Resume Writing

Most of us don’t really take a look at our resumes until it’s time to apply for jobs. I’m certainly one of those people. I’ve updated my resume only occasionally in between looking for new jobs. I’ve done a lot of experimenting with my resume over the years. This article summarizes what I started with, how I adapted and updated it, and tips to consider when brushing off the ol’ resume.

Starting Out

If you are just starting out, you probably don’t have a wealth of experience to list and it seems a bit intimidating to be applying to positions for which you have little to no actual professional experience. This is normal! While you may not have the professional experience, what you can do is leverage what you’ve done in your personal life. Have you volunteered for something? Great! List the volunteer activity as if it were a professional experience. Extra-curricular activity from school? Do the same thing! What you experience throughout life is all experience. It may or may not pertain to a specific position, but if you can list life experiences that do relate, then even better.

If you are dusting off the resume, go ahead and review it. See if there’s anything that can be refined. Did a project exceed expectations? Did you end up picking up additional responsibilities that aren’t quite listed? Add them! Refine the existing experience you have written down to more accurately reflect your accomplishments. Each word on your resume should add value to your overall effort. If you helped your team improve a process, what was your role in helping? What was the process? How did you improve it? What were the benefits to the company after it was improved? Was it long term? If you can explain the value you provided to your previous employers through your actions, it’s easier to see how hiring you for the next position will benefit the next company.


Before I do anything to my resume with my new experience, I expand on what’s already written. If I helped automate a server installation I can expand that to how I made decisions, how the project came about, what the outcome was, hurdles I had to overcome, decisions I needed to make, input I sought, etc. I can expand a single bullet point into several highlighting problem solving skills, leadership, cost-benefit analysis, etc. This highlights soft skills which are typically skills one must learn by doing and cannot necessarily learn by being taught. Think about each bullet in your resume and expand it to highlight as many soft skills as you can that you used in meeting your accomplishments. Once you’ve worked over your resume, then you can add to it with your new experience in your last position. Reviewing your entire resume helps bring forward all of your skill sets you’ve developed over your professional career.

One example of expanding would be to take a rather generic bullet point like “Automate data acquisition.” and expand it into multiple bullet points highlighting the various tasks you accomplished:

  • Automated data aggregation, formatting, validation, and report generation.
  • Automated testing analytics.

This type of expansion portrays your accomplishments more clearly and provides a clearer view of your part in company success. Companies would rather hire someone who is capable at communicating than someone who flies under the radar and just punches the clock.

Add Value

When you’re finished expanding, go back and revise your bullets to stand out. Include specific amounts when possible. Be sure you are able to explain your values during an interview. Estimating saving a company $1M better have an explanation on how you came up with that number and concrete examples backing it. If you’re unsure of a number, you can still estimate one, but be sure you can explain your estimation process. Estimation is a great skill to showcase during an interview and backing it up proves your authority on the skill.

Continuing with our example, we can add specific values to each of these bullet points to highlight the value provided to the previous company. This allows a potential employer to see the proven value you brought to the company and foreshadows the value you will bring to them:

  • Saved the company 1,081 hours by automating data aggregation, formatting, validation, and report generation for 36 products.
  • Save the company 500 hours by automating testing analytics for 22 projects.

This value clarification also shows how much you were working. It highlights the amount of work required to accomplish your goals and the total cost savings provided to the company (almost a full-time employee salary!). This relays to prospective employers that hiring you will save them money. Business think in terms of bottom line. If you add more perceived value than you cost, you can negotiate a higher salary and prospective employers will still see it as a net-positive deal.


Once you expand, update, and add value to all of your positions on your resume, it’s time to make some cuts. I keep several copies of my resume. I use LinkedIn as an fully expanded resume listing every position and every project and everything I’ve ever done to add any value at all to any company. When I put this all in a PDF, it’s 11 pages. This is clearly too long-winded to be successful at getting into any position (I’ve tried and had little success).

