This post was updated in December 2017 with new information.
Even if you’re not currently drowning in applications, the task of reviewing developer resumes is tougher than many recruiters anticipate. You probably know the tech stack that your team uses, and you even might know some of the basics of those languages. But even with that knowledge, it’s tempting to scan a resume for a few qualifications before bringing the candidate in for an interview. As difficult as it can be to understand a technical resume, here are a few common resume scanning tips that you should avoid when you’re vetting candidates.
When I was a recruiter, I got into the habit of looking for specific keywords on resumes and rejecting any on which I couldn’t find them. While that might sound like an ideal time-saver, it was bad practice then, and it’s especially counterintuitive when you’re evaluating a technical resume. As our CEO Joel Spolsky once wrote, nothing is stopping a developer candidate from stuffing all the tech languages you’re looking for into a section of his or her resume. He adds, “Every working programmer knows about these computer programs that filter resumes based on keywords, so they usually have a section of their resume containing every technology they have ever touched, solely to get through the filters.”
For some non-technical roles, many recruiters have their own ideas of what their ideal candidate's profile looks like on paper. Personally, one of the first resume scanning tips I got as a recruiter was to look for certain job titles on resumes, and I often eliminated people if they didn’t look “experienced” enough on paper. When it comes to evaluating developer resumes, candidates often have job titles that don’t tell the entire story. Here at Stack Overflow, we tend to look for candidates with at least 4-6 of professional coding experience, but for the most part, many of them simply hold the title of “Developer.” Every company treats job titles differently, so trying to find an exact match based on previous jobs alone will make you prone to passing on a technical resume from someone who is perfectly qualified.
Sure, it’s natural to get excited when you come across a candidate with a degree from a top-tier university. I’ve made the mistake of saying, “This person graduated from that school? I have to schedule a phone interview ASAP.” The problem with scanning a developer’s resume for specific universities is that many of today’s coders are learning how to write code in various non-traditional settings. In fact, over 69% of developers say they’re self-taught, while only 34% say they hold a degree in Computer Science or a related field. Scanning for elite institutions might sound like one of the best resume scanning tips you could give or receive. Ultimately, it will cause you to skip a lot of candidates that would bring a lot of value to your company, despite a lack of a traditional education.