In the past six months I’ve done dozens of engineering interviews for our many job openings, including developers and team leads. We’ve hired some excellent people in this process. I get resumes from my personal network, a few (no more than three) recruiters that I’ve known for a long time and Craigslist. Since Craigslist is source of endless amusement, I took a bit of time to assemble a few numbers.
Most resumes follow a pattern. I will only talk about the strange, funny and sad ones, and very little about good resumes. Before I begin, I must add that I did hire two people via Craigslist and I am extremely happy with their work. Obviously any resemblance with your resume is pure coincidence and any personal data has been removed.
This is the general distribution of about 150 resumes I have received via Craigslist for a senior individual contributor position. The job description is no longer available on Craigslist, but it’s very much in-line with a typical job description for a C# developer with some C++ experience. We have a similar position available today.
The detached pie slice represents about 4% of actual good resumes, worth my time.
Off Topic: The Clinical Trainer
Dear Human Resources Department:
For the last two months, I have had the privilege of working as a Clinical Trainer in the Center for Launching and Management Process (CLMP) at the You-Have-Never-Heard-Of-This-One Medical Center. In this role, I have a variety of responsibilities such as training staff across all Big-City campuses on a list of highly specialized software that you have never heard about unless you’re a neurosurgeon. I also am heavily involved in IT meetings, staff end user groups, and implementation meetings. In addition, I create technical documents on a daily basis to educate clinical staff on the various above mentioned clinical software, practices and topics. Each day, I learn more about the ins-and-outs of the multitude of databases the hospital uses. I am currently lead on the following million projects: …
I am a very hard worker and determined professional. When I am given an assignment I require limited supervision and work in a high, professional manner.
This is a slightly paraphrased excerpt from a page-long introductory letter that has absolutely nothing to do with my software engineer job posting. I got this resume at least three times for various ads. It takes a detailed approach, trying to convince me that the candidate is absolutely right for any job. The experiences in the resume range from working with machines and people, in many fields in many roles, including IT over a very short period of time. A very small photograph is included.
Dear Clinical Trainer, please read my job description. I wasn’t sure whether to put you in the “spammer” or the “grossly unqualified” category, so I decided to create a special “off-topic” slice, just for you.
Spam: The Mechanical Mule
If you post two jobs on Craigslist – one for a software engineer and another for a tester, you often get the same resume twice. It generally looks like this.
Please review my attached resume for the position of Software Engineer …
and an identical one
Please review my attached resume for the position of Software Tester …
The resume attached may be half decent with some relevant experience, but both e-mails are generally sent with an interval of two seconds and you get exactly the same amount as the number of jobs posted. At best, the words in the e-mail will have more creative variations than the job position. Frankly, mass e-mailed resumes probably have about as much success as regular spam. Too bad, you might actually be qualified for the job. Don’t be a spammer.
Bullshit: A Grander Purpose in Life
I like people with goals. Some are just not the goals I can agree with or goals that I call “bullshit”. For example, I got a resume that said the following.
I pay great attention to making my code most efficient to enable cost reduction. For this purpose I utilize new hardware and software technologies as well as software development tools.
I think I get it. The engineer wants to write super efficient code so that the system requires less servers. Oddly, the developed had this line-item while working on a desktop application. Reading further, I find more examples that focus on “cost reduction”, this time around the SDLC process.
IMHO, an engineer’s goal should be to produce software that people actually want to use and hopefully pay for. I think I’d rather reduce costs by not hiring someone obsessed with secondary goals or goals that we don’t really have.
This remains a classic, a several-page-long buzzword-enabled resume.
Languages: Ada, C++, C#, C, Cobol, Fortran, Java, JScript, Oberon, Prolog, Python, Ruby, Ruby on Rails, Scala, Scheme, UML, WScript
I love a candidate that knows everything and can pick it up in just 2-3 years of industry experience!
Note that buzzword-enabled resumes list the programming languages in alphabetical order. Most are dead languages. My favorite one is Prolog, which I taught for a year when I was a TA (insert troll war on how Prolog is not dead, here). Every time I called anyone on a real Prolog question they had no idea what I was talking about. Unless your employer was IBM and you are an expert Prolog programmer, just don’t mention it. Plus, with so many languages under your belt you’re either overqualified for my job offer or you bored me to death with keywords.
There’re a lot of recently graduated students trying to get a job out there. It’s really tough – you spent all this time and money studying and now nobody wants to hire you! So you write a creative resume that stretches your experience dime. These typically start with a lengthy education at a single school, outline a long series of homework assignments as “projects”, ending, a best, with a decent 6-month internship under “professional experience”. This is a student resume wanting to be a job resume.
Then, there’re people that just don’t read or care about the job posting. If I am looking for someone with 5-7 years of C++ experience, then I really am. Don’t appeal to me with a sobbing story of how I should give you a chance. Your resume doesn’t have 3 years of work in it, my job is not a job for you.
Note that I am all for giving hungry grads a job, especially those without an overqualified ego. But every team needs to strike the appropriate junior vs. senior balance, so we look for the people we actually need depending on the situation.
Spelling: Attention to Detail
I’ve recently gotten a resume for a tester position with the term “attention to detail” misspelled (three t’s). Funny every time.
There’re more complicated cases. Being a foreign language engineer myself, I find the need to be extra careful about my resume and always ask a native English speaker to re-read it. Not this guy.
I am sorry bother you. I got this information. You have job opening, it matches my technology background and my work experience. I am very interesting this job. I attach my resume and apply this job. Thanks for your time.
No bother. I am looking for qualified candidates and speaking a beautiful British English is not really in the job description. Nevertheless, do you have friends that are native English speakers? Don’t you think you should ask them to correct your resume to actually make sense to an English speaking reader? The resume is always worse than this kind of introductions. It typically fails to explain what the candidate did, where and how in any specific terms. I just don’t know how I am going to work with you.
After you’ve sorted through mountains of garbage (about 85% of resumes), you start finding decent engineers.
The first kind is people with a long series of short engagements, often project-based with many holes without work. Sometimes I give those a chance and bring them in for an interview. And every single time I remember why I should never do that the moment the person walks through the door . Some people have real problems of commitment or focus and can never implement a simple coding exercise, much less a 45 minute-long problem. They aren’t completely incompetent though, but they don’t belong at a place that builds something long term and requires something other than a throw-it-together hacker mentality. (Those developers never invent anything new, so don’t read me as someone against the hacker types working at Facebook.)
Finally, I do get resumes of really good engineers. I found that Craigslist offers few of those, but they might just be worth the time and the silly 25$ fee for posting an ad. My favorite kind is fed up with their bank jobs, are ready to take pay cuts from their lofty bonuses and want to work for a real technology company. Several are allergic to recruiters, are moving to New York or don’t have actual contacts. If you are one of those people and are looking for a job, do take a look at Craigslist.