Why Programmers should take their CV seriously? 5 Tips to Make Better Resume

Recently I received an email from one of my readers that he is not getting enough interview calls though he was applying for every possible job he could from Job portals like Monster.com and Naukri.com. I asked him to send his resume to me and within 30 seconds of opening his CV, I know why he was not getting calls. Though he has right skills and some experience, his resume was not up-to-the-mark, and I am sure it get filtered by either non-technical people, junior HR or project managers. I have been interviewing people from last 10 years and I have involved in every step of conducting a programming job interview, starting from making job description, filtering resume, taking phone interviews, preparing written test papers and conducting face-to-face interviews.

In my experience, I have noticed one particular problem which costs many developers a potential chance is not paying enough attention to their resume. Though there are good resources available which can help you to prepare a better resume e.g. Resume writing tips in 2016, programmers often ignore those at their own peril.

Many programmers don't even remember the stuff they mention in their resume. To give you an example, I have come across many Java developers who says they are good at C++ on their resume, but when I ask them about their experience and comfort level during a Java phone interview, they told me that they have just done some academic projects and now don't remember anything about syntax, concepts or useful details.



Some interviewer will not mind this, but I say if you are not comfortable with something then why state that in your resume at first place? So that,  the interviewer, who is picking your resume based upon the skill knows that you really don't have hands on experience on that, it will save the time of both yours and the interviewers.

It's very common for good companies to receive 100s of resume for a handful of positions, and the first thing hiring managers to do is, screening resume and filtering candidates for phone interviews. 80% of filtering happens at this stage, Yes 80%. That's a very high number, but an equally disappointing fact is that most of the resumes are not prepared seriously or they don't have enough matching skills for the job.

Forget about spelling mistakes, formatting errors and lot of clusters, many programmers fail to highlight their achievements, expertise and their USP (Unique Selling Point). This is where taking help from a professional resume service or, at least, going through some resume building tips shown in RESUMES, that standout book can help a lot. I had made the same mistake when I didn't spend enough effort on preparing the resume, but you don't need to.

Resume tips for Programmers


Well prepared Resume saves you from Initial filtering 

Now coming back to the question, why programmers should take their CV or resume seriously? First thing first, it's your Resume/CV which gets you interview call. People form impressions within a few seconds of looking at your resume. Format and layout matter a lot, anything which looks cluttered or ugly are thrown to the dustbin first. It also makes easy for them to scan through it.

For Job agents, hiring consultants and HR people screening or filtering of resume often mean searching for some relevant keywords e.g. low latency, Java, SQL, XML, FIX Protocol, high frequency messaging etc. If your resume has right keyword then it will get shortlisted otherwise it will be ignored.

This may sound harsh but just put yourself in the position of someone recruiting for the job you're looking for. What would give them confidence without meeting you?


Resume Tips: Include variety of keywords

Nowadays, agents are also using computer programs to filter out an irrelevant resume, as they get tons of totally unrelated resume on a daily basis. Since most computer programs look for certain buzzwords, I suggest all programmers include right keywords in your resume.

You should include SQL if you have worked  on it, but also include Structured Query Language and don't forget to include vendor names e.g. Oracle, MySQL or SQL Server. One more step you can take is to mention versions as well e.g. Oracle 10g, Microsoft SQL Server 2008 or MySQL 5.5, the variety of keywords not only save you from initial filtration but also give your potential interviewer an accurate idea about your experience.


Resume Tips: Highlight Achievements

Another thing you MUST highlight in your resume is ACHIEVEMENTS, Why? because everybody wants to hire achievers. Your CV should be clear about what you've achieved so far. When I see a resume, I always look for is somebody who has achieved something, it could be either in jobs, education or their career.

This is where details matter. Just listing that you are computer science graduate is not enough, list your university and your percentage/GPA. A good university is a very positive sign and so is higher GPA or percentage. Many times the person screening interview knows about the university or turns out alumni.

