A resume is the most important document in a job search process. It's the calling card, the hype man, the well-crafted record of your skills and experience that can make or break your chances of landing a coveted internship or job. At Glassdoor, we've spent a lot of time helping job seekers improve their resumes — writing, editing and tweaking such that it's the perfect narrative to convince a recruiter of your irresistible talents.
However, nothing can compare to actually seeing a winning resume, one that has garnered the attention — and job offers — from some of the best employers in the country.
So we reached out to our millions of users to get their success stories of the job search and the precise resume that landed them a job that fits their life.
Enter: Neel Somani. The University of California, Berkeley student spent endless hours crafting the perfect resume and it scored him offers from Google, the National Security Agency and more.
Whether you're a seasoned pro or a job-market newbie, here are Neel's tried-and-tested (and Google verified) tips for crafting a winning resume.
Glassdoor: How would you describe your resume?
Neel Somani: I would describe my resume as detailed and accurate. When writing and editing my resume, I made an effort to make each of my experiences as clear and detailed as possible, while respecting the space limitations. I wanted the recruiter to have a good summary of what I did, including the technologies used and skills required.
Glassdoor: When you were crafting your resume, did you follow any guidelines or advice on how best structure it?
Neel Somani: As with most people, my resume has undergone countless revisions. I've asked dozens of people for advice regarding my resume, and sometimes the advice that I received was conflicting. I've come to realize that the kind of advice that you receive from someone is contingent on their background. A software engineer, for example, will give starkly different advice from an investment banker.
As far as structuring my resume was concerned, I took my advice mainly from people with business backgrounds, who advised that I keep the layout very conventional unless I have a good reason to deviate. In the book "Cracking the Coding Interview," Gayle McDowell gave similar advice, so I took a very standard layout and adapted it for my use case.
In one of my undergraduate business administration courses, my graduate student instructor, who currently works at McKinsey, recommended that for college students, our education should go at the top, while for older professionals, education would go toward the bottom.
Glassdoor: What narrative or story did you want your resume to convey to recruiters and hiring managers?
Neel Somani: That's a great question. My primary emphasis for this resume was to make it clear that I'm someone with a deep technical background, who is inherently entrepreneurial. To demonstrate my deep technical knowledge within computer science, I emphasize my research background and software development experience. My "Selected Independent Projects" serve to demonstrate my background in entrepreneurship, by highlighting two contracted applications that I developed for organizations. I similarly cite a business scholarship that I won, at the bottom of my resume.
Glassdoor: Why do you think this resume was so successful for you?
Neel Somani: For one, my research experience with the Berkeley Institute for Data Science was frequently mentioned. I think that this was a strong section within my "Work Experience" for a few reasons. The project was open-source, meaning that the code was freely available for anyone to view (or copy, modify, distribute, etc., for that matter). This meant that people interested in my programming experience could actually see the code that I had written. If you're within the field of computer science, I highly recommend getting involved in an open-source project and including a link on your resume. Aside from the fact that it was open-source, it helped that the platform was built using a modern language and framework (Python with the Tornado framework). I had various projects built in PHP listed on my resume for a while, and they never received any comment. I ultimately removed them from my resume altogether.
The level of detail provided in the resume makes a difference. While I refrain from including every tiny contribution that I made in every position, the resume clearly conveys a few key takeaways from each experience. I was advised by an executive at HP to include quantitative metrics in particular. For example, rather than just saying what an application was built for, quantify it in some way. Concretely, rather than saying that I built an application for an organization, it's stronger to say exactly how many people within the organization will be using the application.
Glassdoor: How did you decide what to highlight and emphasize on your resume? Did you elect to delete some things in order to keep the resume to one page?
Neel Somani: This was the most difficult part. Like most people, I had to delete quite a bit to keep the resume to one page. Anything from before I entered college (e.g., high school experiences) were among the first items to be deleted. I've completely removed the name of my high school, although I know that many people in college elect to keep it. After college, I'd imagine it'd be strange to have a high school listed on your resume.
I have a separate document, which I don't share with anyone, where I write down all of my relevant professional experiences -- small and big projects, internships, research positions, certifications, etc. When writing my resume, I picked the elements that I felt were most meaningful to me, and most accurately described my technical knowledge and professional experience. From there, I further narrowed down the list by asking various professionals who I knew. I just asked them which experiences they found to be most compelling, least compelling, etc., and I removed the less-popular items -- despite how much I liked them.
It goes without saying that it's crucial to keep it to one page. People like to say that if Sheryl Sandberg can keep it to one page, so can you, which I think is kind of silly, since it's Sheryl Sandberg; she could potentially just put her name on a piece of paper, with no other information, and she'd still "get the interview." But regardless, the point still stands: the resume needs to be one page max.
Glassdoor: Aside from Google where you are now an intern, where else did you receive internship/job offers thanks to your talents and this resume?
Neel Somani: I also applied for an internship at the NSA, for which I received the offer. I received an offer from Google soon after and ended up signing on early in the year, so I didn't go through the full application cycle like many other students. Aside from internships, I was offered a position in all three of the research labs that I applied to during my sophomore year.
Glassdoor: What, if any, feedback have you received from your Google recruiter? What did they feel was so strong or compelling about your resume.
Neel Somani: The Google recruiter liked my resume for a few reasons: how I utilized the space, the kinds of verbs that I used, the order in which I listed my programming languages, and the links to my open-source work.
Glassdoor: What advice would you give other job seekers on how to make their resumes better?
Neel Somani: My biggest piece of advice is to get feedback from as many people as you can, especially from people who have held positions that you're interested in. Aside from that, I would make a point to elaborate on each of your experiences. If a listed experience only has one bullet point, for example, I'd make an effort to think deeply about what you did and flesh it out to at least two or three bullet points.
Originally published in August 2017.