The Technical Resume

One of the “celebrities” I follow on Twitter is Guy Kawasaki. I read his book Rules For Revolutionaries many years ago and a lot of the concepts stuck with me. The book dates from the first dot-com boom, but is as applicable as ever.

A couple weeks ago, Guy posted a link to an infographic from RezScore showing how to create the perfect one page resume. I thought the concept was pretty cool, and my resume was sitting at around four pages, so I decided to put it on a diet.

After some effort, I managed to get it down to a single page, following the format from the infographic. I even fished it a bit on Dice to see what happened. In early December I fished my four-page resume on Dice for one day and had to turn off my phone and delete the resume to keep the phone from ringing. I had eight calls in a matter of hours.

So how did the one-pager do? Crickets. While the one-page resume is great, conceptually, it is not sufficient for a programmer. The one-pager will only work for two groups of people.

The first group is people without any experience, i.e. new college graduates or people with less than a couple years of experience. Their resumes shouldn’t be filling more than a page, and if it does, it is probably indicative of a job hopping problem.

The second group is people who don’t need resumes and can get work based on reputation alone. DHH, Paul Irish and James Gosling all probably have one-page resumes, if that. For them, a Moo MiniCard with a QR Code to their LinkedIn profile is more than enough.

For a technical person with years of experience, a one-page resume won’t cut it. After I compared my one-page resume to my four-page resume, it was obvious I needed to put the larger document on a diet. I ended up with a sharp two-page resume that adequately demonstrates the breadth and depth of my experience without writing a novel or leaving a recruiter guessing.

I validated my newfound ideas on resume length against the technical recruiter at my company. Her response was interesting: she said it didn’t matter, since everything was driven by keyword searches via enterprise “suckware” like Taleo. But her resume was a two-pager.

So my recommendation for a seasoned software professional is to try for a two-page resume, with three pages being the most. But the resume has to solve two objectives. You need to ensure it has all the right keywords to get you past the first automated filter, but it has to be concise and interesting enough that a hiring manager will want to read it. Two pages fits the bill.

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