DOs and DONTs of Online resumes

Your future employer is going to look you up online! Create an online resume to present yourself professionally. This blog post contains DOs and DONTs of online resumes collected from Microsoft recruiters and hiring managers.

I spend a lot of time at events with students. Because I work at Microsoft, I am frequently asked how can I get a job at Microsoft? In this age of easy access to information, you can be sure that any potential employer is probably going to look you up online. Creating an online resume to complement your paper resume can help show you look your best to a potential employer.

I reached out to a number of managers and recruiters at Microsoft to ask them for some DOs and DONTs for online resumes. Of course every hiring manager is going to have different opinions, but I share some of the opinions here to help you put together a strong online resume. But in the end remember, the only absolutel rule of resumes is there are no absolute rules. You should always apply your best judgement given your personality, your skills, and the job you are applying for when creating any resume online or paper.

With that caveat, here are some guidelines you can consider when creating an online resume

DO include links to your work

This is one of the best things about an online resume! You can add hyperlinks to different examples of your work to showcase your skills. Consider adding links to

  • Apps you have published
  • Websites you maintain
  • Conferences you helped organize
  • Work completed on internships
  • Blog posts or articles you wrote
  • Class projects
  • Competitions or hackathons you entered
  • Prizes or awards you have won
  • Code you have shared on GitHub
  • Videos of you presenting or showcasing your work

DON’T just cut and paste your paper resume

imagePaper resumes can and should be tailored for each job application. Read the job description and make sure the resume you submit addresses the points in the job description.

Online resumes should complement your paper resume, you aren’t going to create different online resumes for each job you apply for. Any potential employer may read your online resume, so it needs to be more generic than your paper resume.

You can have a link to a paper resume on your online resume website so potential employers can print it if needed. Wondering why anyone would print out something available online? Some recruiters spend a lot of time travelling and may read over resumes while in transit where they have no internet access.


DO make sure your online resume looks good on different devices

Your potential employer could be viewing your online resume from a desktop, tablet or phone. Make sure your website is dynamic and displays well on different screen sizes. If you are using WordPress this means you need to pick a template that supports features such as media queries. If you are creating your own websites it may mean looking into media queries or bootstrap for your website.

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DON’T have a paper and online resume that present two different people

This one can be a bit of a challenge but it’s very important! If you are going to tailor your paper resume for different job applications, and an employer is going to look at your online resume, it’s important they don’t present two very different people.  If they do come across differently the employer is likely to interpret it as “this applicant is just saying whatever they think I want to hear, will the real applicant please stand up!” If your online resume says you love everything about Microsoft Technology and you apply for a job at Google with a paper resume that says I love everything about Google, obviously one of these two statements will be suspicious. Remember to keep your online resume a little more generic.

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DO include testimonials

Usually there isn’t room on a paper resume to include testimonials, but since an online resume can include separate pages or tabs you have the option of including additional ‘if you are interested’ information. Testimonials are a great if you are interested piece to include. I wouldn’t put it on the front page, but having a link to comments and testimonials can be a nice touch. Let someone else talk about how awesome you are. Possible sources for testimonials might include

  • Reviews from past managers
  • Kudos for volunteer work you completed
  • Compliments from faculty you worked with doing research or as a teaching assistant.

It is a courtesy to ask permission from someone before you quote them on your website

DO list your programming languages

imageWhen applying for any technical job, the hiring manager will want to know what programming languages you know and how much experience you have with each language.

Listing your languages from most to least proficient is an easy way to indicate skill levels.

When you mention projects you have worked on, you should specify what programming languages you used on the project

Be careful when ranking your programming skill from 1-10. There are a few reasons to be cautious:

  • If you list yourself as a 9 or 10 skill level, some managers may be skeptical and think you are overrating your skills
  • If you list yourself as a 1 or 2 a manager might wonder why you bothered listing that language at all
  • The biggest risk however is the way a numeric ranking is open to misinterpretation. When you fill out a survey at a restaurant. If you are asked to rank service out of 5 do you rank it 5/5 because there weren’t any problems with the service, or do you automatically give a 4 unless the service was outstanding? If an employer asks you to rank your coding skill from 1-10, if possible ask the employer what they consider a 7, an 8, a 9 and a 10? If you can create classes using inheritance and polymorphism and manage error handling is that a 6 and 8 or a 10? Your interpretation of the 1-10 scale and the employer’s interpretation of the scale may be completely different.

