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Sell Yourself With Business Benefits (And Not Geek Speak)

Filed Under 3 Days To Building A Perfect Resume

Perfect Resume

This is Part #1 of the 3 Days To Building A Perfect Resume series.

One of the biggest mistakes I see in developers’ resumes is that fact that they get very granular in the details of their experiences. As I have said before, people think in terms of benefits over features. As a result, most developer resumes connect with developers, but create a very large disconnect with management.

Putting to much emphasis on technical terms and scenarios is just another form of dangerous geek speak. Some (but not all) developers do not attempt to “wow” the manager types by showing them benefits at their level, they instead attempt to “overrun” them with jargon thus thinking it will convince them that they are very experienced and the best logical choice. The opposite is actually true, managers will FUD on you and probably decide that (although technical) you are not what they are looking for.

In order to help interviewing managers connect the dots, work on a resume that outlines the diverse BENEFITS of the projects and people you have worked with, rather than the SPECIFICS.

What am I trying to say? Remember the styrofoam cup rant? People have never been interested in features (whether bullet points on a software box or on your resume), people are only interested in the benefits that those features bring.

The real “trick” is to write down your experience in ways that allow people to imagine what it would be like if they received those benefits and results. For example:

Common Resume Mistake:

  • Built a ASP.NET CMS system for a high profile company that used it to monitor blood pressure machines. The client was very happy as it did 1 million transactions a day via AJAX.
  • Managed a 100 person team dealing with C++ integration points to 3rd party products.

Result/Benefit Resume:

  • Developed systems that significantly lowered the clients operating costs by maximizing the number of daily sales transactions
  • Managed a large (100+) team that created a number of product opportunities and business partnerships by integrating with 3rd party applications and platforms.

Now which resume do you think will impress a manager? By presenting yourself as already solving problems that businesses continually improve on (i.e. increase sales, decrease operating costs, product development, etc…), the potential employer does not have to bridge the gap between your skills and the bottom-line benefits they will bring.

This simple resume tweak will take you from “AJAX blood pressure man” to “Team leader that can provide business opportunities”. Guess which one I would rather be…

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5 Responses to “Sell Yourself With Business Benefits (And Not Geek Speak)”

  1. Barry Dahlberg on November 3rd, 2008 5:00 am

    It’s a good idea to try and figure out who is likely to be reading your resume… if it’s me, you can skip the management fluff completely. What I really want to know is what matters to the candidate.

    In all the jobs I have been in the first people to really read a resume are the technical leads who are going to work with the candidate. An HR person might screen them but mostly that is to make sure the candidate can at least spell and has the right keywords in their skills list.

    Management is usually a last step, a final OK to make sure that the person the technical leads have selected fits into the business. If the candidate knows their stuff and can communicate it well, I will sell them to management.

    Maybe that’s unusual or maybe it’s a function of the smaller companies I’ve worked with, I’m not sure. Probably most important for me is that you show a few key things:

    – Passion for technology.
    – Great communication skills.
    – Great technical skills.

  2. Max Pool on November 3rd, 2008 5:40 am

    Good point Barry –

    It is true that you have to write to your audience; however, even as a technologist I do not care if a programmers resume is littered with technology verbage or buzzwords.

    What I am looking for is the same passion you speak of and their ability to understand the impact that their software brings. Being able to become a domain expert on the software you are building is a big part of software development.

  3. Karthik on November 19th, 2008 2:10 pm

    Nice article. I would like your view on tech certifications like MCPD etc. Lot of techies hate them. but we can all see them in the job requirements. do u think it’s worth it to get them, does it add any value to your resume ?

  4. Max Pool on November 19th, 2008 2:15 pm

    @Karthik –

    Managers tend to be shined on by certs, but they will do nothing to gain the respect of your peers.

    I view certs just like a diplomas, they do nothing to prove that you are a good developer; however, they do show tenacity, discipline, and work ethics, so they are worth something.

  5. Jon Limjap on January 4th, 2009 7:39 am

    I find it ironic that Joel Spolsky himself contradicts your advice here:

    When a startup CTO sees a resume that says things like:

    * Responsible for $30m line of business
    * Architected new ERP platform
    * Managed team of 25 developers
    * Optimized business processes

    they think, “Spare me, that’s all we need, somebody running around trying to manage and optimize and architect when we just need someone who isn’t afraid to write code.” Here’s the stuff CTOs at startups want to see on a resume:

    * Single-handedly developed robust 100,000 LOC threadsafe C++ service
    * Contributes to OpenBSD file system in spare time
    * Wrote almost 75% of the Python code running IsIt2009Yet.Com

    Interesting 🙂

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