Building the Perfect Resume

As many of you might already know, a recruiter spends about 6 seconds on your resume before tossing it into an accept or reject pile. I always wondered if that was true, and asked several recruiters I know about it. The answer was mostly positive, they have tons of resumes to go through, and most recruiters follow the strategy of building two piles, resumes that caught their eye, and resumes that didn’t. The ones that did pass the first round get scrutinized more, later. But how do you ensure yours isn’t tossed away?

Photo by Unsplash

General tips:

  • Your resume must be One-sided, one page only unless you have 10+ years of experience. My first resume was 3 pages long with huge fonts, and I felt pretty dumb when I saw how professional-looking resumes my friends had. But that’s okay, it’s never too late.
  • Don’t try to make it “fancy”, keep it simple and professional looking. Don’t use too many colors. I use black ink, with blue titles.
  • Add the skills and experiences relevant to the job you are applying for first. If you have extra space after that, you can add other side projects/extracurriculars that have nothing to do with showcasing your job/leadership/team skills.
  • State everything in bullet points, not paragraphs.
  • Ensure there are no grammar errors or typos.
  • Apply as soon as the job is posted. That will also increase your chances of being noticed. I generally keep email notifications on for my target companies, so I know about any new internship posting as soon as it is out.

Format:

  • The top section should have your name, email address, college name, major, GPA, and the year you are graduating in. You do not need to add your high school info(I have noticed some people doing this).
  • You can also add your LinkedIn/Github profile if you have maintained them.
  • The second section can have your skills, abilities, relevant courses, and certifications. Programmers should also add the languages they know.
  • The third section should have your work experience. Ensure that you put the company name, the time you worked with them (eg. May 2019 — April 2020), your position, and a bulleted list of the main tasks you performed. If you do not have any experience, you can write about any leadership role you had or and different projects that you led in your school.
  • The fourth section should be a list of the coolest projects you have worked with or research you have done.
  • The last section should be your achievements and leadership experiences.
  • Note — Not all of the sections stated above are mandatory. This is just what worked for me.

Keywords

Most MNCs get thousands of resumes per month. (Google gets about 2 million a year! ). Majority of these companies have filters for resumes, and your resume is automatically rejected if it does not have certain keywords. Surprisingly, this is not the case with Microsoft. My Microsoft recruiter told me they don’t have a keyword searcher, and she individually views every application. However, most other companies have the searcher in place, so the first thing you need to ensure before you apply to any position is:

a) Go through the job description

b)Check if you possess some of the core required skills.

c) If you do, ensure those words are on your resume. (Put them in bold so they also catch the eyes of your recruiter)

Cover Letter

I never bothered writing these, I didn’t give them much thought. That was until my friend told me about how they made a huge difference. Nobody bothers to write them, so you will stand out if you do. After I started applying with a resume and cover letter online, and I noticed more companies started getting back to me. I’m not sure if it was the cover letter specifically that increased the response rate, but I just wanted to put this out there.

When writing a cover letter, pretend that the recruiter is in front of you, and you are trying to impress them by talking about your journey and skills. Make it 1–2 pages long. You can write about why you ended up in the world of tech, why the company you are applying to is important to you and you can describe one or more of your projects done at work or school in more detail. Keep it succinct and non-repetitive, you do not want to bore the recruiter.

That’s about it! I hope this was helpful! :) You can reach out to me on LinkedIn or Instagram if you have any questions/suggestions about what my next blog should be.

I’d like to thank the recruiters at Fannie Mae for walking me through my resume and suggesting edits, and the recruiters at Google for the resume workshop which gave me better insights. I’d also like to thank Abhishek BV for the cover letter tip, it changed my response rate and will hopefully change yours too.

Passionate about coding, cybersecurity and inclusion and diversity of women in tech!

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