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Nitpicking Christopher's resume

I'm bored and stuck on a coding issue, so I figured I'd post some of *my* thoughts on Christopher Wells' resume
(which he posted in the "number of pages in a resume" thread)

I'm doing this both to give Chris some feedback but also to talk some of the points out before I update my own resume.

So, starting at the top:
"over ten years experience"? If you started in 1981, you have over twenty years experience. I recognize that that statement brings forth visions of COBOL dinosaurs, but my first reaction to the discrepancy was "math error?"  I'm thinking "twenty years experience with internetworking technologies and ten years of software development" or words to that effect.

MS SQL Server & Oracle - put versions (I'm guessing Oracle is 8i or 9i?)

Tools - drop Visual C++ (the ambiguity should work in your favor), add "Rational" in front of ClearCase.

Experience - from 1985-91 you were a tech writer? Or did you still have a hand in the "doing" part of things? Nothing wrong with being a tech writer, but if you did other stuff, get it in there.

Really need to fill out 87-91 a bit. Feels weak, especially if you're looking for a coding job.

I'm not sure about the "Projects" page, but I do know when I went to read it my eyes kept slipping off the page.  Then your second bullet in a whole page of accomplishments was "read books". I really think that needs to go. At the very least move it *way* down the page.

The problem I'm having with the "Projects/Technology" page is that the value of experience changes over time. For example, the SQL - makes a huge difference whether that was Sybase in 1991 or SQL Server 2k in 2002. Yeah, you can cross-reference, but we know how successful *that* would be.

I still think this info is more valuable placed in the mix with the chronological history. I know in every interview I've been through, the interviewer seemed comfortable with simply regressing back through my experience, discussing projects listed, until it wasn't relevant any more.

I'm curious to hear what others think of this style?


Saturday, June 28, 2003

The 4 years of SQL but 5 years of SQL Server caught my attention.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

It's incredibly dense, in terms of the amount of text.  If you've been working for 20 years, that amount of info is probably justified, but it's a lot to read.

I'd suggest creating 2 resumes.  a) should be a thinned down executive summary that just lists hilights, not every single thing.  Use that to get your foot in the door.  When you actually land an interview, you can pull out b) and say "here's a more in-depth version of my resume".

I think a lot of HR guys would look at your current resume, say 'overqualified' without even reading all the way through it, and move on.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

I agree that the resume looks packed, and information has obviously been squashed in. But that's not a big problem.

Overall, the resume describes a highly capable, very experienced developer with good business experience. If I was hiring, that's the sort of person I would be inclined to hire even without bothering about an interview.

After I read that resume, I agonised over what's gone wrong that such highly talented people are not getting jobs.

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Very nice! 

Maybe one suggestion, which may or may not apply, ymmv, etc:  save something for the interview.

I like to use the resume as a highlight and save the interview for the details.

Has Christopher been having trouble finding work?  That would fit in with my theory that most employers don't need or want high caliber people.  They just need a cheap code monkey. 

If we had a union, we'd make everybody write everything in assembly! :)

ymmv dude
Saturday, June 28, 2003

No, do it like lawyers. Before you start any work for them, you get the deeds to their house. Then, on top of your fees, you charge $2 for each photocopy, $5 for each phone call, and so on.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Just wondering, ., if you smile and nod approvingly when people say that computer geeks are all antisocial jerks with no personality that live in their parents' basement.


Sunday, June 29, 2003

Thanks for your comments.

Philo, that was interesting your saying, "when I went to read it my eyes kept slipping off the page". Perhaps that's due to the vertical lines in the table, and the way that the bullets line up. I reformatted as with section titles and body text instead of as a table ... perhaps it's more human now, less machine-like; but still full.

You also said "I still think this info is more valuable placed in the mix with the chronological history". As you know there is an example of the resume in that format at ... it is a risk to stray from the standard format, but I'm not sure that it is more valuable placed in the mix. Given your next sentence, "Sybase in 1991 or SQL Server 2k in 2002", in resume3.doc I did squeeze in an extra line at the top saying 1995 through 2003, and I changed the "PROJECTS" title to "RECENT PROJECTS", in case the only concern was that I was pulling in old experience from the 1980s.

