Barry McGee avatar

Barry McGee

Software Engineer

What I learned reviewing over 300 resumes

We're currently hiring a remote front-end web developer for my team at Canonical, and I have spent a lot of this week reviewing over 300 applications.

As a result, I've moved 30 (~10%) of them to the next stage in our process, and I noted some reoccurring reasons why the other 90% were screened out at the first step of our hiring process.

If you're currently in the market for a new role, take these considerations on board when applying for your next role and try not to make these same mistakes.

🧐 Did not read the basic requirements of the job spec

You must read the job spec, then re-read it again. Most job specs will have a "Must have" section and a "Nice to have" section. Requirements listed in the former are mandatory whereas those listed in the latter are optional. Failing to satisfy the first will result in you being immediately screened out by the hiring manager, if not the hiring software long before.

🌏 Did not have Right to Work

While many jobs are now listed as remote, for a myriad of unfortunate operational reasons, many companies will only accept candidates who do not need specific visas or sponsorship. Make sure you can legally work for a company under the circumstances stipulated before applying to join them.

📮 Did not provide a covering letter

If a job application provides an upload field for a cover letter, you should provide one - even if the field is optional. Covering letters are your opportunity to introduce yourself and put your skills and experience in context.

💌 Did not provide a tailored cover letter

Many of those who did provide a cover letter submitted a generic cover letter that they could send to any company. These paled in comparison to those who took the time to write a tailored letter referencing our company and more importantly, the role specifically.

🔤 Did not proofread their applications

Your cover letter and resume should be free of spelling and grammar mistakes. Simple spelling and grammar mistakes suggest sloppiness and a lack of care. It's easy to miss your own mistakes, so get someone else to proofread your application or utilise the many software options available to do this for you. Proofreading is essential if the language in which you're applying is not your native language.

🚧 Included links to incomplete or broken projects

If you're applying for a web developer role, any links to your work will be scrutinised. Do not link to your personal site if it has an "Under construction" banner or includes Lorem Ipsum placeholder text. Do not link to projects you started, then abandoned without finishing. Consider any links you put on your resume to be "in production" and ask yourself - would the company you're applying to deploy this quality of work to production under their brand? If the answer is "No", revisit and iterate until the answer is "Yes".

😑 Submitted a resume that's hard to read or understand

There seems to be a trend of using software to produce resumes that are keyword dense, so they are picked up by automated recruiting software. That's all well and good until it appears under the nose of an actual human. Remember that a hiring manager is likely reviewing a large number of resumes of which your carefully curated application is but one. First impressions count. Resumes should be kept to less than two pages as a general rule of thumb but not at the cost of readability. Your experience should be chronological with your most recent experience first. Only include your experience relevant to the role. Don't add your whole life story back to high school.

🥈 Forgot that their application is not considered in isolation

Finally, it's important to note that it's likely that not just one violation of the above will result in your application being rejection but a combination of them.

As a hiring manager scans your application, they are slowly forming an opinion of you based on the information you have provided but also by mentally comparing it to the other applications they have already viewed for the same role.

You might think it's not a big deal if you send a generic cover letter. However, when your application is viewed right after a person who spent considerable tailoring their cover letter - your generic cover letter is, relatively, a bit dull.

In short, take your time and take care to craft each application. You've got this. 👊🏻