Creating an Effective Resume

Creating a good resume isn’t too difficult, but it can significantly increase your chances of getting through the screening process. Resumes are your first obstacle to getting that exciting new job opportunity, but it’s a fairly easy obstacle to overcome with a bit of work. Check the right boxes, and you’ll be doing an interview in no time!

For most of these points, getting feedback about your resume is key. Send it out to any industry contacts you know well and ask for feedback. Sending it to friends or connections that are responsible for hiring is ideal. If you don’t have a big network, feel free to send it to me and I’d be happy to review it with you.

Have Someone Proofread It

There is nothing more frustrating than delivering a batch of resumes, only to discover you typed your name or email wrong. While some typos may prevent you from getting that interview you want, others may simply display a lack of attention to detail, which can be especially problematic if you list attention to detail as one of your many attributes. Hiring a professional to proofread and edit your resume can cost as little as $5 or $10, which is a small price to pay when hunting for a new job. Don’t leave it up to spellcheck either, as that tool is far from perfect.

Use A Professional Email Address

Emails are free through any number of providers, so if your email looks something like [email protected], do yourself a favor and get a new email, even if you only use it for job applications. Gmail and both offer free email addresses, and you can even forward them to your regular email, with the ability to reply to emails using the professional one.

Omit Irrelevant Personal Information

Including unnecessary and irrelevant personal information can cause headaches for the company you’re applying to. Avoid listing your gender, sexual orientation, religion, marital status, skin color, disabilities, nationality, or veteran status.

Find A Nice Template

A nice, simple, clean template can set your resume apart from your competition. You can find good ones for free online, or buy a template for a few dollars. Avoid flashy templates unless you’re a graphic designer or artist. The goal is to present the information cleanly. Don’t underestimate the value of this one, interviewers get a lot of resumes, so having a nice clean template will typically win you a few points.

Your resume should be inviting to read, broken up into clear sections, use adequate white-space, and have a clear, readable font. You also want to ensure you’re using even margins on all sides, consistent font-size, and consistent padding.

Use An Executive Summary

Many reviewers find the Objectives section of a resume unhelpful and distracting. Instead, replace it with an executive summary, which should be your 30-second elevator pitch, where you explain who you are and what you’re looking for. Keep it short, approximately 3-5 sentences. Try to explain what you’re great at, most interested in, and how you can provide value to a prospective employer.

Don’t Include Irrelevant Skills, Experience, or Hobbies

Tailoring your resume to the position you apply for can be time consuming, but will typically increase the percentage of replies you get. Part of this is removing irrelevant skills & experience from your resume. Including your experience as a clerk at McDonalds when you’re applying for a software engineer position isn’t going to help you, even if you have no relevant experience. Likewise, listing Adobe Dreamweaver or Microsoft Frontpage as skills when applying to a software engineer position is more likely to hurt your chances than help them.

Don’t pad out your resume, recruiters will see right through it. Tailor your resume to the typical position at the very least, or if you’re really looking for a specific job at a specific company, tailor your resume to the individual job posting you’re applying for.

Lastly, leave out your hobbies that aren’t relevant to the job at hand. Your hobbies may come up in the interview, but they aren’t useful to include on your resume. Resumes need to be optimized to deliver relevant info quickly and with very little noise.

Keep Job History Concise

If you’ve been in the industry for 20+ years, you probably have a lengthy work history. I recommend including more detail about recent positions, gradually reducing the amount of info you include as you go back in time. Once you hit jobs from 10-15 years ago, either leave them off your resume or include just a short sentence about it (e.g. the company, your position, the time you spent with them, and a few words about what you did). Reviewers are unlikely to put much weight on your job experience from that far back, and having 5 pages of job history makes your resume difficult for a reviewer to scan quickly.

Include Your Name In The Filename

Trying to find someone’s resume on my computer when it’s just named “resume.pdf” makes things more difficult. Do everyone a favor and name it something like “John_Smith_Resume.pdf”.

Use PDFs

I hate getting Word docs. Word docs aren’t as secure as PDFs, I need to install Microsoft Office if I don’t already have it, formatting may be broken if I’m missing fonts, etc. Do everyone a favor and send your resume as a PDF! Microsoft Word and LibreOffice can both export your docs as PDF.

Don’t Bullshit

Just like my advice for interviews, don’t bullshit on your resume. Saying you’re experienced in C# when you followed a 5 minute tutorial is risky, since interviewers may fact check your resume during the interview process. If you lied on your resume about your skills, that’s a big red flag! Making things up to pad your resume is always worse than having a smaller, but accurate list of skills.

Don’t Include Filler Skills 

We often receive resumes with unnecessary filler skills such as JSON, AJAX, or XML. The people who list these as skills often don’t recognize the complexity and depth of those, so they are merely filler. Most people think JSON is a very simple thing, and if you know how to write a simple JSON file and read it in using the language of your choice, you can list it on your resume, but anyone can do that with a few minutes of Googling. Unless you’ve worked on a JSON parser or read the JSON RFC, you probably shouldn’t be listing it on your resume.

Likewise, AJAX is both an outdated term and a weird thing to list on your resume. If you’ve worked with AJAX/XHR, that’s just a few functions in JavaScript. You wouldn’t list Timeouts or Console Logs as a skill, so don’t list AJAX either.

Finally, XML is an extremely complicated subject. It is a legitimate skill to list, but only if you actually know it well. If you’re unfamiliar with XML namespaces, schemas, parsers, stylesheets, templates, etc, you probably shouldn’t list it.

To sum up this point, if your “skill” can be duplicated with 30 minutes of Googling, don’t list it!

Capitalize And Spell Libraries Correctly

While a fairly minor detail, everything adds up. If you’re going to include jQuery, or WordPress, or CodeIgnitor, make sure you’re capitalizing the name appropriately. It’s all about demonstrating attention to detail here!


A well-formatted, well-written resume that demonstrates attention to detail, and isn’t too long, will get through most screening processes. Also, have people review your resume and give you feedback!

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