If you look on social media (or, worse, the people who are trying to sell books on resume writing or resume writing services), you’ll see a lot of conflicting statements about what your resume should be like, how long it should be, words to avoid, and various other topics.
Let’s make it simple. I’ll give you the advice that I’ve given a lot of people in the past – the vast majority of those posts can be ignored if you keep one thing in mind – your resume is a marketing document. No more, no less, and what you’re marketing is yourself.
Your resume has one real purpose – to get you an interview with someone who has the ability to hire you. After that, its main use is to give you things to talk about in the interview. The person looking at your resume should say “Wow. That sounds great! Tell me more about that!”
That’s it. Seriously.
With that in mind, I do have some advice for how to approach writing it because I prefer to give people actionable things instead of just waving my hands and walking away.
Use Business Results
Put things that you’ve done in terms of impact to the business. It’s really great that you used AwesomeTech at Company Y, but what did you accomplish with it?
Did you release a product that lead to income or savings to the business? That should be in your resume. If you have an approximate amount that you made/saved (either dollar amount or percentage), even better.
Did you improve performance of existing processes? Did you do something that improved the security posture of the organization? Maybe you did something that allowed them to release software faster, leading to being able to provide business value in a shorter time span? All of these sorts of things should be in your resume. If you can put numbers on them, even better.
Hiring managers will look at the things you’ve done for other people and will see themselves being on the receiving end of these results, so put things in a way that lets them easily do just that.
Show Leadership Where Possible
If you mentored other team members, were involved in hiring new people for you team, or any number of other things that can fall under the umbrella of leadership, put those things on your resume.
It shows that you did more than just sit there with your head down, cranking out features.
In fact, even if you didn’t lead people, but you guided the design and architecture of the systems, that’s a form of leadership too (and a valuable business skill). Put that on your resume.
Only Put What You Want To Do
Have a technology that you hated working with and never want to touch again? Leave it out of your list of skills. The list of things that you can do doesn’t have to be exhaustive. You’re allowed to leave things out that you don’t want to do anymore.
Have a skill that you haven’t used in a paid job, but are able to do and want to do? Go ahead and put it on your skills list. If you have code you can point to and say “I did that,” you’ll be fine. Any hiring manager that gives you grief for it is showing red flags.
Now, that said, don’t lie on your resume. First off, you’re almost certainly awesome enough to not need to. Second, you’ll probably get caught in the interview when they start asking you about it, so it’s counterproductive anyway. Third, honestly, I’ve always found that it’s just plain easier to remember the truth.
Full Time vs Contract Positions
You hear a lot of online “experts” beat the drum that you better make a distinction between full time and contract positions. I disagree.
Speaking as someone who has done interviewing and hiring, I don’t really care what the employment agreement was as long as you actually did the work. Most hiring managers that I know are of the same basic opinion.
The only time I might advocate you to bother putting that a job was a contract is if it was a fairly short engagement (say under a year) or you had a few of them in row in order to pay the bills so it doesn’t look like you were just jumping ship every 6 months.
The reason I suggest that is because some managers will complain if you have “too many” short entries (for whatever their definition of that word is). Stating explicitly that those were contracts can make skittish managers more comfortable.
To take it a step further, I honestly don’t care what placement company you did the work through either. If you were working on-site (or remote as the case may be) with a single client the entire time, just put that you worked for the client during that time period because you did.
It doesn’t really matter who cuts the checks unless you have to fill out background check paperwork at some point. If they start questioning you about it, tell the truth – that you were doing work for Company X as a contractor with Company Y. Most people really aren’t going to care.
If you’re working for an actual consulting company (as opposed to a placement/staff aug firm that just plops you in a seat somewhere else), then you should say that you were working for the consulting company.
If I hear one more person claim that “resumes should only be one page. With a max of two pages,” I am going to scream. Your resume should be as long as it needs to be to convey to a company why they want to hire you.
I used to adhere to the 1-2 page “rule” and got far less interest from companies than I did after I expanded my resume. I believe it’s currently about 4 pages all told.
Make sure the first page outlines what you can/have done from a skills perspective. Don’t make people go hunting for it. You often don’t get much time from a hiring manager, so make it count. Page one should jump out at them – your skills, your major business impact items, your leadership, etc.
If you want a more concrete example of what I’m talking about, you can look at my resume here.
Toss the stodgy “resume rules” out of the window. The world has changed significantly since what they’ve been telling you was anything close to being true. Go out there, be confident, be amazing, market yourself, and get the next job that you really want.