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Striking the right balance

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#1   Members   -  Reputation: 100


Posted 10 January 2010 - 06:00 PM

Hey-ho Developerinos! Have any of you had difficulty in striking the right balance when writing resumes and cover letters? I am my own worst critic when it comes to writing resumes - in the period since 2007, I have had 4 major rewrites with an unmentionable amount of revisions. What I find particularly difficult is writing cover letters, particularly in setting the appropriate tone. What I would really appreciate is any insights you have uncovered, as well as any specific pointers you may have for my own work. I'm a recent immigrant from New Zealand, so I have a somewhat limited idea of what kind of resumes and cover letters Americans appreciate. I've tried all sorts of tones: chatty, formal, deferential, aspirational, humble, brazen and I've been unsatisfied with most. Any time I try to step out of the box and inject some personality into my applications, I end up sounding verbose (much like this post). The end result is usually a muted, overly-formal and weak letter. So what I propose is a little Q&A session. Those who need help working on their resumes and cover letters, post your work, and those who can help refine other's work, however small their contribution, shall be lavished with love, praise and offers of first-borns. I've gone ahead and attached my current resume. Please be as honest as possible. Cover letter is a WIP and will be posted in the next 24 hours. PDF format, optimised PNG format, simplified

#2   Members   -  Reputation: 100


Posted 10 January 2010 - 07:23 PM

Right, here is my third or fourth draft of a cover letter I hope to send out early this week.

Here we have the exact problem I face when striking a balance - how do I express a genuine appreciation for their work in the community without sounding insincere or like a sychophant?

PDF format
PNG format

Is there a preferred format/space to upload here, btw?

#3   Moderators   -  Reputation: 40642


Posted 11 January 2010 - 06:08 AM

Generally your cover letter is mostly ignored. Sorry, but that's what happens. The HR person might look at it, but just enough to route it to the right team. When the team lead (who is actually looking to get somebody) finally sees it, they only get your resume. One company gave us both the cover letters and resumes stapled together, but the letter was in back.

First glance:

Looks pretty good. I can instantly see games, and also can instantly see fluff.

Missing at first glance: What are you looking for? Are you applying for a job as a programmer? Designer? Artist? Or are you looking for something else entirely?

One source of fluff is with your UUOceana.net, listing "founder" of a company that either failed or devolved to a hobby, using the term "MMO" next to "500 customers". Those are very telling for beginners.

Another source of fluff is the bottom of the page. Listing Word, PowerPoint, and Excel as skills is mostly pointless for game development companies unless they are looking for a secretary.

I cannot see what you actually do, or want to do. I can see tax returns, scrum development meetings, budgets, sales cycles, marketing material, office assistant, degree in commerce with minor in economics. So I must assume that you want to be involved with business management of some form.

With that in mind, maybe the skills section at the bottom are not completely inappropriate. The ability to manipulate databases or use advanced processing features might be notable. I feel like if you can graduate from a University but cannot use Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, that person will have other serious problems. My 7-year-old can use PowerPoint and just turned in a report written with Word, so I don't see the ability to use Office as a college-level skill. If you have advanced skills then note it, just keep in mind that 1st graders use it to type reports and a 9-year-old can run a mail merge to build party invitations. You better have some exceptional skills with the programs for it to be notable.

I don't have experience with business management jobs for interview/interviewer roles, but I'll do my best in a more detailed review.

I don't see anything that is an instant must-have skill as I could with looking for programmers, but maybe that's just my lack of experience in business development. I also don't see any instant application-killers, so that's a good thing.

Looking more in depth:

What have you done since April 2008? Have you been unemployed for the last 20 months?

Intern job for five months right out of school. You had your degree at that point, so I am bound to ask why didn't they hire you. It might be a good interview question, or an application killer, depending on what other applications I have in hand. It looks like you did a lot of management-related tasks, so that's good.

Office assistant job for eight months at the end of school. Looks small, but maybe you left there to go directly to a games internship that you didn't want to pass up. I would try to add numbers or details to your advertising that you did. While it does list that you did job-related tasks, they don't give me a strong feeling of exactly what you did, and how well you did it.

You were the "founder" of a small web business, while still in school, for seven months. Sounds like a hobby, not a business.

The site looks like a black mark on your record, not a positive. The Internet Archive shows no updates after April 18th 2005, so the dates are even more suspicious to me. The archives show officially open and a banner competition in 03, then closing in early 04, then reopening on July 04, then stating it was reopening with a lot of rework, a few posts from "Emerald" and his "wench" called "Molly" (presumably wife/girlfriend) and that was the last update on the front page. A "customer base" of 500 could mean many things; I've seen dead comment boards accumulate that many spammers over a few months.

That does not inspire confidence for business skills. I'd cut.

Working at a video store during school might be appropriate for a management type position. For programming jobs I would recommend cutting it, but for business jobs I'll reserve judgment.

Your education has the longest duration of anything on there, at 3.5 years. For being the biggest single project on the page, it also has the least detail. What did you do in school? Did you have some favored projects? You had a minor, but did your courses have any kind of emphasis? Did you have topics you enjoyed? If nothing else, give me a topic that I can ask about in your interview.

Anime Club. I like this one. You stuck with something for more than a year, which is probably the second-best item on the page. I can see specific verifiable projects and numbers, which are good. I can understand what it takes to get 64 active members to a club, and I can understand what it takes get a sponsorship deal with a business, and I know what is involved for campus events.