DO include your contact information

Every online resume should provide a way to contact the candidate. If you are a student you may want to provide a personal and a school email address. Sometimes an employer sends an email during a school break and you can miss an opportunity because you weren’t checking your school email.

What about my social media accounts?

You can provide links to social media as well, but make sure you are only linking to social media channels that represent you as a professional. If you use twitter to do nothing but complain about bad movies and tell inappropriate jokes, you probably don’t want to link to your twitter account. If you use twitter to review products or to share tips you’ve learned to get better at hockey or coding, then you may want to provide a link to your account even if you have the occasional link to a silly webcomic you like. Showing your passion for sharing and learning, even for non technical content could leave a good impression.

If you provide a link to a LinkedIn account, make sure your LinkedIn Profile is up to date and sends any emails to a current email account

Facebook is often used for purely personal reasons. You may wish to update your privacy settings on Facebook so no-one outside your friends can view your Facebook page. If you have a Facebook page you maintain for a coding club, or a meetup that might be a suitable page to share with an employer.

DO pay attention to details

If you have any friends with an eye for detail, now is the time to ask them for help! Is the text aligned? Do you have any spelling mistakes? Did you accidentally change the font size on the headings half way through the page? Is the spacing consistent? Are the colors complimentary or distracting?

Some people are visual. If something  on the page is inconsistent it distracts them from the content. I have worked with managers who simply could not read and process content unless it was visually well organized. It took me many years of learning the hard way, that sometimes simply providing good content is not enough, it has to look good as well.  When it comes to an online resume, you want to be picky and take the time to make it look good!


DON’T create it and forget it

You sit down and create an online resume today, but what impression does that leave on a hiring manager when in two years they read your resume and it says the last project you completed was two years ago and doesn’t mention any technologies from the past two years? Make a commitment to update your online resume at least twice a year. Let technology work for you, set yourself up a calendar reminder so you don’t forget to update it!

DO use the first person

Paper resumes are often written in the third person. Blogs and online profiles are usually written in the first person

Instead of “Shelby developed a phone application”

Try “I developed a phone application

DO show how you learn and grow

If there is one constant in life and work it is change. The technology skills needed for a jo you apply for today will change in the next one to five years. When an employer is considering you for a job, they want to know you can keep up with the changing technology. Showing your ability and passion to learn and grow is a great way to show an employer that you will learn and grow with the company. How do you show that in an online resume? Share what you taught yourself outside class and share any situations where you applied what you learned in the class outside the classroom.


DO provide team player examples

Hiring managers expect you to be able to work well on a team. If you can provide specific examples of working on a team and your role within that team, mention that in your resume. You may have mentioned a class project you worked on, specify how many people worked on that project and be prepare when you get to the interview to talk about your role on that team, conflicts that arose and how they were resolved. Working on a team is about showing you can work with different types of people, sometimes you may be asked to take on a leadership role, sometimes someone else may take the lead. Did you know experience with improvisational comedy is generally seen to be a sign of a good team player? Many of the rules of improve comedy translate into skills and tactics that help people work in a team environment. Improv performers have to stay positive, roll with the changes, and focus on making the team rather than themselves as an individual successful.


DO provide a professional photo

A photo on your online resume is a nice touch, but make sure the photo quality is good and that your photo looks professional.

If you don’t have access to a photo studio with good lighting, take a picture outside on a cloudy day for the most flattering light

Make sure you take a high resolution picture and display a smaller version of that image on your site so the photo looks crisp. Don’t use a low resolution picture and enlarge it, or the picture may look.HockeyTreeSmallHockeyTreeSmall

DO take advantage of the programs available to you as a student!

Here are a few Microsoft programs you may want to check out as well to help you stand out.  Remember showing what you have done outside the classroom is a great way to stand out!

  • Visit and sign up for free Azure so you can try out different features in the cloud. DreamSpark also gives students software for free!
  • Enter Imagine Cup!
  • Try new technology and earn rewards (in Canada only) through Developer Movement
  • Consider applying to become a Microsoft Student Partner and organize technical events at your school. Canadian students apply by emailing We generally accept applications in April & May for the following school year.  If you are a student in another country visit to apply.
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