Some 1,000 resumes later

I just finished my third year hiring students to work for me in the summer. On average I read about 150 resumes a term– I read every resume that is submitted to me. This is partially because the automated system that UW uses, does not have a good way to filter applications, and also because frankly, if I was a student, I’d like to think someone read my resume.

So at a rate of 150 resumes a term, for 3 years, I’ve officially read over 1,000 resumes. About 75% of which are from co-op students at UW, and the rest from outside UW. This is not including High School resumes, which are a totally different category.

Out of these 1000 resumes, I’ve interviewed about 300 people. From that I’ve hired about 80. While its not something I proactively do, it appears from my math, I interview about 3 people per hire, which seems right for me.

From these 300 interviews/1000 resumes, I’ve come to the following observations, which I’ll share now:


  • Don’t ask me how my job will help your resume. I’m concern with what you’ll do for me now, and don’t like the idea that you already thinking about life past me. I know i’m a stepping stone for you to achieve great things, but don’t throw it in my face.
  • Don’t tell me you doing it to ‘make yourself feel better’. True story, had an interview where the applicant said “both my parents are engineers, so I’ve been like, well off. So I feel like I should do something to make myself feel good, because I’ve been like, er, so lucky.” While this answer did have a good ‘goal’ to it, the tone and disinterest expressed when saying it did the person no favors.
  • Cover letters. Cover letters. Cover letters. Out of the 750 co-op packages I’ve read, less then 100 have had cover letters. 50% of which were form letters (dear recruiter, or company x has a world wide reputation for being a leader in field y). This is the easiest way to make yourself stand out. Writing them sucks, but they do pay off.
  • There is no one size fits all resume. Use your resume to show how unique you are, especially if your not giving me a cover letter. Looking at a lot of first year resumes, they all ready the same. They all say you’ve done calc, done the same ‘relevant’ project (which isn’t relavent to my job) and have the same entry scholarship. I know you don’t have much experience– and thats alright. But most people have a unique set of interests, volunteer and high school experiences. These areas are what I read first when I look at a resume.
  • Don’t oversell yourself. One resume I read said ‘knows virtually all computer programs’. A line like that reeks of BS. It may get you an interview with me, only because I want to see if you know FORTRAN, LISP or OBERON.
  • Don’t tell me you know how to use MS-Office. Some jobs require this line, and I get that. But if you’re born after 1985 and are in post-secondary education, I feel that its a given that you know how to use a word processor and spreadsheet program.

There are more points that I’m missing here, but from my none-HR expert point of view these are the most important facts:

  1. Stand out by giving a personalized cover letter
  2. Don’t ask what I’ll do for you, but tell me what you’ll do for me.
  3. If you are in first year, talk about high school experiences, volunteer work and your personal interests. Don’t tell me what you’ve done the same courses as everyone else.
  4. If you get an interview, have fun. Let your personality out.

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