Reading resumes

Tonight, I sat down and read through every resume in the 2013 SCS senior resume book. Reading resumes for a company is really interesting, because I find myself looking at them very differently. As a student, I didn't really understand what sections of the resume are important. I thought it would be interesting to give a brief walk through of my resume scan process1.

I look at the sections of the resume in roughly this order:

  1. Graduation year / major. I want to know if I'm dealing with a Sophomore/Junior/Senior so I know how to evaluate the classes and work experience. I also glance at the major, because there are a few majors that are red flags (no, I will not skip your resume if you are in IS. IS actually isn't a red flag to me, and a single red flag is not a veto).

    • I do not care about your GPA, although I will be concerned if it is below at 3.2.
  2. Courses taken. I want to know what experience you have and what you find interesting (or what you think employers will find interesting).

    • I want to see the courses you've taken that aren't required or were an option for you. In particular, I am interested in seeing the 300 and 400 level courses you've taken (if you're a systems person, for example, I expect to see more than one upper level systems course). While I cannot tell how well you did in the courses if you don't tell me (that information would actually be super useful), I hope to get an idea of what interests you from your choice in courses. You should also be aware that as a CMU graduate, I'm well of the fact that some courses are more difficult than others. Did you take Compilers and Parallel as a Junior, or are just only now taking Distributed as a senior? If you're a sophomore who hasn't taken any of these courses yet, I'm interested in seeing which core courses you've taken.
  3. Projects. I want to know what you've done when you had the freedom to choose what to do.

    • I want to see interesting projects you did for fun or as a class final project where you got to choose what to do.
    • I don't want to see projects required for a course where you had no influence on the design. I took the same courses at CMU as you, I am wholly unimpressed by a "web proxy" project (and am actually concerned if I see that on a senior resume).
    • I am worried by hackathon projects. This is my personal opinion, but I'm generally worried by projects that were intended to have a flashy demo and weren't designed for longevity. I want you to see projects that you're proud of and am generally suspicious that a 2 day project has enough interesting ideas or well designed code for this.
    • I usually find it hard to discern anything from research projects. If you describe the interesting work the project is doing, it is hard to know what you did. Even if you describe what you did, it is hard to know how much influence you had in the design process for the project.

At this point, I've learned enough to identify the people I definitely want to talk to and the people I definitely don't want to talk to. To try to sort the people I'm still not sure about, I will look at two more pieces of information:

  • Order of languages on your resume. If you say you are a systems person but you put PHP ahead of C, I'm skeptical.
  • Other companies. If I'm otherwise unsure about your resume, but you've had internships at large / good companies, thats a good sign. If you haven't had very many / any internships, thats a bad sign. I don't really read what you did - I assume you were like me and were involved on a project you didn't have much control over that wasn't related to the core business.
  • Teaching assistant for 200+ level courses. It is a good sign if you TA for a 200 level course or above (and a great sign if you TA for a 400 level course). There are a lot of 100 level TAs, so it is hard to get anything meaningful out of that. Also, which semesters you were a TA can be helpful.

  1. Note this is the process I use for CMU resumes, where I know the courses intimately. 

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