The first person that typically looks at your resume is also looking at other resumes, too. Potentially hundreds depending on the company. If they come across an 11 page resume you can almost be sure it’s immediately removed from the running. This person is a human and humans get bored easily. You need a concise, clear, standout resume to get further into the process. You can always bring your 11 page resume to your interview to bring up talking points (although, I would caution against that).

Any bullet points that merely list responsibilities of a position provide zero value and just take up valuable space. If a bullet point doesn’t add value, remove it. If a bullet point doesn’t explain what you did, the value it brought to the company, and highlight a skill it needs to be refined or removed. The earlier examples are great at identifying value and skill. This individual saved the company a lot of time (and time, to a company, equals money). It also showed a penchant for automation. Other aspects of the resume should be backing some form of experience. This individual was a molecular biologist and they were highlighting their expertise in data reporting. All of the bullet points for that position highlighted how their data reporting skills saved the company money and could save the next potential employer money, too. The skills listed in this resume also portrayed a knack for automation, which is a skill that spans multiple disciplines. Each bullet identified a skill possessed by this individual, the value this skill brought to the company, and how the skill made this individual a subject matter expert on the subject.

Your resume is a sales tool in selling yourself to a potential employer. Treat it as a marketing campaign. If it’s not string, clear, and concise, make it that way or remove it.

The Process

This is probably a good time to talk about the whole hiring process in the 21st century. If you’re applying for jobs, it’s probably online. You’re either talking to a recruiter or using a job board like Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Dice, or any of the hundreds of other job boards available. You should target the job boards relevant to your industry if possible. Look around and see if you can find a job board specific to your industry.

You may believe that getting that first interview is the first step of the interview process. You may be surprised to find that the first step is not getting an interview, but instead getting your resume to a human. This is typically accomplished by human-first contact (a recruiter or an internal hiring specialist) or through an applicant tracing system (ATS).

You can tell when an ATS is being used when you have to fill out some series of forms rehashing your resume. This puts your resume into a machine readable format that the ATS can then search for keywords. If you have the skill set they are looking for, but lack the keywords the ATS is looking for, you’re quietly eliminated from the running. You don’t typically get any indication if you’ve been rejected through an ATS based hiring process. When you are targeting a position that uses an ATS, it’s a good idea to break out your skills into industry standard terminology and list it in a skills section of your resume. I pull out all of the languages I’ve worked with and list them in a group close to the top of my resume. This makes it easy to copy and paste keywords into an ATS based resume submission.

In the case of a human-first hiring process, your resume length is a typical factor in elimination. An 11 page resume will quickly find the trash can even if you are the dream candidate. For human-first applications, you must keep your resume crystal clear and concise. The human that first looks at your resume needs to figure out if it’s a general match within 5 seconds of looking at it. If you don’t clearly highlight your skills, you won’t stand out in the hundreds of resumes this person has to go through. You do have more creative freedom with a human-first application process to better portray your skills through resume layout.

After the initial screening process, you may get a second phone screen. This typically means you made it past the gate keeper and someone with some sort of knowledge about the position and about the company wants to talk to you. They have your ATS resume (in whatever format the ATS spits it out in) or your “human” resume (in the format you submitted it in). Depending on this, you may want to highlight your skills verbally during the screening call. This phone screen may seem like it’s a “getting to know you” but you should treat it as a stage to shine on. Your soft skills are what’s being tested, the phone screen person doesn’t typically know much about the skills necessary for the position, they want to make sure you’re still looking, that this job interests you, to tell you a little bit about to company, and to gauge if you are not an asshole. Nobody hires assholes.

If you manage to pass the phone screen, the next step is either an in-person or over-the-phone interview. This is the last step for some positions. This is where the rubber hits the road. A team of people or one person is on the other end, they’ve read your resume (along with tens of others that made it through) and want to test that you know what your resume says you know and if you’re a good fit for the team dynamic. This is the tougher of the interviews and if more are after this they get even more tougher. This interview is the make or break moment for your job search in a position. This is where you bring together all of your soft skills to highlight your hard skills. PRACTICE THIS BEFORE THE INTERVIEW. Unless you interview regularly, this is where a small mistake can cost you the position (this has happened to me more times than I care to reflect on). You should be able to answer their questions with a story reflecting on past positions on how you accomplished something similar. If you don’t have experience let them know you haven’t had the experience but do tell them what you would do if found in that situation.

