Article Discussion
Are Sloppy Résumés OK?
Summary: Sean Landis, author of Agile Hiring, discusses why he thinks sloppy résumés should not be tolerated.
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Most recent reply: September 26, 2010 11:11 AM by Sean
Bill
Posts: 408 / Nickname: bv / Registered: January 17, 2002 4:28 PM
Are Sloppy Résumés OK?
July 22, 2010 11:00 PM      
In this short article, Sean Landis gives his reasons for being tough on sloppy resumes:

http://www.artima.com/articles/are_sloppy_resumes_ok.html

How do you feel about sloppy developer résumés? Do you feel differently about testers? Managers? Where do you draw the line when it comes to sloppiness?
Frank
Posts: 135 / Nickname: fsommers / Registered: January 19, 2002 7:24 AM
Re: Are Sloppy Résumés OK?
July 23, 2010 8:15 PM      
I agree with Sean's point here.

I would also include, however, other forms of communication with potential hires in this category, too: Emails, phone messages, etc. All of those reveal aspects of the candidate about the four character traits Sean points out here, including carelessness.
Morgan
Posts: 37 / Nickname: miata71 / Registered: March 29, 2006 6:09 AM
Re: Are Sloppy Résumés OK?
July 23, 2010 10:07 PM      
Do you want developers who are great at making resumes, or great at coding?

Can I write the next next idiotic Artima post on hiring? I'll advocate that you not hire developers if the color of their interview clothes doesn't properly complement their eyes and complexion. I mean, just like a resume, if they want to show knowledge and experience they could research and do that, right?
Sean
Posts: 35 / Nickname: seanl / Registered: March 8, 2002 5:57 AM
Re: Are Sloppy Résumés OK?
July 24, 2010 6:39 AM      
Hi Morgan,
Your response is curious. Nearly all candidates understand that the resume is vital in creating the first impression. Most candidates are keenly interested in getting a good job offer. It seems entirely incongruous that a great developer, (coding is just one aspect of development), would represent himself as a poor communicator who is either oblivious to, or careless toward quality.

Can you explain why you feel that a resume does not reflect the quality of one's work? Why to do feel the resume does not reflect the candidate's ability to communicate?

Maybe I misunderstand what makes a great developer. Is coding all that really matters? How might carelessness, inattention to quality, and poor communication work against one's ability to code well?
Morgan
Posts: 37 / Nickname: miata71 / Registered: March 29, 2006 6:09 AM
Re: Are Sloppy Résumés OK?
July 24, 2010 2:04 PM      
> Is
> coding all that really matters? How might carelessness,
> inattention to quality, and poor communication work
> against one's ability to code well?

I have learned from long experience that when a discussion degenerates into rhetorical questions, it is best to move on.

And most positions are obtained through networking and connections, not resumes.
robert
Posts: 35 / Nickname: funbunny / Registered: September 23, 2003 5:08 AM
Re: Are Sloppy Résumés OK?
July 24, 2010 5:04 PM      
> Hi Morgan,
> Your response is curious. Nearly all candidates understand
> that the resume is vital in creating the first impression.
First impressions are notoriously wrong, and matter only when the impressed is shallow.

> Most candidates are keenly interested in getting a good
> job offer.
Most smart candidates are keenly interested in working with folks who view the development process with like biases. Beware candidates who do it just to pay for a lifestyle.

It seems entirely incongruous that a great
> developer, (coding is just one aspect of development),
> would represent himself as a poor communicator who is
> either oblivious to, or careless toward quality.
Most "resume reviews" seek only to enforce the format du jour. "Poor communication" mostly boils down to violating said format du jour. Hirers who care about such trivia aren't worth working for. Shallow is as shallow does.

>
> Can you explain why you feel that a resume does not
> t reflect the quality of one's work?
A resume's only purpose is to convey both past work and future efforts.

Why to do feel the
> resume does not reflect the candidate's ability to
> communicate?
Again, Hemingway and Joyce are recognized as great writers, but I'd wager that more have actually read Hemingway than Joyce. That doesn't mean Joyce is a poor communicator, only that his format doesn't meet the demands of lazy readers.

