The Fine Art of Ruining Your IT Résumé

October 13, 2007

(NOTE: This is focused on IT résumés because that’s what I do, but it could and should be applied to any résumé)

In our line of work, the statistics say we change jobs. Boy, do we ever. It’s been awhile for me but I think the following holds true: changing jobs = applying for a position you want = submitting your résumé to your prospective employer.

I’ve read many résumés in my admittedly short professional career; for more than 3 years, I was a member of a 4-person team that interviewed every candidate applying for either developer or project manager at my company. This team consisted of the director of IT, the development manager, our senior software engineer, and me. In fact, for some time we didn’t have a development manager, so we were only a team of 3. (As a side note, I hope each of you have or have had the chance to interview your future boss at some point in your career ::grin::).

Some of us know how to write a résumé and some of us don’t, but I don’t want to focus on the whole thing. I want to focus on the Work Experience section of your résumé, AKA Here Are The Tasks I Had In Each Job I’ve Worked Worded As Boringly As Possible Hope You Don’t Fall Asleep Reading It Whoops You Did Now You’re Snoring Sweet Dreams.

Let’s start with a hypothetical developer who we’ll call Randall. We’ll make Randall very similar to me in some ways and not so much in others. (And I should note that he’s dissimilar to me in one crucial aspect: I’m not looking for a job at the moment!)

There are a few things you should know about Randall:

  1. He’s a developer at a retail company that has consistently grown in recent years
  2. He has 3+ years of experience
  3. The development team of which he’s a member doesn’t have specialists, i.e. any developer may be assigned any sort of project. Consequently, he’s completed projects from small stored procedures in the database to large Win32 apps designed to manage the company’s product line and inventory.
  4. Like most of us with some experience under our belts, Randall has a couple of projects that he’s particularly proud of. They were a first for the company or they related to a neat domain (cryptography, for example) or they were programmed using a cool design pattern, etc.

Randall has recently decided to apply to several different companies to test the waters. He knows that there’s been a shortage in the IT industry in the last few years and, while he’s satisfied in his current role, he’s developed a curiosity for what else might be out there.

So now Randall is writing the Work Experience section of his résumé. I’ll give you a couple of examples and you see which you think is best.

  1. Application Developer (July 2004 – Present)
    GoggleSoftBM
    Responsible for maintenance and new development. Other duties include database programming as required.
  2. Application Developer (July 2004 – Present)
    GoggleSoftBM
    Creation of diverse suite of software in use throughout the company. A project sampling:

    Researched, developed, and deployed company’s first encryption modules for protecting sensitive customer data which is now widely-used across development projects.

    Developed application for end-to-end product management of 23,000+ products, from new product creation to ordering, inventory management, and promotion.

    Key member of a team that created paper-less payroll system to replace legacy paper-based system. This software enabled efficient tracking of cost centers across the company, which has facilitated the company’s continued growth.

So what do you think?

Well, here’s what I want answered in a résumé: who are you and why do I care? Work experience should help tell me that and do it in a way that doesn’t read like furniture instructions.

Tell me a story about yourself.

Tell me what you’ve done.

Tell me why it matters. And if it doesn’t matter, why in the hell are you telling me?

Ask yourself two questions when drafting your work history:

  1. What was the scope? Writing an employee management system for 4 people doesn’t mean nearly as much to me as writing one for 4,000.
  2. What was the outcome? We’re all developers here. Just writing software doesn’t mean much. Writing software that makes a demonstrable difference, though – now that’s worth something.

Oh, and extra points to anyone who doesn’t call it Work Experience or Work History on his or her résumé. Don’t get me started. . .

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2 Responses to “The Fine Art of Ruining Your IT Résumé”

  1. Ellis Benus Says:

    Hey boy!

    I have not posted since November!

    We need to whip our blogs back into shape.

    I’ve got a number of articles I want to write but have not done.
    What would you say to us making sure the other one writes at least one thing per week. We should be able to handle that, don’t you think?

  2. Dozer Says:

    Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Dozer.


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