What I really liked about the resume2.doc/resume3.doc format are the extra section titles. If I put these section titles inline the chronological history, then the document would have three or four levels of nesting/heading, instead of two.

The section titles are "transferable skills". I found myself explaining in cover letters how my experience matches skills like these that are listed in the job advertisement, and thought it could be convenient if this information were in the resume itself.

Note that in Emerick's case in there may be some connection between the two companies he's worked with (they seem to be both approximately email-enabled workflow products).

In my case I'm writing a "functional" resume, partly for non-technical HR people, but even for people with development experience because it's likely that my next job won't be with people who are writing another Windows fax server. (Google's first hit for "functional resume") agrees with the 'conventional wisdom' that I've read and heard elsewhere about "functional resumes". My resume2/resume3 would be what it calls a "chrono-functional, hybrid, or combination format".

("ASPs" are MS "Active Server Pages", web pages written for the MS Web server, a combination of HTML, plus Basic which is executed on the server before the page is sent e.g. to get data from a database to populate the HTML, plus JavaScript which is executed in the user's browser).


Jason, I started with an easy-to-read one-and-a-half page version, see ... various non-technical people liked it: few technical words, an 'executive summary' at the beginning, lots of white space... but, it wasn't getting me interviews, so no opportunity to pull out a more detailed version later. Apart from the fact that it contains few technical details (the whole of what is now page 2 is summarised in 3 lines), it describes a lead-of-a-small-company role which isn't likely to happen again (I'll more likely join an existing team than start a new one). Based on comments in I decided to add data (resume.doc), and then still try to have a presentable and chronological first page (resume2.doc/resume3.doc).

I'm not sure what you mean by "just lists hilights, not every single thing". I could drastically reduce the length of each sentence on page 2, and say for example ...

"Wrote a C++ library which wrapped the Win32 thread and synchronisation primitives."

... instead of saying ...

"Wrote a C++ library which wrapped the Win32 thread and synchronisation primitives, to support the multi-reader / single-writer pattern, deadlock prediction and prevention, and thread performance monitoring."

... but, well, it wouldn't be saying as much. Or I could have fewer items (sentences) per section, or fewer sections. I'm not sure what you're suggesting.

I thought about your saying that "HR guys would look at your current resume, say 'overqualified' without even reading all the way through it", and cut a snippet from the top paragraph: it nows says ...

"Implemented much of the core, server-side, network, and database functionality (see page 2)."

... instead of saying ...

"Personally designed and implemented much of the core, server-side, network, and database functionality (see page 2) while other developers wrote client applications and server add-on features."

... I think that's better for your suggestion.

Christopher Wells
Sunday, June 29, 2003

"ASPs" are MS "Active Server Pages"

Then it's "ASP", not "ASPs" - thus my confusion. "ASPs" is likely to be read as "Application Service Providers"


Sunday, June 29, 2003

I am just wondering who is Emerick Rogul.

Alex Rider
Sunday, June 29, 2003

I don't think quality is equivalent to quantity, and it may be that there was something else wrong with your short version instead of length.

Maybe it was a problem of not enough buzzwords for  the HR people, so your resume never made it into the hands of the technical, hiring people?

"Team lead and chief architect of a fax server product responsible for xxx in sales and a xxx return on investment" speaks for itself.

The technical hiring dude will understand that. 

The HR person would think this is better:
Worked on a C++ blah blah Visual basic blah blah sql server blah blah. 

That's why the hardest part will always be getting to the people that have the power to hire you.

ymmv dude
Sunday, June 29, 2003

Alex, Emerick Rogul posted his resume's URL in the earlier discussion, as an example of how you can fit a lot of useful information into a  one-page resume.


Dude, it was funny your saying that the technical person would understand the marketing numbers, while the HR person would prefer the buzzwords; I hadn't thought of it that way.

Yes, I would like to think that "Team lead and chief architect of a fax server product responsible for xxx in sales and a xxx return on investment" would speak for itself; but my experience with headhunters and Big companies has told me that:

* "Team lead" can be misunderstood as project lead or director of development; with the first resume, I had people asking "Do you want a coding role? When was the last time you did any coding?"

