What is a good resume?

There are a couple things to remember when you are writing your resume:

What are you trying to portray to the hiring manager?

Ok, that was only one. I started trying to write a list and realized that this is the most important thing that leads to all others.

Your hiring manager is likely looking at hundreds of resumes. What does this mean? You’ve got to stand out with your skills, your experience needs to speak for itself, and you should show the hiring manager EXACTLY what they want to see FIRST.

Below, we go through a resume format we suggest because we have seen it help to clean up and get the correct information across.  Additionally, here’s a completed resume.  It takes the approach of executive summary and then goes into more detail.  This is great for hiring managers because they get to see what you think is most important for them to see first.

Let’s go through this format and show what the important parts are.

Put your name at the top of your resume.

It is annoying as all hell to look for your name and phone number at the bottom of your resume. If a hiring manager prints out resumes and stacks them on their desk, they can’t remember who you are because they don’t see your name. Don’t start out your experience with a hiring manager by annoying them.

Write a proper summary for this job.

You want to show them what you’re good at and why without coming across as being cocky. For the sake of all that’s good, please don’t write in 3rd person “I am jack’s raging bile duct” is not the thought you want people to have when they read your resume. The assumption is that your resume is about you and written by you. I want to stop reading as soon as I read “Jack is a blah blah blah” it starts to read like an email I received from your references rather than, “I work well with others, love bacon, and run purely on mountain dew and red bull”.

Oh yeah, did you see the part of this section title that says “For this job?” — that’s super important. Don’t have your resume say, “Jack is a Java developer” when you’re trying to get a Rails job, it won’t work. If you’re trying to get a Rails job, have your resume show how you are a Rails developer who has some Java experience. You should always tell the truth and be what your resume says you are.

Do you have Relevant Experience to THIS job?

If so, you should talk about that. Not every company has the time or desire to train you. If they can Lego-fit you into your chair and let you run away with the tasks on their list, they are super happy and will love you. You already cost them money if you get the job, you don’t want to cost them time too – prove that you won’t.  Again don’t be cocky, just speak honestly to what you’ve actually accomplished in your career. Do this in one or two sentences for each piece of relevant experience.

Job history

This is already on your resume, poorly formatted. Copy, paste it, and be prepared to fix it.

“But, but, but that’s a lot of work!” uh, yeah… remember how you were applying for a JOB? Do it and quit whining. If you can’t do this, how will you be able to accomplish anything at the job you are looking for?

Name the company, name your job, and clearly show when you started and when you left. Then, give a paragraph about what you did there. Don’t repeat your relevant experience, this paragraph is to talk about your duties in that role. Work the technology key words you used into this description.


Did you pay way too much for school and spend a ton of time doing homework? Talk about it! Clearly explain the school, when you were there, and what your degree was. That’s it. If you earned honors talk about them in a normal sentence based list. Don’t give each one it’s own line.

Have you been published? Do you give talks? Are you on Github?

Then put this information on your resume!

By the way, startups are starting to look for people with active github accounts.  They give bonus points for people who give back to the open source community. It can only help your chances to create an account, fork some code, and make some improvements.

What is missing?

Skills list. You don’t need this if you were able to formulate proper sentences that explained what you did at your jobs and what technology you used.

All that crap – people add all kinds of crap to resumes that don’t give any extra information. That giant blue bar on every page takes up space and doesn’t look as good as you think.

Lies – Don’t lie on your resume. This makes you a jerk. Even if you get the job your lies will be discovered quickly. Just be honest about what you know and don’t know.

Last thing

Proofread. Proofread. Proofread. There are people in this world who will stop reading your resume, throw it to the side, and move on if you have spelling and grammar mistakes.  There’s not that much text on your resume. Hell, Word does most of this work for you. If you have to, read your resume out loud (seriously) and see where you stumble. Stop, fix it and move on.

Please send all grammar and spelling suggestions to [email protected] – this post is his doing and he is responsible for fixing errors as they are found, especially since he just tol you to proofread your own stuff. 🙂