The UX of Resumes

Recently, I interviewed a person for a user interface engineering position.  I made the analogy that the resume was like a user interface and that the candidate was the application.  As a user, I wanted to accomplish my goal: to learn about the candidate.

My user experience started the minute I picked up the resume, before I even met the candidate.  It was 7 pages long.  This is way too much for a resume.  I couldn’t get the history quickly, I had to follow a long trail of text.  This wasn’t a resume, it was a book.  I noticed a problem right away…there was no footer including the “page x of y” information.  I dropped the resume on the floor and picked it back up.  It was out of order now and nearly impossible to piece back together without looking at the original PDF.

Once, I started reading the text, I realized another major problem.  There were descriptions of what the company did, not what the candidate did.  Normally, if I wanted to know what the company did, I would Google them and go to their website.  This text represented 20% of the total lines of text in the resume.

I pointed all of this out to the candidate when he arrived.  I asked, “How did you write this resume?  All at once? or over time?”  The answer was that the resume was written over time and had accrued more and more lines over the years.

The Analogy Part
Isn’t that like a user interface?  You build something and keep adding features and one day you realize your code is too bloated and long?  When do you say, “I have got to clean this thing up!” and refactor the code.  I have seen many engineers build up a gordian knot over time.  Wouldn’t it be better to keep trimming during the year rather than wait for a massive spring cleaning?

Codebases grow; they don’t shrink.  Yet, everyone agrees that the bigger the codebase gets, the more unmanageable it gets.  Resumes are the same way.  7 pages is way too much for me to read.  Look at your application (or resume) and see how much cruft it has accrued over the years.   Maybe it’s time for a spring cleaning.

Last part of the analogy:  Does your resume look the same as everyone else’s?  Do you use Arial or Times New Roman?  Why would you want your resume to look the same.  It can’t stand out that way.  Why not make it look a little different and help the user remember you?  Look at your resume, it probably needs help.

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