So that's my review:
* Needs an objective or purpose.
* Cut your hobby website.
* What have you done in the past 20 months?
* Add more specific, concrete, verifiable, comparable details.
* Give details on all items, something that I can question you about during an interview.

#4   Members   -  Reputation: 100


Posted 11 January 2010 - 01:23 PM

Hey frob! First, thanks for your input - it's great knowing how my resume is received by all kinds of people, not just 'business people'.

I'm mainly applying for testing and assistant producer roles. I think my skills and education lie especially in the latter, but you're right in that my resume lacks any main missive. Part of the difficulty in maintaining a firm outline was quantifying my first internship, a lot of what I did was regular intern gruntwork and clerical stuff, so I'm left struggling to describe anything particularly meaty, with the exception of the GUI assignment. I've been thinking about adding a skills summary up the top - a simple sentence or two that explains my desired direction to try and alleviate that, and now I'll go ahead. You made good points regarding the website, skills and education sections, so I will go ahead and update those as per your suggestion.

Now, as for the last 20 months, I've been thinking for about 18 of them how to explain myself. I've done a few temp jobs through a couple of agencies, but nothing substantial, the longest lasting two weeks. I'd also gone back to school for a semester in 2009, spent a few months preparing and interviewing for my green card, but otherwise I was just helping out at a family friend's farm and doing housework. I don't feel it necessary to include this information on a resume per se, but I hope it's a satisfactory answer when it inevitably comes up during an interview. Likewise, I have difficulty trying to explain how I left. The sum of which was just a kind of natural end to the internship - the 6 month contract was up, and the company had already navigated through its growth stage, so there was no real room to move. Additionally, the bulk of my work was in accounts, of which I was largely inexperienced, and I'd let management know of the need or a full-time accountant which they later hired.

Anyway, I'm going to get to work on the new resume right away, and hope to have a new revision up by tonight. I'll post it, and frob, if you could see if it alleviates your concerns, it'd be greatly appreciated. Thanks again for your input.

If anyone else is working on their resumes - don't be afraid to post 'em in here!

#5   Members   -  Reputation: 100


Posted 12 January 2010 - 01:58 PM

Hello again - sorry for the delay in reposting my stuff. I've gone ahead and uploaded the newer edition.

I've subtracted the superfluous skills section, the retail position, and the website. In its stead, I've got a personal summary, worked toward more descriptive and quantifiable points under employment, fleshed out the education section and added rights to work. I've added the latter to allay any fears employers may have and reassure them of my eligibility to work. I do feel the summary is more fragmented than I would like, and that the Mandarin thing may come across as an out-of-left-field tangent.

Anyway, here goes~
PDF v2
PNG v2

#6   Moderators   -  Reputation: 40642


Posted 13 January 2010 - 12:40 AM


It still doesn't say what you want. Actually, it says you have an interest in Mandarin Chinese. Is that what you want?

In the intern job, did you actually do anything with Scaleform, or did you only present something? Maybe you actually evaluated it? If you did more than a presentation, say that instead.

The education section's second half is not really helpful. Grades might mean many different things. Were you good at the subject? Did you need to work hard for those grades or were they trivial classes? Did you cheat? Was the teacher lazy and gave everybody a good grade? Are those the only classes you performed well in? What if I'm not interested in that particular class? What if I misinterpret the importance of the classes? Unlike academia, most businesses don't care about the individual classes you have taken. If this were a CV instead of a resume then it might be different.

Instead, try telling projects you did, things you enjoyed, and wording it as transferable skills. You've got four lines of space that you are just barely using.

Rights to work section. Would employers in your area be concerned about it? If so then leave it, but condense it to a single line and use the space somewhere else. If not, then cut it and use the space elsewhere.

It looks much better than the earlier edition, but can still be improved.

#7   Members   -  Reputation: 100


Posted 13 January 2010 - 06:30 PM

Hey frob, just thanking you for all your help once more.

I went ahead and sliced out the grades in favour of projects that highlight teamwork and interviewing skills. Also fiddled with the summary, but will have to shift that around a bit until I'm satisfied.

I also applied for my first position today, and it was quite the rush. Thanks again. Pity I couldn't kick up a discussion.

#8 Orymus   Members   -  Reputation: 155


Posted 16 January 2010 - 07:14 PM

Concerning cover letters, I just wanted to put a personal experience here:
The latest cover letter I have sent was more poetic than based on any canvas. I literally decided to convey the same message, but using an entirely different tone and language. The result? It got me a job. It stroke the HR person so much that my CV stood out of the pile instantly. I think I scored high with that cover letter. I'm not saying you should do that, but do not pay too much attention to the structure details and all. Just find a way that is "like you" to convey your message in a way where it may be a big risk, but it may score big. You just have to make the person fall from their chair. From what I've learned, if you don't take risks, you'll earn nothing. Cover letter is a big risk, but it can give you big opportunities :)
Forget the template ;)
Remember that this is an industry where people need to be bold enough to do new stuff and not fear the consequences. Unlike what is often stated about business, they do take big risks. But their big risks are taken by people who know when to risk. Risking big with a cover letter lets the people on the other end know that you're willing to go that extra mile and try something new. The tone in which it is written gives them more of an idea of who you are than the actual content. Always bear that in mind :)

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