One thing I have noticed on successful candidates and great programmers are their ability to highlight their problem-solving skill and that really make a difference. It doesn't have to be massive achievements, but if you word it properly, it would sound impressive, but don't exaggerate.

For, each job position talk about what you accomplished, what you were responsible for. This is where team size comes into the picture (you should include team size in your project description). If someone is working on the small team say 2 to 3 people, I can be sure about things he has done, but for large teams, it's your responsibility to tell me exactly what you were done.

Similarly for your education, give a paragraph about your projects. Talk about stuff you've done in your spare time, or things you have learned.

Demonstrating what you've achieved also helps to steer the interview on your strong areas. Remember Interview is not a sport or wrestling where the opponent will exploit your weakness, almost all interviewer gives candidate chance to highlight their strength and they query on that. Highlighting your strength on your resume, that will help you to do well in your interview.


So far we have seen tips about what to do, but what NOT to do is equally important. If you keep doing good things without stopping mistakes, you will reach nowhere. DON'Ts are equally important as DOs.

Resume Tips: Don't Hide Details

The first tip is, Don't hide details. I personally like to see dates of jobs/education and grades, both on your educational as well as professional certifications (e.g. OCPJP). If you had a career break or dropped out of college, don't hide it, instead think about how you can present those a positive manner. There is always a right way to say things which are not great.


Resume Tips: Must Look Good

My next tips are about formatting, your resume must look good when someone looked at it. Don't send your resume in a text file, use Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF. I personally like a PDF resume with the bigger font.

Write a summary about yourself and your work experience before going into details about the project. Your work experience is the most important thing in your resume and that's why it should be right up, next thing is your educational qualification and skill set.

Project descriptions should be the last thing in your resume. Try to reduce your resume from 6-page documentary to a 1 or 2 page. No one has that much time to go through all your pages. List your work experience in the reverse chronological order i.e. starting from the most recent job


Resume Tips: Read Your Resume

My last tip about your CV/Resume is, Please READ your resume, not once but twice. All details on your resume should be at your fingertips, if someone ask you the duration of your project, you should be able to recall dates.

Nothing creates a bad impression as a candidate looking clueless about something he has mentioned in his resume. That's why I have said it before, weed out unnecessary clutter.

It also makes sense to have multiple copies of resume. In fact, you should you tweak your resume so that it matches well with the job description you are applying for. This is where agents are very helpful.

Here is the summary of my 5 tips to make your resume better:

5 tips to make better resume programmers


Bonus Resume Tips: Use your Agent's Experience

And now a bonus tip, use your agent's experience. A good agent can really increase your chances, right from getting you interview call to the point of doing negotiation. I always suggest to treat agents respectfully and build repo with them. Don't think them as middlemen making money and taking cuts, that's a BIG mistake. Always maintain decency in professional communication.

I know agents who have pointed out some initial mistakes on a resume, helped candidates to correct them and asked them to tweak their CV to suit job description. A good agent also has a good connection with hiring managers and HR, so he can market you better, can also help you on negotiation and can make the difference in few thousands of dollars.

Ultimately both you and your agent have the same goal so take advantage of his experience.


That's all about why programmers should take their resume/CV seriously because that's the one which will get you interview call. No matter how much talented you are, you cannot do anything if no one calls you. Rather than always preparing for Interview questions, at least, spent 1% of that time on making your resume accurate, clear, concise and beautiful.

These tips may seem small but can yield big gains. By the way, If you struggle to talk about interesting things on your Resume, then that is perhaps an issue. I suggest writing some code in your spare time, contributing to open-source projects, and helping peoples on blogs and forums etc.

Here are the couple of books which will also help you to prepare a better resume:

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Every professional should take their CV very seriously. CV is the most important part of our career, before appearing in any interview we should present our CV in front of the interviewer. In which we should mention our career goal, work experience, academics, hobbies and many other professional information related to us. Therefore most of the professionals are taking their CV format very seriously especially programmers.

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