How to write a Bad Resume

I figure there is plenty of information out there about how to write a good resume, so I thought I'd do the reverse: Tell you how to write a bad one.

Tip #1: List every language you've ever written a line of code in (even if it was just commenting code). You've wrestled with some of the most obscure programming languages known to man; you're not going to be scared by some trivial C code! Check these out:

Languages: Basic, E*, C, C++, Modula-2, Miranda, SR, Prolog, Java, Pascal, AREXX, SQL, Perl, JavaScript, Assembler, C#, VB, J#, Python.

(* BTW - anyone remember the "E" language that was popular on the Amiga for a while? 150 bonus nerd points if you do!)

Tip #2: You've been using computers since they were known as abacuses, and you'll make sure that no matter what the reader's favorite OS is, you're all over it:

Platforms: VMS, Vic20, C64, C128, Amiga (all versions of Workbench), MSDOS, Windows3.1 / 95 / Me / 98 / NT4 / 2000 / XP / 2003 / Vista / CE, SunOS, Irix, Linux (all distributions), HPUX, BeOS, Mac OS9 / OSX.

Tip #3: Don't forget the buzzwords - typical newbie mistake! How is the reader going to realize that you "know XML" if you don't tell them?! Ever used a browser? - better list HTTP! The key here is to not leave anything out - you don't want to lose the opportunity just because you forgot to list a protocol variant.

Technologies/Concepts/Methodologies: SOAP, XML / XSL / XSLT, HTML, xHTML, DHTML, Web Services, WSDL, OOP, Functional Programming, AJAX, Web2.0, TDD, Extreme Programming, CGI… [wait, let me catch my breath…..], Cookies, HTTP, SSL, FTP, SMTP, Client/Server, TCP/IP, SSH, Telnet, WWW.

At this point, the hiring manager should already be sold. You know pretty much everything there is to know about anything related to a transistor, and some things about vacuum tubes as well. The only thing left is to sprinkle with some real world experience:

Tip #4: Tell them what you did in your last job. No… I mean, really tell them!

Previous employment: Developed the software that drives Cyberdine System's worldwide operations. Responsibilities included: Requirements gathering, writing specs, coding, testing, leading a team, project management, scheduling, code reviews, sales, marketing, and legal matters.

It doesn't matter that it was a team of 50 people. You worked as a team, you can all take credit for it.


Okay, perhaps that's enough, I think I spilled some sarcasm on the keyboard… But I'm hoping you get the point. I read a lot of resumes that just blindly list every skill they've acquired in 10 years in the industry. It's a great achievement, but it's not helpful when reading the resume.

Think to yourself: If you were hiring for this job, what would you want to hear?
Got any Dos/Don'ts you want to share? Throw in a comment.


Comments (9)

  1. Dude, don’t you think that most of us know this. You know what the problem is? If you work for a services company our bosses and the guys from the sales team want us to put this sh!t on our résumés and you can say what you want but the majority of the companies our résumé is introduced filter on this crap. Sorry to break the news that not every companies is like Microsoft where they ask questions about the deepest CLR internals during an interview. Just my 50 cent 😉 and yes I have to act like a n00b and put all that belony on my résumé too and I am sure that a lot of readers out there share this crap. No hard feelings I still love ya 🙂

  2. Rachit says:

    Agreed that you don’t have to list each & every thing but have you seen some job description? Sometimes they want a hero (or Jack of all) person that knows everything from Jave to .Net, SQL Server to Oracle. I think that’s why people put as much as they can think of . 🙂

    Also, when your resume goes to a non-technical recruiter, sometimes they get amazed to see all the buzzwords which turns out good for the candidate. Everybody tries to sell him/her(self). No?

    Funny thing I saw once a resume that was of a freshly graduated person. It was 4 pages long. 🙂

  3. jtdavies says:

    I didn’t get an interview because I had GUI on my resume and the job description had Man-Machine Interface developer.

    Listing all experience on a resume makes it bad for technical readers but most people in the resume chain are not technical. They do a simple pattern match before passing it on.

  4. MSDN Archive says:

    You guys make great points. I guess much of the resume is designed to appeal to the non-technical people in the chain – whether they’re your own recruitment agency, or that of the destination company.

    By the time it gets to many hiring managers, they look at the resumes and they all look the same. Everyone knows every language on every platform with every technology… Whether it’s true or not, it’s not all that helpful.

    I’m spotting a small irony: The people whose job it is to make resumes look great are causing them all to look bad. Awesome 🙂

    Perhaps this blog post should be sent to those people who demand that resumes be a Bucket-of-Buzzwords…? 🙂


  5. SD says:

    As bad as it might sound..The Tip # 4 is really my previous experience..helped in legal matters and took sales calls too:)

  6. Pavan says:

    I have similar feelings about resumes that seem to be the norm these days. It is especially true if a contracting company is forwarding the resumes.

    Here is a single word doc page resume that I do not think follows any of the tips that are mentioned in  your blog post.

    And no, neither has this candidate read this blog prior to writing his/her resume, nor is he/she looking to be hired at this time.

    I just want to hear what you think of it. 🙂

    John Smith

    000 000 0000;;

    One String way, Integer City, WA


    Seeking a position that utilizes my passion for technology, challenges my technical skill set, leverages my dedication to customer care and provide ample opportunities for cross group work.

    Core Tech:

    OOP, RDBMS, Distributed information systems concepts

    VB.NET, C#, ASP.NET, JavaScript and most tools around them

    C, C++, VB 6

    MS SQL Server


    Somesoft Corp. Apr ‘76 – Current

    Own and develop benchmark workloads to exacting specifications

    Research, test and create ASP.NET 2.x applications with the best performance

    Collaborate with team and business partner

    Another Inc. Jul ‘75 – Apr ‘76

    Prototyped, evangelized, designed and partially developed a unified UI framework for the great department in Another Inc.

    Worked closely with corporate architect in dev and design

    Complex UI functionality with inline expansions, pop-ups, flash objects, JavaScript, CSS

    Microsoft UIP Application block version 2.0

    Yet Another Entity Aug ‘73 – Jul ‘75

    Co-architect of system wide N-tier fully scalable distributed object-oriented framework

    Took initiative to participate in the active growth of small team

    Researched and setup team coding patterns, test processes, build and deployment procedures

    Project lead of flagship product – The Application System

    Designed and developed custom UI controls and pluggable interfaces

    Worked with third party vendors to build interfaced systems

    Represented the company at some meeting (May ‘74)

    One First Tiny Company Aug ‘72 – May ’73

    Stepped up to understand existing systems and propose solutions when working part time

    Conceptualized and developed a Windows tool to automate some application

    Extended the app into some more usefulness


    Master’s in something related, May ‘73,

    Timbuctoo University


    Microsoft Certification: This and that technologies

    President (‘70) of whatever

  7. MSDN Archive says:

    Pavan, I like this resume.

    I’m not crazy about the "objectives" section because I think everyone writes the same old buzzwords in it – but on the other hand I think other recruiters really look for it.

    I do like the core tech section. I could even see expanding on that, with a little blurb about "what you’re good at". For example:


    My greatest strengths are:

    * Building complex ASP.NET web applications spanning multiple servers, data sources, etc.

    * User Interface design – making the right interface for the right level of user expertise.


    Keeping this to a top 1-3 skills tells the reader: "If you’re going to hire me, *this* is where you should expect me to shine." To me, that is really useful.


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