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Looking for Feedback on my Resume

rpalo profile image Ryan Palo Updated on ・3 min read

Hi! My name is Ryan. I'm currently employed but actively looking to move into software. I have been rejected for quite a few positions so far, which feels bad, but I'm not giving up. If you're someone who hires people or has input into a hiring process, would you mind taking a look at my resume below and giving some feedback?

  • What do you like?
  • What makes you not like me?
  • What questions does it give you, that it could explain more and be more clear about?
  • What could I add/change that would help get me in the door to interview? I feel like I interview extremely well, and I end up befriending most people I talk to face to face. I just can't seem to get very many people to talk to me.

Some notes:

  • I update my resume for every job I apply to in order to match the posting a little bit and show the hiring manager my best qualities. This copy is based on a job for a Customer Success Engineer, but it's about 85% similar to most other versions.
  • I don't have any professional software engineering experience yet, but I've been programming for over 10 years, and am very experienced in many of the "engineering" skills--albeit in a more mechanical application--like design ideation, review, teamwork, professional communication, documentation, working to solve problems and build something, project management, etc. I'd like to showcase that, since I think those skills are often more important than whether or not I know a specific framework or something.
  • I am applying for Mechanical Engineering jobs as well, so I leave the CAD/design skills and certifications on there as well.

There are a few revisions. Click here to go to the most recent one.

Revision 1

Here it is in screenshot form. Here's a link to it in Google Doc form if you prefer to see it in one piece.

My Resume, part 1.

My Resume, part 2.

My Resume, part 3.

My Resume, part 4.

Update: Rev 2

Based on feedback, I updated it to look like below. Is this any better? Worse? Link to actual document.

My resume, rev 2, part 1.

My resume, rev 2, part 2.

My resume, rev 2, part 3.

Update: Rev 3

OK, based on even more feedback, I got the machete out and really went to work on it. I cut out a lot of the prose and got it down to one page. I focused pretty heavily on my strengths and got rid of the stuff that maybe made it seem like I was trying to overcompensate for lack of skill or experience. I made this version a full, 100% software engineer position resume, cutting out what to me, feels like most of my mechanical engineering accomplishments. But, overall, I think I'm extremely happy with where I ended up. I plan on narrowing the scope of the Goal statement depending on what company I'm applying to, but other than that, I think this is a much better explainer of why I would be a good developer at your company.

My resume, rev 3, part 1.

My resume, rev 3, part 2.

Posted on by:

rpalo profile

Ryan Palo

@rpalo

Ryan is an engineer in the Sacramento Area with a focus in Python, Ruby, and Rust. Bash/Python Exercism mentor. Coding, physics, calculus, music, woodworking. Message me on DEV!

Discussion

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Seems Like you have all the necessary soft skills in place (communication, multitasking, writing, leading, heck even being able to talk to people is a plus in software engineering(SWE)), thats an overall big plus and will make lots of things easier for you. The design of your resume is clean, I like it. (Not a fan of the font but thats personal preference)
BUT,
What I am missing is the common thread in your professional experience.
You are trying to give the whole picture who you are and what you are doing. The employer is looking for someone with a certain skill set and he needs to be able to skim your resumé (he has hundreds) and find the skills he needs. What I would do is:

  • follow the KISS principle (Keep it simple, sherlock). I would maximum write one page as resumé (if possible). Shorten the description of the work experience that has nothing to do with the position you are applying (or even leave the work experience out without any gaps of course (thats what I did)) (I am a civil and a software engineer). Ask yourself: What (hard-)skills can you offer to the employer for that specific position. Maybe have two versions, one for SWE and one for the mechanical engineering.
  • More KISS: Sentences like "love to program, especially when learning new things". What do you want to say with it? You don't like to program once you mastered the thing? (Sorry for mocking, but I think you get the point). Leave it out, if you don't love programming (liking is actually enough), you should not apply for a SWE position in the first place. "Comfortable giving, receiving, and incorporating feedback." Are you? prove it! otherwise leave it out.
  • What roles are you applying for? Don't get me wrong but I think with your resume that you can apply for junior positions in the software engineering field. (If that's not true, then I misunderstood your resumé ) I have a similar story to you and thats what I did. I can't see your "I've been programming for over 10 years". ask yourself, why is that so?
  • Are you more into frontend, backend, SysOps, data science, security or fullstack? The resumé does not tell me. Maybe try Q&A positions or management positions and transition into SWE. (In my current company, they encourage transitions from different roles. (Its good to fight attrition))
  • checked your github: there is no link to your personal blog in your readme of the project (rpalo/personal-blog). A missed opportunity to showcase your skills, since I (as an hypothetically employer) was interested. (*edit: found the url in the resumé but still better to add it to the readme)

Getting the first job in SWE is usually the hardest, don't give up too early.
If you are interested, I could send you my resumé. Its not a beauty (not a designer) but it got me a job.
Hope this helps and good luck.