I’ve been asked how I would handle an employee subordinate to me that was disruptive to the team. I’ve never been in this position (nor would I really want to be), so I explained I had never experienced it, but that I would pull the employee aside and talk about it. We would come up with ideas on how to not be disruptive and make a performance plan on how to measure when the employee was being disruptive and what to do when the employee recognized they were being disruptive. This solution seemed simple to me, but someone who may not have been ready for the position may not have had this type of answer.

Many other times, I’ve been asked questions that directly related to projects I’ve been on in the past. Something like “how would you handle negative performance by a third-party?” and was able to reflect on one of my projects that directly involved a negatively performing third-party contractor. I explained that I had actually experienced that and explained what I did do. This was nowhere on my resume but does show the soft skills the company is looking for and backs them up through concrete action.

There have, of course, been interviews I’ve been on for a position that was (looking back on it) clearly out of my experience. I’ve been on a manager interview for a movie theater (this was a really long time ago!) and asked what I would do if a customer complained about seeing a rat drag a nacho tray up the theater aisle during a movie. I didn’t know. I never even experienced the rat issue. So, I offered what I would do in that position: apologize and offer a movie pass for a later showing. It wasn’t what the other managers would do (and I’m not quite sure what the “correct” answer was). Needless to say, I didn’t get the position.

Wrap Up

In the many interviews I’ve had during my career, I am often deflated when I get passed over for a position. It’s taken some time, but I finally realize that getting passed over for a position isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It does come down a fit on both sides of the process. Ultimately, you aren’t passed over because you suck, it’s typically because of “fit.” On one interview, the culture of the company and my culture just didn’t line up. Other interviews, they were looking for someone with either more or less skill than I could provide, I would have struggled or been underpaid and frustrated for that position. If you focus on being yourself and presenting what you have to offer in the best light, you will find your fit, it may just take some time.

Photo Organizing!

I’m sure you have about 10,000 pictures all in one big folder with no organization, multiple copies, and a wishful intent of organizing it. When you finally find the time to sit down and do your organizing, the task seems so insurmountable, you suddenly realize you forgot to scrub your kitchen floor, do the laundry, weed the garden, and complete every other chore you’ve been putting off! I was there — I made it through.


I was inspired by Timehop, of all things, when I sat down to organize all of my photos. The intention was that I would combine my entire family’s photos together, organized chronologically. Timehop, for those of you who don’t know, connects to your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Photos, and Dropbox) to gather your pictures. Each day, Timehop shows you pictures on that day from from your history. It’s pretty fun watching your kids grow up and seeing how much they have grown each day. I quickly found that, while Timehop is pretty great, it requires pictures. I’m not the big picture taker in the family, my beautiful wife is, so my Timehop was barren and her Timehop was full of all the pictures. This made me sad, but also inspired me to bring all of our pictures together (along with all the other pictures I had sitting around on several devices). So here’s what I did to bring my vision to life.

The Work

I started by bringing all of my pictures from all of my devices to my computer. I had to find an SD card reader, the power cord from my old Nikon camera (circa 2001), a plethora of CDs, all the odd folders on my PC, the photo folders I had on Dropbox, and the photo folders I had in Google Drive and bring them together in one place on my PC to start organizing. Once I had all the pictures in one place, I quickly realized that there were quite a few pictures! Roughly 230GB worth of photos!

I started organizing in folders by Year, then Month, then Day to get a good chronological order. I quickly realized there were many, many, many duplicates and that organizing them chronologically helped to identify them. I would manually inspect each of the duplicates and keep the better quality one. I also realized some of the images (typically the ones I had in backup folders) were missing the date information. I put these in a separate folder. Some of them had the date imprinted in the photo, some of these imprints were blatantly wrong (why is the sun out at 2AM?). These also went in the “unknown” folder. I went through all of the pictures and got them sorted chronologically as best as I could. There were a LOT of duplicate photos I was able to remove.

