i’ve been meaning to post something like this for ages and ages. i’ve been in on a number of interviews and hires over the years, in various roles from gauging someone’s competence as a favor to a friend in another group, hiring a colleague, hiring a direct report, and even hiring my replacement. most of it has been after the dot-com bust, and so i have seen a lot of resumes.

it is very seldom that i get a resume which i do not want to return to its owner with suggestions on how they could make it suck less.

this is my “i’m not currently hiring and it’s sufficiently after the last time i was in on any hiring that i can get away with a posting like this without obviously offending anyone” post on The Top Ten Eight Ways Your Resume Lands In My “No Friggin’ Way” Pile, in order of immediacy of the discard:

  1. MS Comic Sans. (You think I’m kidding?)
  2. Any clear failure to proofread. Spelling problems, typos, incomplete sentences. I’ll cut you some slack for English not being your native language (if applicable), but there’s no slack available for failure to run speelchekc. If you can’t be bothered to check your work on your CV before sending it to an employer, you won’t check your work on any of my systems, either, which is not cool.
  3. 12-point Times New Roman. Seriously. Likewise fluffy fonts, more than one typeface, decorative bullet point abuse, et cetera. This is a resume, not “fun with WordArt.”
  4. More than two pages. If you give me three pages, there’d better be something noteworthy (…and it’d better not be because you used 12-point Times New Roman). If you give me four, unless I’m intrigued by the time I get to page 2, I’m not even going to read it, because I’ve got 12 more CVs that I got in today and not all of y’all are getting phone screens. Hint: a good reason for 3 pages is because you had to include a “Publications” section.
  5. Failure to include educational history on the CV. I know a lot of techies are college dropouts; I’m a dropout myself. I’m not going to hold it against you. But I’m pretty sure you weren’t hatched at the age of 18, so do me a favor and write something down to show that you can be taught, okay?
  6. Employees are not the only ones with bullshit detectors.
  7. Vagarity and handwaving. Saying “Managed Active Directory Infrastructure” might be OK if you’re talking to a recruiter, who only has “Active Directory” as a keyword and has no idea what it actually means. I, on the other hand, know what it is, and I want to know what you did with it and what you ran it on. If you say you Managed an Active Directory Infrastructure and it turns out that means you put it on two servers and a node so that your receptionist didn’t have to maintain an addressbook anymore, I’m not really going to be impressed.
  8. Seriously, “References Available Upon Request” may be the most trite expression ever, but if I request ’em, please actually have references available to me?

And as a special bonus, The Top Ten Seven Ways You Sabotage Yourself Once You Actually Get Past the Phone Screening:

  1. Don’t look at me while answering a question I asked you. Full stop.
  2. If it’s a group interview, answer my questions by addressing a male colleague. For the record, this happens all the time.
  3. Interrupt me on a regular basis.
  4. Make something up instead of admitting you don’t know. Bonus points if you make something up in response to a question I just made up in order to test your willingness to admit you don’t know.
  5. Don’t even try to answer a question. If I ask you a question and you look blank and sit there like a lump, I will not be impressed by your troubleshooting process.
  6. Express no curiosity. If you’re not curious, what the hell are you doing working in technology??
  7. Mock or otherwise slag off your former/current employer. It’s not just tasteless, it’s irrelevant. Also, if you’re trying to impress me with said commentary, I guarantee you it’s not having the result you’re shooting for.

and oh, by the way, i absolutely do google you as a matter of course, generally as part of the prep for an in-person interview. if i find your web site and it includes materials that reflect poorly upon you as a person, i’m totally going to have that in mind. (this is, for the record, why i list this blog on my own CV. i like to think of it as saving a potential future boss the bother of looking for the embarrassing shit i write… though, admittedly, not much time savings since ziggurat.org is the first thing that comes up if you google me. hi, Dieter!)

but, although i am very picky, all hope is not lost. here are Top Ten Seven Ways To Get In My Good Graces:

  1. Hobbies section of the resume. (Short, please.) I’d like to know you’re not a zombie and you do actually leave the Intarwebs from time to time. You’ll be a better employee if you have a broader range of knowledge, even if your knowledge happens to be of independent zombie filmmaking. I like zombie movies too.
  2. Accept that you’re not going to know all the answers to the questions I ask, and be in good humor about the ones you miss.
  3. Think through a question; take a stab at it. Describe how you would go about finding the answer, since you don’t know it offhand.
  4. Ask what the answer is, if you don’t know and can’t figure it out.
  5. If you had more stuff but you didn’t want to make your resume longer than two pages, since you know I have a dozen others to slog through (thank you), offer me the Extended Director’s Cut version of the CV in your cover letter.
  6. Speaking of which…include a cover letter. It’s nice if you include a sentence that indicates you actually googled what the company does, and why you are sending me your CV.
  7. Offer me code or documentation samples. I really like those if they are proof of the accomplishments listed on your CV.

well, that’s just a few thoughts i have been sitting on for a while. i don’t actually mind hiring; i like talking to people. but i do mind when people send me crappy resumes and think that i won’t notice that they consistently misspell LDAP and, also, they don’t appear to know what it is.

Edit, 2014-02-02: I just re-read this for the first time in ages. I think I mostly still agree with everything, except maybe I’ve relaxed a little about the 12-point Times New Roman thing. It’s the Word default, so even though it’s a big point size (that’s my main beef with it — using a fat typeface to take up space and make the CV look longer), I guess not everyone is a typography nerd and understands that sans-serif typefaces are the best for documents to be read on a screen.

Also, I got a resume the other day that kind of broke my heart, it was so bad. It was from someone who wanted to break into system administration from another field, and he’d been going out taking classes to learn Linux, but it was so bad. Entire paragraphs were boldfaced for no reason, and everything was double-spaced so it ran for pages. There were multiple glaring typos, one with “excellent communicator” right after it. (Facepalm.) Just completely obvious he hadn’t proofread the thing at all before submitting it. And worst of all, some of his previous jobs didn’t even list things he did, and he missed the absolutely golden opportunity to tell me how his previous experience would make him a good sysadmin, how things he’d accomplished demonstrated skills that would translate into systems work. There are so many portable soft skills that would look great on a sysadmin CV, but they just weren’t there. I had to pass on him, but even now, days later, I am absolutely dying to tell him how he could have made his resume a winner, but of course I can’t do that directly. So, I cry unto the abyss: Internets! Please! For the love of pete, spellcheck, and please please please use your resume to sell hiring managers on why you are a great fit. People who are lucky enough to have open headcounts really want to fill them, so if you think you’re right for a job, please please please make it clear why! And then proofread it like crazy, and USE YOUR SPELLCHECK AGAIN!