Screening Resumes

We’ve been looking at expanding our development team (contact me if you’re an awesome developer, passionate about what you do, and like people and work) and so I’ve been screening a lot of resumes and CVs recently. If you’re a candidate, keep reading and tell me in your interview you read this. If you’re just interested, keep reading, though this is really just my opinions, combined with some rants.

Things I look for in resumes:

* Strong command of written & colloquial English (see below for more)
* Experience spanning multiple vendors, platforms, open-source, etc
* Specific accomplishments (less ‘managed/coordinated’ more ‘wrote/implemented’)

Things that are likely to put me off:

* Excessive keywords/technologies (with no examples)
* Cut and pasted roles/responsibilities for projects (e.g. every role listed)
* More experience with a technology than it’s been in existence
* Obvious grammatical/spelling/usage errors

It somewhat surprised me after thinking about it how little time/credence I give to scanning technologies listed by candidates. (I do read them, but mostly looking for items that show strong willingness to explore or personal preference; e.g. Grails, Git, IntelliJ). What really excites me for hiring say a Java developer is someone who’s also done, say Javascript, Ruby, scripting, C++, *and* has some great project samples of things they’ve done for projects where they came up with something clever, or leveraged a neat toolkit to solve some problem.

Really what I’m looking for generally boils down to 2 main factors: communication skills and passion.

Communication Skills: I increasingly view resumes/CVs as an expression of an individual’s ability to communicate in a technical forum. The quality of your resume reflects your ability to write requirements, express technical/design concepts, and communicate with customers. We work in an environment where the first impression people have of you increasingly comes via email, a written document, or some other non-verbal communication. With distributed teams becoming more common, the ability to clearly and accurately communicate without the luxury of all the bandwidth you have in personal settings becomes even more important.

Passion: I want to see some combination of jobs, project accomplishments, technologies, and familiarity with techniques that let me know you’re passionate for both delivering good software, and becoming better at the craft of software engineering. I like to see technologies like open-source libraries, frameworks, projects, and other tools that show you’ve investigated what’s out there in the course of your work. Practices like TDD, Agile, UCD, or others that show you’re continually looking to try, and adopt better ways of working are also a strong plus.

If those pieces are there, then I strongly believe the other fundamentals will follow, which makes it much more likely that someone will get an interview to see if things click in terms of team dynamics and the needs of a specific position.