A while back I helped coach my friend to a Software Engineering job at Amazon. He had just gotten laid off due to COVID-19 and called me for some advice on how to get through the interviews he had lined up. We did a mock code interview from some practice questions he got off the web and I walked him through the way he should approach it.
Quick humble brag, but he got the job and credited my help as playing a big part.
I’ve worked with a lot of recruiters and HR personnel due to my proactivity at work to get into anything and everything. I’ve seen a lot of resumes from potential new hires and observed interviews/the reaction of the managers doing the interviews. I have a good idea of what people are looking for, so let’s break it down from the beginning.
- Keep the resume short
Another common piece of advice, but keep the resume short. One page if you can. I see interns come in with four page resumes and people instantly cringe. No one has time to go through all that. The sweet spot is one page. Everything of value should be condensed and can be talked to when you get to the interview. That’s the point of the resume, really, which is to get you through the door. You can have a description of the projects that you work, but for me personally, what I do is have a two sentence limit for listing out my experiences.
For example, if I created an application that classified things that are hotdogs and not hotdogs (Silicon Valley reference lol), I would just put a line down under a projects title like:
Machine Learning Image Classifier 2019-2020 myrepo.github.com
And then the rest of your projects would go underneath. Same goes for education. You don’t need to list everything you did in school. If you are still a student, just list the most relevant classes. Simple is better. Don’t go too into details for jobs that aren’t tech related, like if you worked in a different industry before. Leave it in as a footnote and that’s it. You want the recruiter to see the big keywords that will grab their attention and see that you are the best technical candidate for that technical position. The interview will be your chance to shine and elaborate.
2. List all your important skills at the top of resume
On my resume I have a “skills” section that lists all the things I have applicability in. It’s the first thing that someone will see under my contact information. It lists out all my strongest languages, tech concepts, and skills that I have gained. This is key. Recruiters don’t have time to look through every resume so they will filter keywords that fit the job requisite of the position they are trying to fill.
Since this is a technical focused post, you want to make sure that you list only things that are relevant to the topic at hand. For example, you can put down something like
Python, Java, Networking, etc, etc etc
This is especially helpful if you are new to the industry and aiming to be a tech professional. You can list the core skills that you gained from your classes or what projects you have been working on, and then from there your relevant experiences or classes that you took can help you during the interview to show a potential employer how everything ties into your skillset.
If there’s one thing you need to remember, putting your technical skills at the top of your resume will be the first thing that catches the recruiters eye.
3. Always tie back to the business case and the all important “Why”
Congrats. You made it past the other resumes in HR’s inbox and landed that sweet code interview. Now what? Well first, obviously, is preparation. Know the stuff you’re talking about and look at the basic qualifications that were already listed on the job posting. If you are interviewing for a Software Engineer position? Better know about data structures, how to manipulate them in your software language of choice, and what projects you’ve done to demonstrate your knowledge. Network engineer? Better know how the internet works.
That’s a base level of knowledge you should display during an interview. Common sense, right? Alright. Now how do you take it to the next level?
What you need to do is explain why the skills you have tie back to a companies or organizations goals. The people that will be interviewing you aren’t the HR people anymore. These will be actual managers within the company looking to fill in positions within their team. Can you work with the team? How will you help them achieve their objectives? So you can build a website? How does it apply to them? These are surely questions that will be going through their minds.
A very simple example is the friend I got that position at Amazon. We were talking about load balancers and their use cases. Obviously, he was focusing more on the technical aspect of how to implement a load balancer and optimal ways to make it work for whatever setting the practice questions asked for. But why does it matter? In the case of a business, they want to optimize their user traffic so that their website or services can continue to run smoothly. It doesn’t matter if it’s a simple “why” that you provide when going through your interview. The most important is to showcase that you understand what is driving the implementation of new processes. It’s even better if you understand the mission they’re going after, and can expand that beyond a typical cookie cutter response. They want to see if you’re a good fit for the project you’re hiring on. If you can showcase that you already know what they want and share the vision that they’re hoping for…that’s basically a win in any recruiters book.
Usually, I’ll end an article like this with some statement like “take this with a grain of salt”. No, no, no. Not this post. I guarantee this is information you NEED to know to stand out on your resume and crush that technical interview. It is the core foundational concepts, but core foundations are what you need to build the rest of your building upon. If you can nail this into your head, literally grab a hammer and bang it in, you’ll come in more prepared and ready than the rest of your peers that don’t know this info.
That I can say with confidence. From yours truly, The Tech Professional.