For the “unknown” folder I would occasionally find a dated picture and was able to remove the unknown picture. At the end of all of this organization, I was able to identify the date of some of the unknown pictures by context with other pictures (same outfit, same people and location, etc) and updated the EXIF data with the correct date. There were a few photos that were also mis-dated, but I didn’t find those until later.

After chronologically organizing these pictures, I realized I had mixed in some of my wife’s pictures and some of my in-law’s pictures. This had a really cool effect of seeing what the in-law’s were up to when the wife and I were somewhere else. It was interesting to see what my wife was up to when I was hanging out with friends before we even met. This side-effect was an awesome early payoff for the work I had done already. I wanted to include the rest of the family into this, but haven’t had much luck in getting buy in. Google Photos has the ability to share an album with others allowing collaboration on it. I might revisit this option in the future, especially since my brother recently lost all of his photos.

The Backup

So, after getting all of these photos finally organized (it took a few hours each night for about a week). I wanted all of this hard work backed up. I looked to Google Drive to be the workhorse for this. So, I uploaded all of the pictures to Google Drive one evening and went to bed. That morning I had a bunch of emails from Google about my Google Drive almost being full, options to upgrade my Google Drive space before I ran out of it, and that my Google Drive was finally full. I learned that your Google Drive contains all of your upload as well as all of your emails! So, I stopped getting emails sometime that evening. It was a bit alarming discovering this… so I quickly removed the partially uploaded photos from Google Drive and turned to Dropbox.

Dropbox uploads were done through a folder sync using the companion app. This seemed to go well, I set it up and let it run. Dropbox indexes all of the files it needs to upload before uploading them, so it took a few hours for it to do that before it started the actual upload. The upload lasted several more hours before I started getting emails in the middle of the night about my Dropbox becoming full, then actually being full… So, the next day, I stopped the upload and removed the partial upload from Dropbox. Strike two…

When I originally uploaded my photos to Google Drive, I thought it automatically moved them to Google Photos. Google is magic right? It turns out, they had recently announced they were going to stop doing this in the name of simplicity. Turns out it was still possible, but was confusing to configure. So, I skipped the Google Drive and went straight to Google Photos. I read up on what the requirements were and decided to take the plunge… if it didn’t work out, the worst that could happen would be a few emails, right?

The uploads took most of the day in upload time. I wasn’t sitting in front of the computer the whole time, but I would periodically check in to see how it was doing. I wasn’t getting email warnings, so that was a bonus. I also installed the Google Photos app on my iPhone and it started backing up all of the photos I’d ever taken on the phone to Google Photos as well. After all of the uploads finished (finally) I got my second awesome surprise. Google Photos‘ “assistant” started identifying duplicate photos! All of the hard work I had put in earlier identifying duplicate photos and eliminating them was automatically being done by Google Photos‘ assistant! It did find more duplicates. It also automatically created albums based on the geotags of some of the pictures. It was super neat to see albums starting to be created.

Over time, the Google Photos‘ assistant started identifying people and pets in the pictures and made albums of each person. In the past year since I’ve finished, it’s also been able to identify the same person at different ages and asks if the two faces are the same person. I no doubt have an uneasy feeling in that this is training some AI on facial recognition, but, like any other social media site, it’s a price I’m willing to pay to get the awesome benefits from this free service. Because of this facial recognition, Google Photos has provided me videos of my son growing up through the years, my pets, and my wife and I since we’ve met. It’s been rewarding each and every day.

I did end up sharing the entire drive with my wife. She sees whenever a new photo is uploaded so I don’t have to AirDrop or text the pictures I do take to her, she just gets them in her Google Photos app. I also don’t have to worry about losing pictures on my phone. I can create and share albums in real-time with people instead of having to remember to send them to them later. It’s been an interesting project that’s been more and more rewarding as each day passes.

Wrap Up

My Timehop feed has improved, I have a 811 day streak! It’s been real awesome to see what my wife was doing on the day I graduated high school, or what I was doing on the day she graduated college. It’s shown how large this world is when you step outside your own life and realize everyone is living their own. It really wants me to get all of the pictures into one place and see how my cousins, nieces, nephews, and the rest of my family is doing. While I’m not physically with these people every day, a collective photo album like this would almost be like being there.

