Ben, at work, asked me what I look for in a resume. I’ve been looking at a LOT of resumes in the last 2 weeks, and most of them have been simply dreadful. So I started writing a few of my thoughts. I got a little carried away. So I’m going to repost it here, too, so that my erudition isn’t lost in the ether.
Here’s some of what I look for in a resume.
I look for sentences that tell me why I should hire you. I hate bullet lists. “PHP” or “Excel” or “Linux” in a bullet list doesn’t mean anything at all. “PHP” in a bullet list might mean “I installed WordPress”, or it might mean “I’m a committer on the core of PHP and implemented the internationalization stack myself over an evening, and gave a talk about it a PHP Fest the next morning.” I’d rather read one sentence that tells me why you’re worth hiring than a 20-item bullet point list that tells me that you’ve heard of various technologies.
I look for participation in something outside of work. Whether this is PETA or Habitat for Humanity or an Open Source project doesn’t matter a lot – although participation in O.S. projects impresses me immensely. What I’m looking for is that you have a personality. If you come to work, and go home at the end of the day, and that’s your whole life, chances are you’re going to bore me to tears. People with outside interests are better employees. I want employees who are glad to have the job, sure, but it’s at least as important that they have something to go home for, too.
I look for something that indicates passion. Do you program because you love solving problems? Do you design because there’s an artist striving to get out? Or do you have a computer degree because someone told you that it was a good way to make money? Passion is the difference between doing an acceptable job and blowing everybody’s socks off. If you are working towards a computer degree because you heard there was money in it, but you *REALLY* want to study rocks, you should drop all your classes RIGHT NOW and go sign up for geology. A life working in the wrong job is what makes people go crazy and shoot their co-workers, and nobody wants that.
I look for things in your resume that indicate that I’m not the first person you’ve ever shown it to. Typos, grammatical errors, and misusing technical terms tell me that you didn’t have anybody proofread your resume. Always show your resume to your mother, your colleagues, your professors. Show it to the people who you know don’t care if they hurt your feelings about it.
I look for a resume that looks different from everybody else’s. Understand that this doesn’t mean fonts and colors and designs – I will read your resume in plain text if at all possible. I mean that if it’s just a list of technologies and the fact that you interned at Lexmark, then it looks exactly like the other 25 that I looked at today. I want to know that you volunteer at the library, reading to kids, or that you took a trip to Haiti over spring break, where you installed a wireless network for a non-profit, or that you really really like painting daisies on the side of cars that are stopped at traffic lights. Ok, maybe not the daisies. That might be illegal. But definitely the one about Haiti. Tell me you’re passionate about life.
In short, I want you to tell me why I’ll regret it for years if I let you slip by.