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Tips for Writing a Great Resume

jcsmileyjr profile image JC Smiley Updated on ・6 min read

I attended an amazing “Resume Workshop” meetup with speakers Danny Thompson, James Quick, RJ Beers, and Steve Hallman. Each speaker reviewed 2-3 resumes that were pre-submitted. The professional insights they shared was invaluable and touched on every area of a successful resume. The following is a narrated version of my notes.

Summary

The summary section should be short and 1-2 lines. It should not be an autobiography or be generic like “I’m a hard worker”. The best summaries explain how you can solve the company’s problem based on the job description. You want to state what makes you special that is not in the rest of the resume or how you are different from other candidates. If you have numerous years of experience then list your strongest skills or range of skills that you can bring to the job.

Technical Skills

Display a technical skills section at the top of the resume so employers don’t have to search the resume to see if you have the required skills.

Work History

Each bullet point that represents a job should be short, concise, start with an action verb, and be a full sentence. It needs to include technical skills listed in the skills section. The intent is to show how and where your skills were used. The content of the message needs to be relevant to the job. The bullet point’s narrative should have a number somewhere to quantify your work. You want to show your impact and tangible results for the project, job, or whatever. Maximum of 3-4 bullet points per job.

Pro-tip: Anything you can quantify and show your impact needs to be the first bullet point. Don't bury the good stuff.

If you list a job with a number of years of service then show what you have accomplished. If you can’t think of tech related quantifiable achievements, it's still an opportunity to sell related skills like leadership, awards, etc. You don’t want to list 10 years at a job but one bullet point. That is not the narrative you want to sell.

The work history section needs to read as a cohesive storyline as much as possible. If that is not possible you can use show relevant tech experiences only or a functional resume format that focuses on your strongest skill sets. Both formats focus on clustering related work skills with a short list of work history at the end. If you have a long career that forces the resume to be multiple pages, it may be time to trim to the most relevant or recent job descriptions.

Be careful when listing technical skills within your bullet point for a specific job history but also having a separate dedicated space for all tech used in that job history area. Both listing are stating the same information and the double dipping is taking up valuable space.

Pro-tip: The site https://www.onetonline.org/find/ is a great way to search by job title/skill and get suggestions on how write about it.

Projects

Projects are important for aspiring developers who may lack work experience and allow them to show their skill set. The advice given is to not just say “I built an app”. Use a short explanation of what it does as a hook to get the reader to want to ask you more about it in an interview. If you have finished projects, list a link to the demo on the resume. Take time to make sure that demo looks decent.

Pro-tip: State what you did with the application or the impact it had. This is the time to brag!!!

Education

If your GPA is under 3.0, you might not want to show it. You can also leave off minor “everyone has one” certifications like Udemy certifications.

Final Advice

When designing your resume focus on being consistent. Check your spacing and contrasting fonts between elements on the page. Have titles for each section of your resume. Check your spelling, punctuation, and grammar. If you have bullet points, choose between full sentences or short blurbs without ending punctuations. Be consistent in presenting technical jargon. An example is spelling out “Backend” and then writing “Front-end”.

Pro-tip: Your resume and the skills you are presenting should have a common theme or narrative that apply to one job. Consider tweaking each resume for each job you apply to.

The final advice given by the panel is you don't need to include references or the phrase “reference upon request”. If it is needed then the interviewer will ask for it. Always show your GitHub repository but ensure its easy to navigate and have great README files.

Questions and Answer Section

The panel answered a few follow-up questions that I really appreciated. One question asked to give an example formula on writing a bullet point. My favorite answer was starting with an action verb, follow up with content relevant to the job you are applying for, and end with something to quantify your achievement with a key tech word.

A second question was if it's recommended to list side projects even if you have experience. My favorite answer was if it's a very impressive project, that is relevant to the skills related to the job, or ties in all the skills you want to highlight. Mainly, if you have experience then listing side projects isn't necessary.

A final question was if a person don't know the impact of their coding contributions in their current or past job. There were several advices that stood out. One was to start now curating your accomplishments and adding it to your resume. Celebrate all your wins so you are ready for the next job. Another was to list awards or anything that validate you at previous jobs.

Bonus: Practical Tips for Job Hunting by Steve Hallman

The most important tip is to practice, practice, practice. Get used to rejections and don’t take it personally. Set yourself an amount of time for job hunting for a set period (examples: 30 minutes a day,1 hour a day). Keep your work within that time frame so you don't burn out.

As you search for a job, save a screenshot of the job description (list the date and where you got it from). The idea is, later when contacted by the company, you will have a reference to the job.

Keep a log of your job search and track all responses. List location of company, source of application, notes, a person’s name to contact, if you applied, company name, recruiter involved, status, and if you have the job description saved. It's important to track everything you apply for so you can look for patterns. Use this knowledge to slowly tweak your job hunting style/formula until you develop a winning strategy.

Learn about different places to job hunt like indeed, LinkedIn, Monster, etc. Develop a strategy for searching for work. An example is checking LinkedIn on Monday, Indeed on Tuesday, and so on.

Don't spend your time being a human typist. Re-use information to be more efficient. A great example is to create a master resume that you can tweak for certain jobs. Use LinkedIn and similar job search sites “quick apply” tools to quickly apply to jobs.

Pro-tip: After you apply for a job with a company, take time to search that company for additional jobs you may be eligible for.

Double Bonus

You can watch the video of the event here:Resume Workshop

Triple Bonus

This blog post is now part of a free e-book called "Advice for Breaking into Tech". The book summarizes advice from 700 developers about learning how to code and looking for your first job in tech into an easy to read narrative.
Click for your free Download

The “Resume Workshop” tech meetup was hosted by Code Connector. It's a non-profit that's organized tech meetups to help people start their journey into tech. You can join our daily conversations by clicking this link: Code Connector slack channel.

Discussion

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aurelio profile image
Aurelio

Get used to rejections and don’t take it personally.

This.
Rejection is part of the process.
If you're not getting rejections you're aiming too low.

They should and will sting, but they should never kill you.
The most important thing is to always derive a learning from each and every rejection. You will want to learn from your mistakes, but also learn from other people mistakes... It's not always your fault, so be balanced and honest.

Know when it's your mistake and know when it's the interviewers' mistake.

And finally, accept that companies have to make a decision and sometimes have more than one good candidate for an opening. Maybe you went well and didn't get selected for a tiny reason that might be out of your control. Take it and move on, you will succeed eventually.

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JC Smiley Author

Love this. It took me so LONG to figure that out. It hurts, but you are right that rejection is part of the process. What don't kill you will make you stronger.

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aravindk profile image
Aravind Kothandaraman

Always show your GitHub repository but ensure its easy to navigate and have great README files.

Its time for me to update my repo README properly :) although i have my repo mentioned in my resume. Great points overall! (thumbs up)

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jcsmileyjr profile image
JC Smiley Author

Thank you

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Andrew Baisden

Excellent just what I needed and perfect timing as I am creating a new resume right now.

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JC Smiley Author

Glad it was right on time.

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William Cole Boren

Fantastic job, this one!