>
> Maybe I misunderstand what makes a great developer. Is
> coding all that really matters? How might carelessness,
> inattention to quality, and poor communication work
> against one's ability to code well?
Again, you really, really, really haven't defined poor communication in an objective way.
Vincent
Posts: 40 / Nickname: vincent / Registered: November 13, 2002 7:25 AM
Re: Are Sloppy Résumés OK?
July 24, 2010 11:46 PM      
Whilst I agree with the premise of your article, this is basic advice given to all school kids (at least it was in my school many years ago). You've presented the article almost as if this is new advice that applies specifically to software developers who, in turn, are more prone to doing that badly that any other arbitrary group of job seekers. The dissonance between the generality of the advice and the targeting of the audience detracts unhelpfully from the effect of the article.

> Can you explain why you feel that a resume does not
> t reflect the quality of one's work?

Here's one of many simple reasons why the quality of my work and the quality of my resume may differ:
I've been with the same employer for over twenty years. Therefore I have twenty years of experience in my work but have never written a resume in that time.
Nemanja
Posts: 40 / Nickname: ntrif / Registered: June 30, 2004 1:10 AM
Re: Are Sloppy Résumés OK?
July 25, 2010 3:06 AM      
I have somewhat mixed feelings about the topic. On one hand, the skill of writing a resume has little to do with the skills of a good developer. On another hand, hiring is a game with pretty well-known (if sometimes silly) rules, and things like writing a good resume and dressing up for an interview do show that a candidate is ready to go out of their comfort zone to play by the rules.
Sean
Posts: 35 / Nickname: seanl / Registered: March 8, 2002 5:57 AM
Re: Are Sloppy Résumés OK?
July 25, 2010 5:21 AM      
Robert,

> Beware candidates who do it just to pay for a
> lifestyle.

Indeed.

> It seems entirely incongruous that a great
> > developer, (coding is just one aspect of development),
> > would represent himself as a poor communicator who is
> > either oblivious to, or careless toward quality.
> Most "resume reviews" seek only to enforce the format du
> jour. "Poor communication" mostly boils down to violating
> said format du jour. Hirers who care about such trivia
> aren't worth working for. Shallow is as shallow does.

That's not what I am saying. I stated that format preferences should NOT be misconstrued as poor communication (although I have seen some really bad formatting!).

A resume that communicates well is information-rich. It tells a story about the candidate.

> A resume's only purpose is to convey both past work and
> future efforts.

That's nonsense. First, You can't covey future efforts. I think what you mean is that the facts in a resume communicate future potential. Second, a resume is a work product - something created by the candidate - and therefore a reflection of some of her abilities. The foolish candidate may believe that the sole purpose is to document her past work, but the skilled reviewer will glean much more from it.

> That doesn't mean Joyce is a poor
> communicator, only that his format doesn't meet the
> demands of lazy readers.

Grammar and spelling are not format. Neither are incomplete sentences, ambiguous statements, vague descriptions, or missing data. What if we never found out what happened to the fisherman in "The Old Man and the Sea?" That would be poor communication. The book is about a guy and a fish, yet it is a fascinating story. The critics took a while to warm up to Hemmingway's style, but they could not deny his storytelling ability.

> Again, you really, really, really haven't defined poor
> communication in an objective way.

Communication is not objective, but I think there are some key indicators of poor communication in the context of a resume. I mentioned most of them above and in the article. If the resume doesn't convey what the user did, that's a fundamental problem. Beyond that, if the resume shows that the candidate is careless, leaves out important information, cannot put together complete concepts, and cannot convey the value he brought to positions in his job history, that's bad communication. It also is evidence of broader issues.

Final point, a well-written resume doesn't get you a job. But it may just get you to the next phase of the interview process.
Sean
Posts: 35 / Nickname: seanl / Registered: March 8, 2002 5:57 AM
Re: Are Sloppy Résumés OK?
July 25, 2010 5:39 AM      
Hi Nemanja,
> On one
> hand, the skill of writing a resume has little to do with
> the skills of a good developer.

Only if you do not think that communicating well is a skill of a good developer. Telling a career story well is difficult; so is describing a piece of software one has written. In both cases, the person is intimate with the subject and ought to be able to do a good job.

> On another hand, hiring is
> a game with pretty well-known (if sometimes silly) rules,
> and things like writing a good resume and dressing up for
> an interview do show that a candidate is ready to go out
> of their comfort zone to play by the rules.

This is true, but it is not the point of the article. Communicating well is a powerful tool that is universally useful to the developers and their employers. The ability to wear a tie is only marginally useful, and only in certain environments.

The idea of following the rules, or compliance, is an interesting topic in the hiring process. I'm curious if anyone has stories to tell. I've been surprised by people who irrationally refuse to comply to the norms of the situation. What's the story and what conclusions could you draw from the behavior?
Sean
Posts: 35 / Nickname: seanl / Registered: March 8, 2002 5:57 AM
Re: Are Sloppy Résumés OK?
July 25, 2010 7:55 AM      
> And most positions are obtained through networking and connections, not resumes.

