written on 03/26/2020

The 10 Second Rule for Resumes

In the application process for software engineering positions, the resume is a vital part of the process. Hiring managers and recruiters will have a look at your resume, but will also check hundreds of other resumes. An important part of the resume is to catch the hiring manager's or recruiter's eyes. On average these persons will look at your resume for a limited time and then decide if they will let you to the next round or not.

The One Page Design

The one-page design is a mentality to have throughout the whole one-page document actually. In general, the resume should be one page, as we learned in the last article, except you have a lot of experience which most of us do not have. Maybe if you have worked in more than five different companies throughout ten years you might be able to fill your resume with valuable content which will exceed one page but otherwise, it is not really applicable.

The one-page design will also teach you to keep the sections short and concise, just describing what the reader needs to know. This also applies to simple sentences. An example where you can see what I mean with this:

Worked on Server-side using NodeJS and MongoDB in the Smart India Hackathon 2019. The tool helped in analyzing, comparing and predicting groundwater usage for a specific region across the country.

There are a lot of mentions which are not adding value to the resume. For example, the name of the hackathon is completely irrelevant for the employees looking at the resume. A hackathon would be fine enough except the hackathon would be something that is appreciated worldwide.

Also, it can be said what the tool's goal actually was, which is optimizing the groundwater usage of something. Normally I would also expect a measurement of the action taken because otherwise, you will lose track of what you actually have done.

A better version of this description would be the following quote:

Worked on Server-side application using Node.js and MongoDB in a Hackathon. The tool helped optimizing groundwater usage for a specific region.

Order the Sections of the Resume

In the last chapter, we discussed already that the order of the resume somehow is important. It depends on the case by case basis and what you have achieved. There might simple prioritization for these things. Most of my readers are probably early in their career and for Junior position jobs work experience is the key. So any kind of internship, for example, will put you ahead of your competitors of the position.

But there are also other ways around it. For example, if you are still a student at a precious university, then you can put the education section on top if you are new to the industry. The more experience you have the less likely you will put your education on top of the resume. Work experience is just worth more than anything.

Now we come to the trickiest part that is personal projects. In general, pet projects are a nice addition but what people should focus on are the metrics. Simple metrics include revenue which is probably not expected for most projects that are done in the free time. But there are a lot of other indicators for a successful project. It could range from GitHub Stars to actually impacting people. By impacting people I mean having users that are using the app. You should at least mention the projects are public and available and if possible share these metrics on the resume in the project section. Actually the focus should be on the metrics because it shows that a person might understand the customer and can put themselves into the position of the customer and get feedback. This basically means that the writer of the resume can actually reflect on feedback and adjust themselves to new requirements which is important for new jobs.

A good example of a web application listing metrics is baremetrics. It is a web application that you can connect to your Stripe account and have an "open startup". An "open startup" is a company that is publishing its revenue numbers and everything related. These metrics are most probably the most important for companies and investors to look at, but if you present these numbers to the companies, they will see you have some kind of business sense which is making you more valuable.

Overall, you need to guess which section might be most important for the company to look at. Startups are mostly looking for Engineers who have experience with everything which also includes business-related topics. This results in your personal projects into being more valuable. In general, I can say though that work experience is worth the most and should be almost always on top of the resume. Afterward, it depends on what you have done so far with side projects or during education.

Prioritize the most important or relevant content of each section

A recruiter will probably look at the most catchy first thing on your resume. If this section is somehow structured in a way that does not apply to the company, then the recruiter or hiring manager will probably throw the resume away already. That is why an applicant should focus their resume to target the job description they apply for. Put relevant topics about technologies for example on top of the descriptions of the work experience or side projects which are mostly on top of the resume.

Then it also depends on what the company expects. For example, at my current company Klarna, the focus is mostly on the leadership principles of the organization. For example, Klarna is focusing a lot on Customer Obsession or "Let the team shine". So you could phrase things differently to comply with the company's policies but also sort your achievements which are listed to the job.

Another important part of ordering the content is that you highlight technologies used at the company you are applying to. It will catch the eyes of the hiring manager or recruiter faster because most of the people are looking for a person who can be onboarded quite easily.

Highlight relevant keywords

As we learned in the last chapter it is important to actually focus on keywords the company is using. And we did learn that putting it in front of the section is the most important part. But also later keywords should be highlighted in some way because it is important for the reader to spot what is the main attributes of the applicant. By making keywords bold for example, the reader will recognize these keywords a lot more. Be careful with this though, because it might seem spammy. But for example, if you apply to a metric-driven startup it might be worth highlighting the metrics of your personal projects because they seem more relevant to the company than anything else.

Adjust the design to catch eyes

The design of the resume plays an important role. In the overview of the series I showcased different solutions. These resume builders will provide you with good designs mostly. For resumes for Software Engineers, the design does not really matter, except you have a special Frontend focus. But even then, it is fine to use a template. It shows that you value practicability over overengineering. A simple resume will get you farther in most cases in comparison to a flashy resume. At least in the western world.

A simple website to actually check what users might focus on your resume is visualeyes. It is working with artificial intelligence and provides a heatmap of what users will look at in your resume.

heatmap of eye contact to the resume

You can, for example, see that hiring managers or recruiters might still focus on education a lot even though they should rather focus on the startup experience. By making the text bigger or focusing more on bold keywords you can attract the eye more to the important parts of the resume.

Optimize the file size of your resume

Most of the resumes are transmitted in the form of a PDF. This PDF can be optimized in most cases. PDFs include a lot of metadata anyway which can be stripped away. There are online tools like ilovepdfs or pdfresizer which will compress your PDF adequately. This will result in better download times for the companies hiring manager and also PDFs might be faster to open. It is a simple trick to ensure a high-quality hiring process.

Conclusion

In general, make the resume short. It will help everyone to actually assess your skills and contributions. They will make you evaluate faster and might convince the reader in the first 10 seconds of the reading session to get into the detail of your resume.

An important part is also to rework the design of your resume most probably in the sense of giving the focus on the right part of the resume so readers actually focus on the important part. For this, you also need to get to know the reader of the resume or can position yourself into the person, but with enough research, this should be possible for everyone.