Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Resumes for Programmers

How useful are resumes for programmers? I've read a few articles now (including this one entitled "Programmer Resumes Are Deprecated") that claim employers are much more interested in artifacts and evidence of your programming. Things like github accounts, personal projects, and development blogs.

I think part of the problem is when someone writes "Experienced with C#" on a resume, employers don't really know what that means. Without hard evidence to back you up, it's hard for employers to believe you. Perhaps more importantly, these skill levels are relative. I might think that I know C++ really well, when in reality, I only know a small part of the language well. I think these differences in perception are a pretty big problem in hiring developers.

Some skills are also really hard to "prove" on a resume. Sure if you put "Proficient in C#" and then list a bunch of jobs where you used C#, they are more likely to believe you, but how do you prove good object oriented design  skills? Or knowledge of the SDLC? Or processes like Scrum? You could try to force some sentences about all these skills, but it will make your resume really long, and you'd still have to worry about the problem of what does proficient really mean?

A better solution might be to have a bunch of links to things like blogs and personal projects in your resume. This way when you say "Experienced with C#", your employer can check out what your "experienced C#" code actually looks like. Then they can make their own decision on your skill level, instead of trusting that what you mean by "experienced" is the same as what they mean.

I don't think we should just sack resumes all together, since I think it's a good way to summarize your skills for someone without a lot of time. However, I think the hiring decision should focus more on tangible projects that employers can see for themselves.

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