Tech resumes are broken

TL;DR: Your tech resume probably describes tools and not impact; this helps the machines but does not help the humans that might hire you. A great resume will describe your experience and impact, not just the tools you used. Use getmployd to get active feedback on your resume as you edit it.

It wasn’t until I started helping the recruitment teams source candidates for the tech companies that I’ve worked for that I really understood the difference between a resume that describes tools and one that describes impact or outcomes. It’s the frustration of not finding resumes that describe impact that led me to create getmployd.

Let’s start with an example of what we find in most web developer’s resumes these days:

React, React Native, NodeJS, Docker, Python.

If you work in the tech industry, this seems pretty straightforward. This person knows React, React Native, NodeJS, Docker and Python. Pretty good stack, but it’s a bit hard to understand what they accomplished and if any of it relates to your current challenges. If you’re outside the industry, then you’d look at this and say ‘huh?’. As you can see, people reading the resume without further context will lack understanding of what you have achieved, or worse still be left confused. The hiring manager won’t have the time to interview everyone, so they will pick the best resumes from a shortlist. You want to give them enough detail to choose you.

So that everyone can relate to what I’m saying, I’m going to use an analogy to explain why the above entry is not useful. Let’s for a moment imagine that we’re going to get a builder in to renovate our kitchen. What would you do if you got a builder’s resume that read like this:

Hammer Drill, Electric Saw, Glue gun, Tape measure, Screwdriver.

Pretty sure that builder would get skipped over pretty quick. Why is that though, considering they’ve got some skills with the required tools? What we’re actually looking for is whether the builder has done something similar in the past. We want confidence that they will successfully renovate our kitchen, and to do that we want to hear about their experience.

So let’s fix that resume above. Ideally, every entry in the resume will cover what you did, what tools you used and what the impact was. Adding some detail using that structure:

What: Worked on various projects involving the company’s website.

Tools: The work was mostly using React to build functionality into the single page application. The application was a two-tier system that used Node.js for the frontend server and Python for the backend server. The application was hosted in AWS using docker containers on ECS.

Impact: Architected and lead a team to build a React Native application for customers to use on their phones. The architecture meant that the web application and the phone apps shared more than 50% of their code, and all business logic was maintained in a single place.

We could put those together, and it would be a good story, but we can do better. Let’s consider the audience for the resume. At a minimum, there are three readers, the machine for searching and filtering, the recruiter screening resumes, and the hiring manager selecting interviewees from a shortlist. Who should we give priority to formatting our entries? I pick the hiring manager every single time. Ultimately, the hiring manager is the one who has the least amount of available time. Think about it, they are so busy they need to hire more people to solve the problems they have. The information should be prioritised in the order of impact, experience and then describing the job. Impact first because you want to show you’re capable. Experience next as the hiring manager is looking for experiences that help solve the problems they are hiring for.

Rewording the job description, knowing all that, we come up with the following:

Architected and lead a team to build a React Native application for customers to use on their phones. The architecture leveraged the existing React web application and resulted in both applications sharing more than 50% of their code. Additionally, all business logic was maintained in a single place, making it easier to ensure consistency between platforms. Both applications used the same Python backend that was hosted in AWS using docker containers on ECS. The web application was a Node.js express app that was also hosted using docker containers on ECS.

We still have the same keywords for the machines that scan the resumes, and with the added benefit of describing both the experience and impact of that experience.

I hope this helps you add more impact to your resume so that you get noticed, get interviews and get that next job. If you need help along the way give getmployd a try, we’ve tried to embed our expertise into a tool to help people produce more impactful resumes.