years of work. And that’s not if you use a super-small typeface either. If you have three or four pages but have only worked professionally for five years, cut cut cut cut cut. Trust me, it’s okay.
The advice to edit your resume applies to experienced folks, too. You might be super-proud of that project you worked on 20-years ago. But is it relevant now? Is the technology that you used then what you would use today? If you don’t think a project would be of interest to employers today, don’t include it on your resume.
You may want to consider having multiple formats of your resume, especially if it is heavily designed. For example, if an application asked for a text version of the resume, do not upload a PDF.
Make it easy for people reviewing your resume to consider you fairly; in the US don’t include information that is related to protected classes unless it is related to the job. For example, do not include your religion, children, or marital status on your resume. Do not attach a photo. You don’t even need to include your employment status on your resume: you can discuss that with a recruiter in an initial call. Including personal information like your marital status or a photo is not a hard-and-fast rule, and expectations are different outside of the United States! (In the US, you may be asked for some of this information voluntarily as part of the hiring process.)
Do read about other advice on the Internet about writing a resume. Most of that information is correct! Use first person sentences, but omit the word, “I.” Use the active voice and action words where possible. Summarize the important points about your projects, including what you accomplished and the overall impact of the project.
Get feedback from colleagues, friends, and family members on your resume. Don’t just ask them what they think of your resume, ask them specific questions like: * Would you bring me in for an interview and why? * What do you think I’m looking for after reading my resume? * What are two things you remember from my resume? * If you had to remove one thing from your resume, what would it be and why?
There are many people in the industry who will help you with resume reviews. Check your extended network on LinkedIn and other sites. And who knows: that might lead to a potential job.
Make sure your resume is readable. If you are a talented designer or front-end developer, it’s okay to go a bit wild with your design. If you’re going to be non-traditional, though, it’s especially important to get feedback on your design from reviewers. Don’t just rely on what people tell you: check their body language. If they scrunch their face as they read your resume, reconsider the design.
Last but not least, prrofread your resume. Tpyos are extremely distracting at best; at worst, an interviewer or hiring manager will consider these huge red flags. Check links on your page: make sure they work and represent your work. Check your phone number and email address on your resume. Have someone call you to make sure the number works and that the voicemail greeting is personalized; check your email and spam folder when looking for jobs. Make sure your address is up-to-date (or elide it entirely; you might want to only include your city and state). You will not get calls from companies if your resume is riddled with typos and bad information.
Many of these suggestions can also work for profiles on sites like LinkedIn as well. You should think about what you’re trying to accomplish via your LinkedIn profile. It is worth noting that many people involved with hiring will simply jump to your LinkedIn profile rather than reading your resume. Do make sure that your resume and LinkedIn profile contain the same overall information.
Overall, remember that you aren’t writing a resume for your consumption: you are writing a resume to convince people to hire you. Think about their motivations, and what they want to accomplish by reading your resume. What do you like to see in a resume? What would make you bring someone in for a discussion? If you start with that mindset, you’ll find people much more open to talking with you.
General structure of a resume
- Contact information (email and phone)
- Web sites with relevant information if you have them (e.g. github, portfolios)
- Objective (no more than three sentences)
- Experience (Open Source experience counts as experience!)
- Newest experience first
- Education (Move before Experience if you have less than three years experience)
- Be prepared to submit a transcript if you graduated in the past five years
- Optional: hobbies, etc. (Keep this extremely brief)
- If relevant, list board membership under experience
- “References available upon request”
Advice for writing in general
Make a doc of your accomplishments and categorize what role they apply to most, and label the skill they show. Then use these “modules” to write up basic resumes for your two or three pathways. You do this upfront before you get tired of applications, and with a cup of fancy coffee. Then when you find a role, you pull the corresponding role resume, and sprinkle in the skills lines as needed to flesh it out and answer what they’re asking to see.