It often takes hiring managers less than one minute to scan through a resume and decide whether you move to the short list of resumes or not.  One minute. It might seem unfair or downright crazy that your job search is based on less than 60 ticking seconds.  

Jobs can receive hundreds, even thousands of applicants; especially if you are in a thriving metro area like DC where top jobs are being offered by the latest startups, government agencies & large corporations.  If you’re lucky enough to have a real, live person screening your resume instead of screen software, then 60 seconds is a lot of time when a pile of 300 resumes is stacked on a desk. 

So barring any major spelling mistakes, formatting issues, or illegible fonts – here are the three biggest pitfalls that we see on a daily basis on a technical resume.


It’s too long
.

We’ve seen resumes 10-15 pages long (seriously). The resume is filled with projects, every last detail about the tech stack you know and have seen once in your life.  Longer is not always better. This is where the age old, quality over quantity is imperative.  Sixty Seconds. Unless you’re a speed reader, there is no way a hiring manager is getting through your resume in less than a minute.  And that’s a problem because you might be the ideal candidate for the job.  But if your best qualifications aren’t on the first two pages, you’re selling yourself short.

Rule of thumb: no more than three pages for a general resume.  And this is generous according to the Talener NYC Director, Kim Siembieda. If you are a junior candidate who has just left college with a CS degree under your belt, we only expect to see a few internships, your tech stack, educational experience and outside-of-work projects.  This means, one to two pages.  Your freshman year 3 week project with Python is weighing down your resume unless you’ve used it several times since.  The expectation is 1-2 pages for a junior candidate, 1-3 (max!) for a mid-level candidate, and 3 pages for a senior level candidate.  Concise is the key.  Your resume is meant as an introduction that allows for questions from the hiring manager.

It lists every technology you’ve ever seen.

And you can’t explain how you have used them. Rule of thumb: If a hiring manager closed their eyes, moved their index finger around and pointed to a technology on your resume, would you feel comfortable answering in depth technical questions about it?  Sound crazy? It happens more than you think.  You might think that a hiring manager will ask you about your strongest skills, but many will choose the smallest line on your resume and ask you to explain, start to finish, how you completed a project with that technology. 

Make sure that you are comfortable answer detailed questions about every technology listed. What was the project? How long did it take? Did you learn the technology for the project? What issues did you run into? Can you walk me through them? What was the end result? Did you also do the testing?… The questions go on and on.

If you really want to illustrate the scope of your abilities without overselling yourself, add in a section that lists technologies that you are familiar with or have seen in action before. 

Education: Check. Experience: Check. Motivation…

It’s great that you went to a top school for your CS degree and have three internships under your belt.  But if you haven’t gotten a job right out of school and need to go through the interviewing gauntlet, then you need to show your motivation for finding a job and continuing your learning. This is particularly important for bootcamp grads as well, where internships and lengthy foundational studies can be lacking. List professional associations, tech groups in which you are involved– especially if you hold a board position, profiles where your work can be viewed, and different hack-at-thons or trainings that you have done on your own in order to target your skills and stay up-to-date.  There’s nothing worse than being stagnant in tech.

If you need any resume tips or ideas for creating general/targeted resumes, please contact Margo at mslaff@talener.com.