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Your resume sucks. Here's how to fix it.

I want to hire you...!

...But, I can't hire you if I can't find you, and I won't find you if your resume sucks.

So, let's fix that. If you want to give yourself the best possible chance to land an interview from your next job application, this guide is for you.

Your resume sucks
...but I want to hire you!

Over the past few weeks, I've reviewed hundreds of resumes while hiring for open engineering roles at Craftwork. I've had people reach out on LinkedIn, Instagram, Reddit and by email to apply, which is honestly awesome. I love that people are excited about what we're building and want to be a part of it.

But here's the thing: most of the applications I've seen are terrible. They're so bad that I can't even tell if the person is a good fit for the role. And if I can't tell if you're a good fit, I can't take away time from my team to interview you.

I genuinely believe that many of the people applying to work at Craftwork are great candidates - and with a little bit of love, their applications would shine. So I'm writing this guide to help you write a job application that doesn't suck, from a hiring manager's perspective.

Here's what I'm looking for when you apply

Ultimately, the goal of a job application is to give the hiring manager a reason to want to talk to you. It should clearly communicate what you're best at, what work you've actually done, and what drives you to do it. If you can do that, you're already ahead of the game.

You would be shocked to see how many applications I've seen that don't have the basics right.

Give your resume some love

Don't apply to a job if you don't have a detailed, up to date resume/CV ready to go. If you don't have a resume, you're not ready to apply for a job.

I've read through several applications that include nothing more than a name and an email address. No resume, no cover letter, no LinkedIn profile, not even a GitHub link!

As you might expect, these applications are rejected immediately.

Treat your LinkedIn profile like a living resume. If you take the time to fill in your profile with a detailed work history, it can be a suitable replacement for a pdf. Want to do both? Knock yourself out.

Every bit of your work history should include the company name, your job title, the dates you worked there, and a description of what you did. Many applications I've seen go to LinkedIn profiles which only contain a company name, dates and job title. That doesn't tell me anything useful, even if you worked at a FAANG.

For tech roles, include a short list of the technologies you used for that role. This is especially important if you're applying for a role that requires specific experience with a technology.

Don't lie on your resume by adding things you haven't done. You can absolutely exaggerate your accomplishments, but don't put yourself in a position where you might get caught in a lie.

Make it personal

Every one of us sees the world through a different lens. We all have different experiences, different perspectives, and different ways of thinking. That's what makes us unique. So why do so many resumes look the same?

If you want to stand out to a recruiter, let your personality come through a bit. Here's how:

Include a short bio at the top of your resume. Tell me who you are, what you're passionate about, and what you're looking for in your next role. This is a great way to show your personality and make yourself stand out.

Here's the bio I used the last time I brushed up my resume to apply for a job:

An impassioned, imperfect, endlessly curious person, fascinated by design and technology, trying to leave the world in better shape than I found it, and amplify the accomplishments of those around me.

Admittedly, I cringe just a little bit reading it now - but hopefully you get the idea. It's personal, it's unique, and it's a great way to start a conversation.

Don't use a cover letter template. I don't know if ChatGPT is to blame for this or what, but I've read several cover letter back-to-back that were nearly identical except for a few specific details. If you're going to write a cover letter, make it personal. Tell me why you're excited about the role and why you think you'd be a good fit. If you're not going to make it personal, don't write one at all.

Lead with something interesting. This is intentionally vague -- but if your cover letter starts with some variation of "with over 5 years of experience, I..." your cover letter already sounds like 90% of the other cover letters I've read.

I know you're more interesting than that! Let your personality and interests shine through. If it all goes well, your cover letter is the start of a conversation - recruiters and hiring managers can read your resume for years of experience (if they really want to).

Here's the first few sentences to my most recent cover letter, to give you a sense of what I mean:

My name is Mike Bifulco, and I'm a software designer, engineer, and serial entrepreneur based in Charlotte, NC, USA. I'm submitting my C.V. for consideration for DevRel leadership roles at ████, and I couldn't be more excited to do so. I've spent my career helping others make their dreams come true by building great products on the web. Helping developers tackle new problems and grow their skill sets is an incredible privilege, and being able to do so while working for ████, and growing an incredible team of developer advocates and engineers would be a thrill.

Include your most meaningful personal projects. If you're applying for a job as a software engineer, I want to see what you've built. If you're applying for a job as a designer, I want to see what you've designed. If you've done some of your best work outside of your job, I would love to see it!

When possible, link to your available work online. This includes websites, apps in the app store, blog posts, videos, etc. If you've done something cool, I want to see it.

Found a role you're in love with? Go the extra mile.

If you've come across a job opportunity on a team that you're really smitten by, go the extra mile to make your application stand out. Here's a few ideas:

Use your network to find someone you know with a contact at the company you're applying to, even if it's on a different team. If your connection is good, ask transparently for an introduction, and ask them to put in a good word for you. If you're not sure if your connection is good, ask them to be honest with you. If they're not comfortable making an introduction, don't push it.

This is one reason why it's good to be proactively kind to people you work with - you never know when you might need a favor, and if you've only ever asked for favors, you're not going to get very far. Give without the expectation of getting anything in return, and you'll be surprised how often people are willing to help you out when you need it.

Reach out to the hiring manager directly. If you're applying for a role at a startup, there's a good chance that the hiring manager is the CEO or founder. If you're applying for a role at a larger company, there's a good chance that the hiring manager is a senior leader. Either way, they're probably pretty easy to find online.

Try out the product. If you're applying for a role at a company that has a product, try it out. If you like it, tell them why. If there are opportunities for improvement, offer constructive criticism. If you're applying to a developer tools company, try out the product and build something with it. Share what you've built with the team, or open a Pull Request to fix a bug or add a feature. This is a great way to show that you're passionate about the product and the company, that you can communicate and work well, and that you're a self-starter.

Improve the odds to get an interview

Everything I've mentioned so far is about making your application stand out, and giving the hiring manager a reason to want to talk to you and schedule that first interview. Yes, it can be a lot of work, and yes, there's definitely challenges with privilege and bias in the hiring process.

If you're serious about landing the best possible gig for your next role, you'll see the best results if you put in the work.

What do you think? Did I get anything really wrong here? Is there something you've done or seen that helps people land an interview? If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, I wanna hear it. Please reach out to me on Mastodon, Threads or shoot me an email.

Recommendations from around the web

  • 📖 I'm currently reading through Oversubscribed, by Daniel Priestly. It's got some great insights on how to build a business whose demand exceeds its supply, and how to use that to your advantage.
  • 🎨 I recently found out that the Washington Post's Design System is published online for anyone to check out (shout out to my pal Edward for sharing!). If you're at all interested in building UI libraries or design systems, give it a look.
  • 📰 What not to do in API Versioning is the latest newsletter from APIs You Won't Hate, the dev community I help run. It's a great read on a hairy topic, especially if you're building APIs.

Thanks for reading Tiny Improvements. If you found this helpful, I'd love it if you shared this with a friend. It helps me out a great deal.

Until next time - be excellent to each other!

Your resume sucks. Here's how to fix it.

A guide to writing a resume that doesn't suck, from a hiring manager's perspective.



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