* "Chief architect" can again be miunderstood as a non-coding role, responsible for specs and requirements but not even responsible for high-level physical/module design

* "Fax server product" can be simply a bunch of scripts, driving prebuilt fax software components or driving intelligent fax devices which have the software on-board

I could condense the first 6 bullet items (18 lines) on page 1 of resume3.doc as follows:

* Self-starter, able to design as well as code, learns new technologies are required
* Works alone or with a team, keeps an eye on the business (deliverable software), knows about quality control as well as coding
* Experienced with the full software development lifecycle
* Suitable for roles that include customer-facing responsibilities
* Contributes to the system design and integration, has some experience with distributed systems

However, remembering back to the days when I was hiring, if I had read bullet items like the above in a resume I might have asked myself "Where is there evidence of that? What if this is just copy-and-paste resume jardon, like 'Excellent communication skills, team player, able to multi-task'?"

I wish I could condense it further, but I don't see how to do that without losing data (I'd also like more white space, and perhaps a size 11 font).

One idea is to remove all items which aren't relevent to specific job applications; for example, remove the page 1 bullet items for junior/intermediate coding positions; remove the "MFC and GUIs" section for server-only positions; remove the "cross-platform development" section for Windows-only positions; remove the "device drivers, and low-level programming" section for GUI positions.

Anyway, I've tried a highly-condensed version, and I'm not satisfied with its results; I'll try this more explicit version for a bit.


Philo, back to your "87-91 [...] feels weak, especially if you're looking for a coding job" comment. As it happened, I was doing tehnical writing: whatever the employer wants...

I had _some_ experience coding during those years; apart from writing a REXX script to convert from GML to HTML, I wrote a kind of program to write the _System Test Plan_ (because the test plan was subject to change, and I thought that the smaller program would be easier to edit and maintain than the expanded Test Plan); I taught myself Intel assembly on my home PC, in 1987; I taught myself C by writing a payroll program for Greenpeace.

I haven't mentioned those, partly to keep 'everything' on a single first page, partly because experience that is more than 10 years old "doesn't count", and partly because non-commercial experience also "doesn't count".

If I were doing a three-page instead of a two-page resume, then I could mention those. And, in that case, I might very well put the "Recent Projects" data inline with the chronlogical section.

Christopher Wells
Sunday, June 29, 2003

Christopher, you might think of putting "Technical Writer" in, to point up that that's what your job was. Just a thought.


Sunday, June 29, 2003

"it was funny your saying that the technical person would understand the marketing numbers, while the HR person would prefer the buzzwords;"

Ha!  :)  Indeed, I've been working in unusual circumstances for too long I suspect, I didn't realize what I was saying! 

ymmv dude - who wouldn't have it any other way
Sunday, June 29, 2003

Philo, fair comment ( about stereotyping ). I was just comparing different approaches to the way occupations are remunerated.

Christopher, all this agonising over the format of your resume is, I believe, missing the point. The resume is good. Maybe it's time to start your own product or business?

Secondly, in terms of addressing the core problem, your writing efforts might be better applied in writing to politicians and telling them to pull theirs fingers out.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Christopher, I think maybe . & ymmv are on to something.  Maybe the problem isn't you or your resume, it's the companies you are targeting.  I think Joel or Eric Sink (sourcegear, posts here sometimes) or somebody in that ilk would be much more impressed with "Team lead of fax server product from cradle to grave, yada yada yada" than any list along the lines of "c++, 4 years;  vb, 6 years; sql server 2 years, etc..."  I might be wrong though, maybe they'll chime in.

Now it may be a question that you would rather work for Fortune 500 BigCo rather than young scrappy LittleCo.  I cast my lot with the small compaies though, and I get the impression that you do too.

save these instructions
Sunday, June 29, 2003

Dot, I can start a programming project given someone to talk with about requirements, but I don't know how to start a product. My previous company (LANSource) started as a reseller before it became an ISV. The owner decided to hire people to write modem-sharing software, partly because his margins would be higher if he owned his own product, but also because he learned from his customers that there was a demand for such a product. Lacking customers, I have no ideas for a product: Catch-22.