 

If you have a minute, I created an updated version (see the update above). I tried to streamline things and, since none of my programming experience is professional software engineering, I tried to showcase my open-source/hobby work more clearly. Is that any better?

 

This is some really good feedback, thank you. I’ve got some solid action items to address. 😁

 

tl;dr: Important things first, leave out or shorten the unnecessary stuff.

I just checked your (first version of the) resumé again. You have "Create software tools [...], Implement company’s current website" in your current professional experience as the last points. You lost me at "Manage ~10 simultaneous....".
Do you have to directly deal with customers as a "Customer Success Engineer"? And if not I would remove/ shorten everything else from this work experience and extend on the implementation of the current website or the create software tools.

E.g: "Took over ye olde website of company x [written in ancient language] and implemented the current version of it [in just two weeks, ...] using [hype/ relevant tech stack] [url]. [optional: greatest achievement or problem and how you solved it]..."

Focus on outcomes and achievements (credits to Rolf Streefkerk))

 

RE: Version 2:

Keep in mind that hiring is completely subjective so these are all just my views. I come from a background in super large healthcare dev shops, so maybe startups or another industry that is full creativity would love it more?

  • In the US, it's really not good to include a photo except maybe in the niche of an academic CV. Many places have a policy of immediately throwing out any application with a photo to not be liable for bias based on age/race/gender. You might want to be showing off nice, happy family man, but at the same time, the hiring manager doesn't want to be swayed to hire you because you're a younger guy or reject you because you might have childcare emergencies.
  • While you're showcasing your programming skills at the top well, I'd think you're hiding something not having Experience and Education higher. That's also why functional resumes vs chronological seem sketchy -- while in an ideal world we'd all only be vetted based on our skills, there's norms and going against them outside of a super creative field will seem deceiving.
  • Overall, the content is great and I love v2 and the improvements you've made. It almost seems like the flashiness of using a monospace font and colors and whatnot distracts away from having good content. Like my prior point, stuff like that seems to be trying to make me not notice something else, and if I only have a few minutes to vet you, I'm not going to hunt for why there are gimmicks. And these are gimmicks -- you're likely coming at it with pure reasons, but your skills show through with the content rather than standing out or whatever.
 

That’s fair and very helpful. I appreciate the background too. I think you’re right. I’ll take the picture off and try to de-gimmick, get back to a more standard layout. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I could see that being the case for sure. Thanks again!

 

Hiya!

I agree with a lot of comments here already. Here are my thoughts on V2.

Someone glancing at the resume is looking for reasons to hire you. You should have your relevant experience and projects, or relevant education and past work, very clear. No other info should detract from the 'points' you want to collect from the recruiter and manager. If you have more good than bad points, you get in.

Some points:

  • The resume should match the job (have two, one for SWE/dev and one for mechanical eng). Never try to solve for both.
  • Remove "some experience in" and "willing to learn", because it comes across as not being a self starter.
  • Experience in so many languages looks like you like browsing, but not investing in an area. If you only ever did one language or part of a stack, you'd appear more attractive (solving a specific problem). (I honestly dont even remember what languages you listed.) (I looked again. I don't think you mention what languages you excel at, just what you have "some" experience in... Pick 2, 3 max.)
  • I like the Engineering section, but note that estimating cost and talking to customers are things SWE dont often do. Point out specifically how that experience helps you in SWE. Something like, "organizing short-term, fast-paced projects required managing team's tasks and expectations, giving desirable estimations to management, and exceeding expectations"; something translatable.
  • Merge the skills section to 4 points. I know it's hard. "Kill your babies". Imagine giving an elevator pitch about how you could hit the ground running, tomorrow (coding && translatable project mgmt).
  • Don't shy away from expressing your accomplishments in your education on the SWE resume. All engineering disciplines need problem solving and teamwork, and those skills are very transferable. Education should be at bottom.
  • Remove ALL the writing (and teaching), because you're not applying to a writing job. You can mention your passion for writing and teaching one (1) time, unless you are applying to a writing/teaching role. Remove your 5-star review comment. When you mention writing, make sure to frame it by its success.
  • I'll be the first to want to use monospace in everything, but it really is hard on the eyes. I suggest finding another font you love that's easier to read. Lato, Roboto and Open Sans are popular; something sans serif is preferable these days. I do looove the color choices, and i think working them in will be eye catching.
  • You might like to add a progress bar-type of skill section for languages/tech to show your experience level (like, Javascript xxxo, Python xxoo)
  • I just noticed you built and maintain the company website! That's too hidden. You could put two titles, maybe "web dev", and put website item at top (cus its most relevant to SWE). I want to see if people have "done this before" and can do it again. I suggest adding what you used to build the site. (Also just noticed the database work and other efficiencies you contributed. Very cool! I suggest not mentioning the page count of the manual - makes me think you would rather wax on writing manuals than engineer.)
  • Put any links you want them to see with your contact info, like github or linkedin. Remove other links. Remove photo. Add address. Remove titles: "writer, teacher". Remove degrees unless they're relative (is that mech eng stuff?). Make your goal more specific: 'full-time position as jr backend Python dev in Sacramento' etc.
  • Instead of 'experience working remote', which is kind of ironic now, say something like 'highly productive/engaged working remote'.

