Writing a resume

Thursday 28 August 2003

Seems like I’ve had a lot of discussions with friends about resumes recently (really: I’m not looking for a job). When my engineer friends let me see their resumes, my comments are usually the same:

  • Don’t be shy about selling yourself.
  • Concentrate on things that set you apart from your peers.
  • Describing yourself is more important than describing your work.
  • Try to break out of the traditional “I did this, then I did this, then I did this” style. Find a way to describe yourself that goes beyond the sum of your tasks.
  • Don’t write paragraphs when a terse list will do.
  • Don’t include motherhood statements. You wouldn’t put “I showed up for work every day” on your resume, so why put “I followed good engineering practice”?

For example, look at Kevin Marks’ resume. The first thing that jumped out at me reading through it was the “Products Shipped” section. Of course! That’s a key piece of information that employers like to see. Splitting it out into its own section is a great idea. Along the same lines, a headhunter told me a long time ago to add a section at the top of the resume called “Qualifications” that goes beyond skills or experience, and just describes you: why should an employer hire you?

Another thing that jumped out at me from Kevin’s resume:

I also maintain an active presence on Apple and other mailing lists — Ben Waggoner tells me that the best way to get the right answer for a QuickTime-related question is to add “Kevin Marks” to your Google query.

This is unconventional, and boastful (though the “Ben tells me” preface softens it), but also honest, attention-grabbing, and of interest to employers. Remember: your resume is an ad for you. If it doesn’t sell you, nothing else can.


It also gives the reader an active thing they can do to verify what he says, by using Google themselves. I like it.

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