Ben Northrop


Decisions and software development


Building a Better Resume for Developers


(9 comments)
December 12th 2008


The developer resume is broken. It's dense. It's long. It's static.

If I had only 3 minutes to scan a developer's resume before giving an interview (which is almost always the case, sadly!), I probably wouldn't come away with a very accurate picture of who that person was or what he knows. I'd think "Spring...hmmm, I wonder if he's used Spring before?"...and then I'd skim all 6 pages looking for the word "Spring" like I'm in grade school doing a word search, and then I'd get the end, not see it, and my 3 minutes would be up. Time to interview!

If I had to look through a stack of 10 resumes and pick 3 to interview, forget about it! I'd have no idea if I found the best.

We're developers, we can do better. What I want from a resume is the same thing I want from a good dashboard:

  1. Different views of key information.
  2. The ability to see things at a high-level and drill in on things I'm interested in.
  3. Search!

Or more specifically, I want to quickly answer these questions:

And the same goes for when I'm the one looking for a job. I want my resume to convey my skills and experience quickly, concisely, efficiently. I don't want to be just one of the masses - I want to stand out.

So this is what I set out to build: a better CV for developers. You can give it a try for free. It's out there at codersCV. It's not Monster, just a way to publish and manage your portfolio online. Plain and simple. Throw a link to it from your personal web site or LinkedIn. That's the idea at least.

Anyway, this is just one solution. I'd love to know what you think. Do you think the developer resume is broken? What do you see the problems are? How would you fix it?

I believe that software development is fundamentally about making decisions, and so this is what I write about (mostly). I'm a Distinguished Technical Consultant for Summa and have two degrees from Carnegie Mellon University, most recently one in philosophy (thesis here). I live in Pittsburgh, PA with my wife, 3 energetic boys, and dog. Subscribe here or write me at ben at summa-tech dot com.

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Comments (9)

December 11, 2008
I am a student, that has only looked at other people's resume's once in my entire life. But when I did you could easily find the people who where interested in their job. From what I could tell, I saw a lot of resume's with a lot of filler text, just to make themselves look better. Then I saw the two that had a lot of CS experience. I saw that they had done some projects in their spare time, and I saw a wide variety of skills. My hope is that when/if I am looking for a job, that the experience section will be what speaks for me.
byron
December 11, 2008
nice :)

two points:

- with your experience there's always a start and end date. how do you specify no end date (as in, it's where i'm currently employed)
- you should be able to export it (pdf?)
December 11, 2008
Nice job. Really liked the website.
December 11, 2008
GREAT ideas... hope you don't mind if I pick up your idea for my CV and my homepage I'm working on?

Anyway - this page is bookmarked!
Rob Desbois
December 12, 2008
How about enclosing an SQL dump file to be imported into a database with a standard schema 'CVDB'? That would then allow you to use your stock queries to find out what you wanted, e.g:

SELECT COUNT(PT.*) FROM project_tools PT
JOIN tools T USING(tool_id)
WHERE T.name = "Hibernate";

Could work :-D

--rob
December 12, 2008
excellent. i certainly agree, developers resumes all look the same which causes the "hunt and peck" routine of looking for keywords (i.e. Spring, IoC, Hibernate, etc).
December 12, 2008
Thanks for feedback!

Sam: I totally agree. Way too much "filler" in resumes - makes skimming impossible...and frustrating. And I always like to see the side projects people work on. A lot of times, we do more interesting things on our own time than they do at work (kind of sad, but true)...and I agree, speaks more about us.

Byron: Great ideas. A PDF view is my next task...and then specifying "to date" as "present" is after that. I also want to "Ajaxify" the data entry part, because it takes too freaking long right now. Hopefully this weekend I'll get a chance.

Stefan: No problem:)

Rob: Not totally sure what you mean. Ability to make custom to search someone's CV?


December 12, 2008
It will be nice to have sections for recognition, hobbies and non-profit work. Awesome tool and I'm using it :)
Dave Newton
December 12, 2008
Interesting solution to a long-standing problem--thanks for sharing. I've also been trying to figure out more meaningful resumes--as a consultant for most of the past 20 years it's a bit challenging.