Good luck!!

 

Thank you for taking the time to give such detailed feedback! I really appreciate it. I’ll definitely take it into account. It’s interesting seeing the different things that different people key into.

 

Small comment about your personal site (thepalos.com). Your resume there is not quite responsive on my phone (up to date iPhone 11). Because you name your skills in web dev, this would make me scratch my head (if I was invited as a colleague in a second interview, which is the only way I have ever participated in the hiring process).

 

Good to note, thank you. I’ve spent all my time on my blog assertnotmagic.com and kind of forgotten about thepalos. It’s good to know that that was something you noticed. Probably a good hole to patch. 😁

 

Quick suggestions:

  1. Sorry, but lose the photo. It's super cute and endearing, but it distracts from the resume. It feels like a big facebook'ish.
  2. Simplify the formatting, nix the markdown: I understand that the hashes on the side are for headings and the bracket-parens format for links, but the resume is already visually formatted, so the markdown style isn't needed.
  3. Similarly for the monospace: for headers or links, it's useful, but for body-text, stick with non-monospace, sans or sans-serif.
  4. Edit out anything that isn't unique for your resume. Looks like you mostly took care of this in the second edit.
  5. Love seeing the data included in items. It's one thing to "maintain website" but it's another to "maintain website with X users per day with Y uptime" etc. Use this to also bring attention to projects that are especially important to you and that you want to be important to the reader. I'd suggest also including business value, like "this program reduced latency by X ms, which allows us to use fewer hosts, reducing costs by Y% ($Z)"
  6. Careful when putting "experience with" when you're listing technologies you're interested in and have played with but wouldn't be able to hit the ground running. I'm including myself in this. I would really like to work with Go, Clojure, etc. but I haven't built anything significant or professionally with them. It's totally fine to put "If you're working with these, I'm interested and passionate about them" but be aware that anything on your resume is fair game for an interviewer. A question that I often ask is "I see you have experience in X and Y. Can you tell me when you would use X over Y in a project, and vice versa?" I don't drill them on all of them, but it's a soft enough question to just make sure they're not padding the resume. (Not saying you're doing that! of course)

Edit: I did want to say, overall looks good. Just tweaks and polish and potentially making it custom based on where you're applying.

 

That's great feedback, I appreciate it thank, you. The monospace font and raw markdown syntax are my attempt at a "unique design" and a bit of "personal brand." I'm torn as to whether or not it's too distracting and needs removed or if it adds a bit of personal touch/interest and I can keep it.

I'll definitely look at coming up with some more metrics and see if I can translate them to direct business value. I think that's a really good though.

And I think you're right on the "experience with" section. My goal was to show that I like to learn new things/languages and express an interest/openness to working with them, but the last thing I want to do is come across like I'm padding my resume. I'm sure I could be productive with them after a quick ramp-up, but I don't want to be phony either.

 

I definitely resonate and respect wanting to have a resume with some personality. Maybe limit the monospace to your name across the top, the headings and anything bolded? Just want to keep the body text readable. Maybe use a body font that's just not like Ariel or Helvetica for a little "oomph" I especially like the Google fonts which give a bit of uniqueness while still staying incredibly readable

I also really get the challenge in the "experience with" section. Especially when you're transitioning careers, it's tough to show "this is what I want to work on" and not getting shoehorned into only what you've already worked on. It's hard to communicate "I've done X for Y years, but I want to work on Z"
Maybe include data or lines that emphasizes how quickly you pick up tech? "Delivered ABCv1 in only X weeks after ramping up on Y language"

Mmm. That's a good compromise on both counts. I'll definitely look at that. Thanks for the detailed help!

 
  1. Get rid of your skills section entirely and use those bullet points to apply them to your work experience (or at the very least, just list key points that shows you have experience in them, but you don't need to go into so much detail if it doesn't pertain to actual work you've done). It's too wordy and means nothing without you showing results. Tailor those bullets to each job to show your experience and results using them.

  2. Move your education to the top. You have a lot of experience, but none professionally in software. This will show them you're working on your MS in CS, so you are qualified.

  3. Get rid of your picture. It's unnecessary and the only thing it will do is introduce bias from the interviewer to your resume.

  4. Get rid of the SolidWorks reference in education, unless it's applicable to the position.

  5. Make your writing section less prevalent. It's cool that you've written about coding, but unless those specific articles pertain to your individual goals and you can show useful metrics on them, they're not worth so much real estate.

Focus more on your experience and recent projects where you can share real results.

 

Add outcomes you have achieved in your professional experience. Much of it is not focussed on what you're doing