Monday, August 22, 2016

Lessons from hiring data

Since I just mentioned Marissa Mayer's resume, it's also worth mentioning another interesting article about resumes. Aline Lerner used to do technical recruiting at TrialPay, and analyzed a few hundred resumes to uncover what works and what doesn't. On her blog, she provides lessons from a year's worth of hiring data.

A few things to note:
  1. Typos and grammatical errors matter more than anything else
  2. Having attended a top computer science school doesn’t matter
  3. Listing side projects on your resume isn’t as advantageous as expected
  4. GPA doesn’t seem to matter
  5. Having worked at a top company matters
The key takeaways include:

Proof-read your resume!
From the article: "The most significant feature by far was the presence of typos, grammatical errors, or syntactic inconsistencies." And: "In startup situations, not only are good written communication skills extremely important (a lot of heavy lifting and decision making happens over email), but I have anecdotally found that being able to write well tends to correlate very strongly with whether a candidate is good at more analytical tasks."
Aptitude matters more than GPA
This is good news if you didn't do well in classes, but you have the skills to do a good job. I'll share that when I hire, I usually only pay attention to GPA if this is your first job. Once you've demonstrated success in at least one other position, your college GPA doesn't hold the same importance.
Format your resume!
It's up to you to make your resume stand out from the crowd. As simple as it seems, formatting means a lot. You need to make your resume easy to read, and easy to skim. Use clear formatting around section headings, such as borders that span the width of the page. And this note from the article about word choice: "As you can see, 'good' resumes focused much more on action words/doing stuff ('manage,' 'ship,' 'team,' 'create,' and so on) versus 'bad' resumes which, in turn, focused much more on details/technologies used/techniques."
Your highest degree doesn't matter that much
Even if you don't have a degree, Lerner's analysis shows your chances are very good. In fact, Lerner found "the higher the degree, the lower the offer rate." Again, it comes down to what you can do.
BS from a top school doesn't matter much, either
From the article: "In a nutshell, when you see someone who doesn’t have a pedigree but looks really smart (has no errors/typos, very clearly explains what they worked on, shows passion, and so forth), do yourself a favor and interview them."
Personal projects may not stand out
The analysis here basically comes down to this: For a while, a lot of hiring managers wanted to see you demonstrate yourself via your side projects, and might examine your GitHub projects. But a lot of people have learned to game this system, and will fork a repository just to make a few minor edits. VoilĂ ! You've got a side project on GitHub. So the good projects tend to get lost in the noise. Unless your side project is particularly noteworthy, hiring managers may not notice.
image: my own (see "On writing resumes")

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