Really? I couldn't find any data to support this. I do know that in the companies I have worked for, the vast majority are not hired via networking and connections. Those that are sourced in that fashion, still went through a stringent hiring process that included evaluating their resumes.

It happened to me once. I contacted the CTO of a company who knew me and my work. I was as perfect a fit for the two positions which required some very specialized skills. Still, I went through the entire process. I did receive two offers but I could have screwed the pooch anywhere along the line.

That said, I am a firm believer in the value of networks and connections for sourcing. I have worked at several employers who incentivize this by offering large bonuses for referrals. Even then, this type of hiring rarely occurs.

Some company situations lend themselves more to network sourcing, but an employer would be foolish to ignore any available data about a prospective employee, including his resume.
Kay
Posts: 13 / Nickname: schluehk / Registered: January 20, 2005 5:46 AM
Re: Are Sloppy Résumés OK?
July 25, 2010 8:23 AM      
I generally agree, but the complaints are a bit vague, which might be inevitable though for not ending up with the receipt list, which can't work.

I often have the opposite impression that many job offers are written by noobs who don't know what they are talking about. My highlight in 2009 was a demand for a C++ programmer with X years of experience in tools such as Virtual and Template.

Since hiring is so deadly serious for many of us, including myself, it is quite naturally a rich source of unintentional humour.
Morgan
Posts: 37 / Nickname: miata71 / Registered: March 29, 2006 6:09 AM
Re: Are Sloppy Résumés OK?
July 25, 2010 10:14 AM      
> > And most positions are obtained through networking and
> connections, not resumes.
>
> Really? I couldn't find any data to support this.

When I was laid off in late 2008, my company nicely offered placement services, In my case, via Lee-Hecht-Harrison. You'd go to seminars, some of which covered making a good resume, etc.

They repeatedly said that over 90% of new positions are found via networking, not via checking web sites and sending resumes cold.

Admittedly, I don't know where they got their numbers.


Hey, I agree that a clear resume is good, and bad grammar & spelling is a big warning flag. But I think the ability to code, analyze, communicate and work together is hard to show on one piece of paper. Frankly, I don't think "Agile Hiring" is possible, cause it will probably take 6 months to find out what you've got. You can't write a unit test and run it 1 second after hiring. (or 1 second before as a true TDD purist would demand!)

A candidate may know all the latest buzzwords and technologies but have no idea how to integrate them into a nice O-O, or SOA or REST or whatever you are using, architecture. They may be so wedded to their buzzwords that when Buzzword++ comes along they can't migrate over to it.

I treat Resumes much like advertisements - let the buyer beware. I've seen a lot of perfect resumes from candidates I wouldn't want to work with with a six foot pole.
robert
Posts: 35 / Nickname: funbunny / Registered: September 23, 2003 5:08 AM
Re: Are Sloppy Résumés OK?
July 25, 2010 10:44 AM      
> > A resume's only purpose is to convey both past work and
> > future efforts.
>
> That's nonsense. First, You can't covey future efforts.
Of course you can. You must. What's the standard interview question: what do you want to be doing in 5 years? Yes??? Of course. The resume is the first place you tell prospective employers where you want to go. Future efforts.


> I
> think what you mean is that the facts in a resume
> communicate future potential.
No. Future work.


Second, a resume is a work
> product - something created by the candidate - and
> therefore a reflection of some of her abilities. The
> foolish candidate may believe that the sole purpose is to
> document her past work, but the skilled reviewer will
> glean much more from it.
>
> > That doesn't mean Joyce is a poor
> > communicator, only that his format doesn't meet the
> > demands of lazy readers.
>
> Grammar and spelling are not format. Neither are
> incomplete sentences, ambiguous statements, vague
> descriptions, or missing data.
The format du jour is bullet point. nothing but incomplete sentences.
robert
Posts: 35 / Nickname: funbunny / Registered: September 23, 2003 5:08 AM
Re: Are Sloppy Résumés OK?
July 25, 2010 10:48 AM      
> They repeatedly said that over 90% of new positions are
> found via networking, not via checking web sites and
> sending resumes cold.
>
> Admittedly, I don't know where they got their numbers.

The same place Haldane folks (who pretty much invented the genre) did decades ago: they made them up. Haldane got sued rather a bit, and lost rather a bit.
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