Skip to main content Accessibility Feedback

How to write resumes that get you an interview

On Monday, we learned about Applicant Tracking Systems (or ATS), and how they work. Yesterday, we looked at the Objective section of a resume, and why it sucks.

Today, we’re going to explore some things you can do to your resume to make it more likely you’ll actually get called in for an interview.

Let’s dig in!

How to structure past work experience

With your resume, the goal of every section is for a recruiter to be able to skim it and easily pull out the important stuff without reading in detail.

Here’s a really effective format for listing past job experience…

Job Title, Company Name, Start Date - End Date
One or two sentence summary of the role at a high level.

  • Import thing you did
  • Another important thing you did
  • One more important thing you did

Focus on outcomes, not tasks

It’s pretty common to see things like this under job experience on a resume…

  • Know HTML, CSS, and JavaScript/React
  • Experience in accessibility and web performance.
  • Responsible for unit testing with Jest.
  • Created UI components for client library.

So what? Everyone else who applied for this role has done those things, too.

Tasks make you an expense. Outcomes make you an asset that adds value to the organization.

You want to show the recruiter why the things you’ve done matter by talking about the value you created for the client or the organization that you were working for.

Here are some examples…

  • Improved the performance of Animal Rescue Organization’s website by ~30%, resulting in a 75% increase in online donations.
  • Created a UI component library for Big University, enabling their internal developer team to work more quickly while remaining consistent with brand guidelines.

Every time you add an experience to your resume, ask yourself, “So what?”

You won’t always have numbers to back up what you’ve done. That’s ok! Describe the impact of your work, even if it can’t be quantified with data.

  • Wrote unit tests for core web app code, reducing the risk of shipping bugs and breaking code to our users.

What if you don’t have a lot of any work experience yet?

I get asked this a lot.

You’re new to the field, you’re looking for entry level positions, and you have no professional developer experience yet. What do you put on your resume?

In that case, I recommend using what’s called a Project-Based Resume format instead.

After your Summary of Qualifications, you include a Projects section. Follow the same format or structure as you would for relevant work experience, but list projects you’ve worked on instead.

These can be open source projects, things you’ve done as part of a course or bootcamp, or even just things you’ve done as side-projects for practice. If you can, though, give them catchy names!

A lightweight, mobile-first boilerplate for front-end developers.

  • Includes the most common UI components (buttons, table, etc.), making it easy for developers to rapidly prototype ideas.
  • Built to be design system agnostic, it can be easily customized using CSS variables.
  • Includes a collection of CSS utility classes that can be used to nudge and tweak designs, enabling faster development.

List your work experience, if any, after this section.

Since its in an unrelated field, you can just provide an unordered list of job titles, company names, and dates of employment.

  • Employee Development, Widget Co, March 2019 - October 2021
  • HR Coordinator, Gears Inc., September 2017 - February 2019

Move your education to the end

Most resume templates have this right up at the top.

The thing is, no one cares. Seriously.

(Unless you have a PhD in Computer Science. Then they probably do. But you should still put your education at the end.)

What you know is important, but what you’ve done with what you know matters so much more. You want to get to your experience as quickly as possible.