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Cover image for Resume Pro Tip: The absolute best way to show your work experience

Resume Pro Tip: The absolute best way to show your work experience

caroso1222 profile image Carlos Roso ・4 min read

Say you're a recruiter and you're reading the "Work experience" section of a candidate's resume.

Which of the following bullets sounds like a more impressive statement for you?

  1. Spent dozens of hours writing blog posts about Go and Kubernetes.
  2. Reached +20k visits (aggregate reading time +100 hours) in technical posts on Go and Kubernetes.

What about this one?

  1. Created presentations based on data for company stakeholders.
  2. Helped stakeholders take decisions worth +50k USD by analyzing big data (+2000GB) and building reports in PowerBI.

I personally find alternative #2 to be more engaging and interesting. As a recruiter, I will easily remember the girl with experience mangling +2TB of data or the dude with a ton of views on his blog. But, why does it work?

Note: if you still think there's no difference, that's fine. This is just an opinionated approach that has worked for me (see the section below).


I sent this post weeks ago to +400 devs on my maillist. Join here if you want to get my tips and thoughts on career growth.


Stick to these 2 rules

Having a strong resume helped me land interviews at Amazon, Toptal, Crossover, and many more top remote work platforms. I credit most of my CV success to the way I showcase my work experience. Let's see how it works.

The trick here is to follow 2 simple rules:

  1. Use the format "Accomplished X by implementing Y".
  2. Show numbers.

Note: Credits goes to Gayle L. McDowell as I took inspiration from her book Cracking the Coding Interview.

1. Show your accomplishments

If you find it hard to remember two rules, then stick to this one: don't tell me what you did, tell me what you accomplished.

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Writing Angular apps, PHP backends or wiring Firebase APIs are very common things in our industry. Every dev goes through that eventually. It's not what you did but rather what you achieved, what really sets you apart from the crowd.

2. Show numbers

If a bullet in your work experience was a title for a blog post, would you read it? When you think about it that way, you realize how important numbers are. The use of numbers has proven to be highly effective when engaging with your audience; your audience just happens to be your recruiter.

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If you don't have numbers to show on your resume you're not thinking deep enough. Remember that time when you integrated OAuth in your app? Can you recall any conversion increase? Use that number here. Did you create an architecture guide to create React apps in your company? how many discussions do you think that document helped reduce? I'd say more than 3x. Use that metric in this section.

If you definitely don't have any metric, then start measuring today! Coding is just a means to an end, and that end can surely be measured.


Examples

I partnered with my friend and Google Dev Expert, Juan, to review resumes from the community. After reviewing several of these and giving a lot of advice, I gathered a handful of examples that you can use as a guideline to improve your CV today.

Keep in mind these are real-life examples of real-life devs.

Frontend Dev

  • Helped +20 customers evaluate ideas in record time by building fast UI prototypes in Angular. This resulted in a time-to-market reduction of 400%.
  • Improved loading time in 5x by using advanced web performance techniques for Angular (tree shaking, lazy loading, custom Webpack configuration).

Backend Dev

  • Reduced deploy time 70% by implementing a CI/CD Jenkins pipeline which helped product managers validate features 2x faster.
  • Helped customers run through data 2x faster by implementing paginated API responses in RoR and JavaScript.

Data Science, Tech lead, Dev advocate

Read more examples in the original blog post on my site.


I hope you got some inspiration and learned something new. Remember, when it comes to showing off work experience, it's not so much about what you did, but about what you accomplished.

If you liked this, you might want to get more advice on what not to do in your resume. You can also ping me anytime on Twitter, I can take a look at your resume and give feedback (if I'm not super busy at the time).

Let me know in the comments, what other strategies do you use to show your work experience? what has or hasn't worked so far?


Acing that tech interview

I've used this technique to land interviews (and job offers) at Amazon, Toptal and a few more top remote work platforms. I wrote a FREE guide with a lot of tips and tricks to ace remote tech interviews. If you're curious, you can sign up here and get it in my next email.

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Posted on by:

caroso1222 profile

Carlos Roso

@caroso1222

Software Engineer. Digital Nomad at Toptal. Open sorcerer. Thoughts on career growth, remote work, and web dev.

Discussion

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This felt like the most important line in the whole write-up, which may be while you made it bold? :)

"don't tell me what you did, tell me what you accomplished."

If you ask yourself this question every time before you add something to your CV or Resume I think you'd be doing yourself a favor. Framing your content in this way makes it much more appealing to read. You're right on too, numbers DO make it more interesting and readable.

Thanks for sharing Carlos!

 

I wonder if this would be as effective if everyone was doing it? Still a bit better perhaps, but not as much I'd guess. Hundreds of resumes with 'my code made projects 3x faster/cheaper' will all look largely the same. Side note - where this really helps the world is if you ask in project meetings 'how will we measure the effectiveness of this code/plan?'

 

The problem is not all resumes looking the same. I'd recommend just making sure yours looks truly awesome. Don't care about the rest, you can't control that. You can be great without necessarily requiring others to be bad.

 

Yeah exactly! To be honest, it hit home to me when I first read it. I've used that technique a lot in my career, has worked wonders.

 

Love the concrete examples that you give! #2 is definitely more engaging to me. I think that most people are going to understand that they are all just your best guess and we can rarely get exact numbers. Don't lie, but if you can think outside of the box there are probably ways to come up with something.

 

Exactly! Don't let the impostor syndrome make you think you did mundane things, you can also remember or retrieve metrics to showcase your surely awesome work.

 

These example are really good. Thanks @caroso1222

 

Glad you liked them mate!