The Importance of Data Backups

If it hasn’t happened to you yet, you will eventually suffer a data loss event. The most common event is your hard drive, with all your family pictures on it, suddenly and unexpectedly dies. If you haven’t planned for this, you may have to spend a bunch of money on data recovery to recover all of your valuable family pictures. Worse case, you spend the money only to find out that it can’t be recovered. This happened to my brother recently, and he thought he had a backup system in place, but when his hard drive crashed, even I couldn’t help him. He found out the hard way that his backup system wasn’t running as expected and he had to shell out $5,000 for a specialized clean room direct read data recovery process that ultimately was unable to recover his pictures. If he had an automatic backup system in place, he could have prevented this disaster.

Planning for Disaster

If your computer were to die today, do you know if all of your important data is easily recoverable? If your answer is “no” or you don’t know the answer, perhaps it’s time to set up something simple and easy now for preventing the type of disaster my brother experienced. In Windows, most of your documents are automatically stored in your “My Documents” or “Documents” folder (depending on your Windows version). This is intended from Microsoft’s perspective as it keeps all of your user files in one location. You only need to backup one single folder, and you backup most (if not all) of your important files. There are several premium services out there to help you keep your data safe. There are also some free services you could use.


Dropbox provides a limited amount of space for free accounts with the option of upgrading for more space. This service has a companion application you install on devices you want to automatically backup files from. I personally use Dropbox for backing up files from my PC and backup files from this server. Your files are accessible via the companion app when you install it on a new device or on the Dropbox website.

Google Drive provides a limited amount of free space and has a companion application that is installed on each computer from which you want to automatically backup files. The companion app can be configured to sync multiple computers or to backup individual computers into a single online Google Drive. This could be a useful utility for those with multiple computers they want to backup but not share data, or for those who want to sync working files across multiple devices. I personally use Google Drive for backing up document files (PDFs, Spreadsheets, text documents, etc.).

Google Photos allows for free and unlimited storage for down-scaled images and the service provides a few extra perks like de-duplication, automatic photo album creation, automatic styling, automatic organization, and automatic videos. This was very helpful to me when I consolidated all of my pictures I’ve taken over the past 18 years from several different locations. This is a great option of all you care about are photos and you take the majority of photos with your phone. Photos are automatically down-scaled and uploaded to Google Photos. I personally use Google Photos for all of my photo needs. I chose Google Photos when I filled my Google Drive and Dropbox space with photos and was looking for a free alternative. If you are a photographer or are concerned about retaining the original, high-resolution photo, there is a paid option for Google Photos which allows you to store the original photo rather than the down-scaled image.

iCloud provides a limited free amount of space for Apple users. This drive is a little more complicated to set up and is typically used for syncing files across multiple Apple products. I’ve actually lost files using this service due to it’s rather unintuitive interface and confusing backup strategy.

To get started, you simply need to pick one. I recommend Dropbox for file backups as it’s simple to use and easy to set up. I highly recommend Google Photos for all of your photo backup needs. Remember, if you try one and don’t quite like it, you can always switch to another!


My brother’s backup strategy was to use a external hard drive and have it backup data periodically to it. It wasn’t a terrible plan, I used to do this. He was at least thinking of data backup before disaster struck. I’ve helped clients of mine with fixing their computer and most of my conversations on data backup were brand new concepts to them. Many of them didn’t understand the importance of data backup until it was too late and data was lost. My brother’s backup attempts were valiant, but his downfall was never testing the backup system and never checking up on if it was working. This double-whammy ultimately lead to a false sense of security which is easily identified with regular maintenance and upkeep of the backup system; essential when you create your own system. Making backups easy and truly a “set it and forget it” thing, online backup providers are your ideal choice as they maintain their systems for you, and you don’t have to worry about your backup hardware failing.

If you would like help setting up your backup plan, I am available to help! Simply contact me and we can set up a time to backup your data!