Resumes for the Web Industry: Some Advice from the Trenches

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Since I’ve been at SitePoint, I’ve helped to fill three full-time positions — so I’ve looked at a lot of resumes. I’ve been given the task again recently (as you may have heard on the SitePoint grapevine), so I thought it was timely to pen one of those “how to write a resume” posts, but make it specific to the web industry. Everything in this post comes from personal experience.

As far as I see it, your resume needs to deliver on two very important tasks:

  1. win you an interview
  2. clearly present your contact details

Presenting contact details is an easy one: make sure you prominently list every way possible to contact you. The best resumes I’ve seen have this embedded on every page.

But how will your resume win you that interview? By clearly demonstrating that you’re either well-qualified or unique enough for the interviewer to want to talk to you.

The Thing About Acronyms

The thing about acronyms is that they’re easy to spell. Everyone lists HTML and CSS on their resumes, but there’s one aspect web professionals know about those skills: they’re easy to know, hard to master. Hence, there’s a massive gulf between people who know how to make a website and people who know how to make a website.

An interviewer needs evidence of your level of proficiency with these skills. At the very least, indicate your level of experience: have you had some experience, a moderate amount, or extensive experience? It can be your own estimate.

Apart from that, what evidence of your experience exists on the Web? Existing examples of your work are good, but what else have you done? Written a blog? Contributed to open source projects? Attended conferences? Details of all your professional achievements should be documented on your resume. These are the elements that will make you stand out. And if you lack these types of accomplishments … you should consider doing something about it.

Remember, actions speak louder than bullet points.

Your Resume Should Be Concise

It’s hard to resist putting everything down in your resume. It’s a summary of your whole working life, so you want your future employer to see every good piece of work you’ve done. However, a good resume is a concise resume. There’s no need to list all of your experience because — remember — your resume just has to win you an interview; it won’t win you the job. The depth and breadth of your experience will become apparent when you talk to the interviewer, and you can explain the details then.

A prospective employer is looking to see how well you match the requirements of the position, so you have to ensure you do communicate that in your resume. This may mean customizing your resume for each job. Avoid writing lengthy descriptions and bullet points for each job you’ve ever held. If a previous job is irrelevant to the one to which you’re applying, list it without going into any details. It may be interesting enough to chat about at the interview (say, if you’ve been a bomb disposal expert), should you score one.

Employers understand that within every job there can be a kaleidoscope of tasks and responsibilities, but when looking at resumes they only want to hear about what’s relevant to the requirements of the job that you’re applying for. Once again, this will all come out in the interview.

Keep your resume short and concise. The best resumes I’ve ever received are one or two pages.

Test, Test, and Test Again

Of course, you’d think spell-checking your resume was a no-brainer — but I still see resumes with spelling mistakes. Show your resume to at least five other people and ask them to try to find errors. Buy them a beer for each one they find; do everything you can to make sure your resume is error-free.

If you take away only one piece of advice from this post then let it be this: test all your links! Your potential employer doesn’t want to click links to websites you did a few years ago only to find they are broken, show domain-holding pages, or now distribute malware. If there’s a problem, remove it from your resume; it’s a worthless reference.

Agree? Disagree? How does your resume look? What are your tips for web professionals? If you’re an employer, what do you look for in a good resume? Are resumes for the web industry any different to other industries?

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Andrew TetlawAndrew Tetlaw
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iOS Developer, sometimes web developer and Technical Editor.

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