The skills section shouldn’t be at the top of your resume posted on 05 May 2024

I’ll start with a disclaimer that I’m not a recruiter, so I’m not the person doing the first pass on resumes. I do look at resumes later on though (e.g. for interviews). I recently had quite a lot of requests to look at people’s resumes, so I thought I would write about the most common feedback I gave: The skills section shouldn’t be at the top.

To give a bit more colors to my statement:

  • If you list bazillions of technologies, I’ll assume that you have used them but are not an expert on any of them. From there, this section has little value – I played with quite a few exotic languages in the past, but it has no value for me to bring them up when applying for a job.
  • If you list that you are an expert in , you must be able to back this up (either from your experience or during the interview). It’s not because you use a language in your everyday job that you are an expert – you may be fluent in it though. In another life, I did a lot of interviews for candidates claiming to be experts in JavaScript – but only one had a reasonable understanding of prototypes in JavaScript.
  • FAANGs and many large companies don’t expect you to come with any specific skills (e.g. languages) since the expectation is that you can pick up any tool/language you need. There are some exceptions though, e.g. if you apply to an iOS engineer position, you are expected to know swift and/or objective C.

I personally find the experience section the most interesting since

  • It’s likely the most relevant information in regards to their situation (in terms of seniority, relevant background etc.)
  • It’s the easiest way to connect with the candidate and get them comfortable – I always thought (and still think) that interviews are a stressful environment for candidates, so asking them to start the interview by just doing a quick intro about them/their work (after doing mine) is the best way to chase some anxiety/stress.
  • It is the most important data for me to be able to best evaluate candidates – I try to adapt my questions to people’s experience to better gauge their strengths and weaknesses. I do not ask kubernetes questions to a frontend engineer as I wouldn’t be able to get any signals on whether they would do well building apps.

Thoughts? Curious to hear from other people involved in hiring (recruiters but also interviewers, hiring committees members etc.)

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