Fogcreek too, I think, started as a company of "consultants" before rebranding itself as an ISV with FogBUGZ and CityDesk. I know of other ISVs for whom that's true as well.

Save, Joel (for one) mentioned earlier that he doesn't resumes from C++ programmers. C++ must be the new COBOL. :-)

Christopher Wells
Monday, June 30, 2003

You're saying that Joel doesn't entertain resumes from C++ programmers?  That doesn't sound like Joel.

You have a link where I can read that with my own peepers?

those who know me have no need of my name
Monday, June 30, 2003

Sorry, I haven't found the link. I was remembering a comment on this board that purported to be from Joel, part of the discussion that surounded his advertising for a support person, to the effect that he didn't want 100s of resumes from C++ programmers; I imagine that he has enough already.

Christopher Wells
Monday, June 30, 2003

Uh, I remember that thread but I don't think Joel meant it as you're saying. 

In general, a C++ programmer would be overqualified for a support position.  I seem to remember his comment being along the lines that since he got 100 resumes from C++ programmers for the support position that he could switch the benefits over to things like one bathroom break every Friday and a poke in the eye rather than free soda, etc.. 

Monday, June 30, 2003

funny, I thought those were comments made by Mark..

Prakash S
Monday, June 30, 2003

In looking at this resume, I tend to think it is fishing.  The resume doesn't really specify what sort of work or environment you are looking for so you don't have the opportunity to sell the reader on the concept that you are the best person for the job.

Do you want to be a lead, or are you content to be one of the pack?  Do you want to emphasize your abilities as a developer or as a lead?

From the perspective of a lead position, the resume seems weak in explaining what your actual role was as a lead.  Did you do the project scheduling?  Estimation?  Staffing?

It is fairly obvious that your position had a wide spectrum of responsibilities over time, but what do you actually want to do?  What are you best at?  Find the things that you have done that emphasize these characteristics and highlight them. 

On the nitpicking side, stop using the word personally.  The following phrase is from revision 0:

  Personally implementing the most challenging 
  subcomponents of a system, such as device drivers,
  system debugging tools, and libraries

feels egotistical (especially combined with the 'most challenging' comment).  Everything in your resume should be something you have 'personally' done.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Bang, you're right that the resume is fishing.

About your saying "Find the things that you have done that emphasize these characteristics and highlight them", would you be able to post an example of a resume that does this, please?

About the sort of environment, do I want to work for a big company or a small one, for example? They can be similar - in my jobs at the biggest companies, IBM and BNR, I was working by myself or with a handful of other people. Big companies may have a wider variety of specialised roles and more expensive equipment, small companies may have a wider variety of roles for each person. I've worked in many environments, and have found every one of them preferable to being unemployed. Historically, when unemployed, I have taken the first job offered to me.

About the sort of work, my first manager told me when I was an intern at BNR, "I don't know what job I'll be doing [next year]: I only know that it's a job that doesn't exist yet". In fact (and I've told this story here before) I was interviewed for a tech support role at LANSource, but by the time I arrived their programmer had quit and there were no customers, so I became the company's programmer instead because I could do the job.

About my being a lead there, by the time there were several developers my role was architectural (partitioning the work), translating feature requests from non-technical people into high-level design for other developers, and quality control (for example code inspections, version control). Somebody had to do it. <shrug> I was also "lead" in the sense of being the first developer into each new project/technology (Win 3.1, Win32, device drivers, SQL) ... so leading in the way that an icebreaker leads a convoy.

About your questions, "what do you want to do? what are you best at?", they aren't answered in my resume because I don't know how to answer them. I just like being given or finding work to do, whatever the work is, doing it and coming back for more. Some people say I'm good at explaining things in simple terms. Maybe that's why computers and the people who I worked with seemed to understand me.

It seems pretty simple to me: make a living by developing and delivering software that clients pay for, and (at a meta-level) software development skills and services that employers pay for. What I *want* to do would naturally depend on what the employer's needs are: what niche they have that needs filling, or what product they want that needs developing. The purpose of the resume is to tell them what kinds of job I completed successfully in the past.

I really *would* like to see an example, if you can, of the kind of resume that you seem to be proposing as an alternative.

Christopher Wells
Wednesday, July 02, 2003

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