How to get your resume to stand out?

Post was originally published in October 2020 and has been updated in October 2022

I've been hiring and mentoring Data professionals since 2012 and have reviewed 100s of resumes.

I've seen virtually every type of resume out there, including: the one that included a name and a list of publications only, the two-page resume where first page listed every technical key word, and all the resumes that didn't include any technical skills.

Every resume reviewer has things their own tips and pet peeves. Here's my advice for your industry resume.

Step 0: Understand Goals of Resume

  • Goal of resume is to get to next round in interview process

  • You want to impress and manage expectations about your expertise

Step 1: Draft Resume

  • List everything you've ever worked on...

  • even if it was easy for you

  • even if it's remotely relevant (including relevant coursework, if you're early in your career)

  • even if that means that the draft is over 1 page long

  • Remember to include any skills mentioned in "technical strengths/skills" section into bullets of accomplishments in the resume

  • If you have relevant industry experience, consider listing experience above education

Step 2: Improve Wording

  • Make sure that (ideally) each bullet on your resume mentions the business impact of the work, using X-Y-Z formula: "Accomplished [X] as measured by [Y], by doing [Z]", where:

      • [X] = what you did,

      • [Y] = why you did it, e.g. business impact, and

      • [Z] = how you did it, e.g. ML and technical specs

      • Try to quantify: impact, what data you analyzed, how big was it, where was it stored, how many people you managed, what software you used, etc.

      • Example (one of mine): Pioneered personalized advice in real time to improve engagement of social media post, by developing real time recommendation engine for social media platform, by leveraging ExtraTrees and creating API via AWS SageMaker, Python and Docker.

  • 1 idea = 1 bullet, at most 2 lines long

  • Each bullet starts with an action verb. For lists of action verbs, please see:

  • Bullet that discusses a homework assignments clearly shows that it's for a class

      • Did you go above and beyond the homework assignment, and continue the project?

      • More advice on including homework assignments on your resume here, by Jeremie Harris

Step 3: Customize

  1. Review the job description (sometimes reading between the lines) to understand:

  • Why the company is trying to fill this role now?

  • What key things do you need to know to contribute as a hire?

  1. Pick those bullets from the previous two Steps that most clearly answer these two questions.

        • If one of the bullets is related to coursework, pick those that are most relevant and fit on 1 line

  2. Review the job description (again), to see what keywords the job description uses when it talks about outcomes, technical requirements, etc.

    • e.g. Does it mention NLP vs text processing vs feedback or something else?

  1. Rephrase the bullets from Step 3-2 to use the wording in the job description.

Step 4: Organize

Keep track of what you sent where and when. I use a private code repository with:

  • branch = company name

  • PDF of job description, always named "Job desc.pdf"

  • Text of note (or cover letter), always named "IK Cover Letter.txt", showcasing why I'm excited about that company and role (~ 1 sentence) and why I'd be a great fit (~2-3 sentences)

      • NOTE: If you can change the name of the company and everything else can stay the same in your note, then it's not a customized note.

  • tags with date sent

Step 5: Final Tips

  • If you're having trouble quantifying your accomplishments, consider:

      • Reviewing:

  • Make the font legible

  • Rule of thumb: 1 resume page per 10 years of experience

  • If you got a PhD, add it after your name -- you worked hard for it!

  • Recommend submitting resume (and any other documents) in PDF format only, so that the formatting is always the same on any device

  • I don't recommend including a "summary/objective" section at the top, because takes up space and should be tailored to each company, making it better suited for the (personalized) note/cover letter

  • Add a cover letter/note every time, even if it's optional

  • If including thesis on your resume, you may want to briefly mention (~1 sentence) how it may relate to this employer, if it doesn't already.

      • For example, my PhD thesis is in computer vision (e.g. image compression) but it can also be used for NLP, in finding word co-occurrence

  • Don't forget that:

      • You're interviewing the company too

      • Everything that you put on your resume is fair game.

          • Remember what you put on your resume.

          • If you don't want to talk about a project/skill, don't include it on your resume.

      • More resume don'ts here, by Avishalom Shalit

Good luck! If your favorite resume advice is missing, please share it with me.

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