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At What Point Do You Put a Skill on Your Resume?

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  • User profile image
    billh

    I've seen a few resumes that seem to list a huge array of software applications and list every single programming language under the sun. I've also seen numerous job postings that seem to request a huge amount of software skills and knowledge of every programming language under the sun.  I take both examples of excess with a huge grain of salt.

    Personally, I don't put a software app or a language or a platform on my resume until I know it well.  Why?  Because if I list "I know Access", I would expect an employer to ask me deeper questions beyond "how to do data entry". But what if you have only worked with a particular technology for a few hours? How about a few days? Should work with a particular technology as a hobby (i.e. at home) count as a software skill on a resume?

    At what point (threshold) do you put a skill on your resume?  For instance, I have made a couple of toy apps in C#. Nothing serious, nothing formal.  I don't see anything particularily difficult in learning C#, as I know a fair amount about C and C++ already.  I don't list C# as a skill, though.  Would you?

    On the flip side, I do list VB as a skill, though, even though I have only worked with it a few times.  I've done macro programming. I've used VB 6 casually at times (not at work).  I've worked in multiple flavors of Basic over the years. I can figure out enough of my way around it and find it easy to read the code (and understand how event driven programming works).

    What it all comes down to is that it's not the actual tech interview process I am worried about...it's getting past the screeners/HR folks. They love buzzwords and keywords, but I think sometimes I knock myself out of the running by NOT listing more skills.

  • User profile image
    Karim

    billh wrote:
    But what if you have only worked with a particular technology for a few hours? How about a few days? Should work with a particular technology as a hobby (i.e. at home) count as a software skill on a resume?

    At what point (threshold) do you put a skill on your resume?  For instance, I have made a couple of toy apps in C#. Nothing serious, nothing formal.  I don't see anything particularily difficult in learning C#, as I know a fair amount about C and C++ already.  I don't list C# as a skill, though.  Would you?



    When I've hired people, I've always disliked the resumes that had a generic "Skills" section that did nothing but list the names of 8 million software packages or languages.  It tells you nothing about the level of skill, or the nature of the experience.

    I did one interview where the guy listed "HTML" under Skills.  I asked him, "What's the HTML markup for the Bold tag?"

    He looked at me quizzically, as if he had not heard the words markup or tag before.

    "You know," I explained, "To make something boldface?  In HTML, when you want to mark some text as bold.  How do you do that?"

    [awkward pause]

    "I don't think I know that one," he said.

    It is much more helpful to put the software in a work experience context.  For example, I wouldn't just list "MS Access" under "Skills," but rather, "Designed, developed & maintained asset-tracking database in Microsoft Access 2003 as an Access Project (ADP)."  That tells me a LOT.  Just putting "MS Access" under "Skills" doesn't.

    In your case, if it's relevant to the job, you should list your "couple of toy apps in C#."  Though I'd be sure to indicate that it was avocational/hobby experience.  e.g. "Developed Netflix movie tracking database for personal use as a WinForms application in C# using VS 2003 Student Edition."  It's not as impressive as vocational experience, but it's better than not listing it at all, and it's not as misleading as listing C# as a vocational skill.

    Another thing you can do is put a qualifier on the skill, e.g.

    Expert in: A, B, C

    Proficient in: D, E, F
    (or for languages, "Fluent")

    Competent in: G, H, I

    Familiar with: J, K, L

    Basic Knowledge of: M, N, O

    so instead of just listing it as a "skill," you're saying, "I really know these things inside-out; these other things I know very well; these other things I sort of know; and these other things I once used briefly," etc.

    In your case, I'd probably put C and C++ in the appropriate category, but put C# under "Basic Knowledge of."

    billh wrote:

    What it all comes down to is that it's not the actual tech interview process I am worried about...it's getting past the screeners/HR folks. They love buzzwords and keywords, but I think sometimes I knock myself out of the running by NOT listing more skills.


    The only way you can really knock yourself out of the running is to have a "black" name at the top of your resume:

    http://post.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/mullainathan/papers/emilygreg.pdf

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/09/29/national/main575685.shtml

    White names got about one callback per 10 resumes; black names got one per 15. Carries and Kristens had call-back rates of more than 13 percent, but Aisha, Keisha and Tamika got 2.2 percent, 3.8 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively. And having a higher quality resume, featuring more skills and experience, made a white-sounding name 30 percent more likely to elicit a callback, but only 9 percent more likely for black-sounding names.

    So assuming there's a sufficiently white-sounding name at the top of your resume, you shouldn't have any problems.  Expressionless

  • User profile image
    billh

    Karim wrote:
    It is much more helpful to put the software in a work experience context.  For example, I wouldn't just list "MS Access" under "Skills," but rather, "Designed, developed & maintained asset-tracking database in Microsoft Access 2003 as an Access Project (ADP)."  That tells me a LOT.  Just putting "MS Access" under "Skills" doesn't.
    Agreed...

    Karim wrote:
    Another thing you can do is put a qualifier on the skill, e.g.

    Expert in: A, B, C

    Proficient in: D, E, F
    (or for languages, "Fluent")

    Competent in: G, H, I

    Familiar with: J, K, L

    Basic Knowledge of: M, N, O

    so instead of just listing it as a "skill," you're saying, "I really know these things inside-out; these other things I know very well; these other things I sort of know; and these other things I once used briefly," etc.
    That's a good idea...thanks.
    Karim wrote:
    The only way you can really knock yourself out of the running is to have a "black" name at the top of your resume:

    http://post.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/mullainathan/papers/emilygreg.pdf

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/09/29/national/main575685.shtml

    White names got about one callback per 10 resumes; black names got one per 15. Carries and Kristens had call-back rates of more than 13 percent, but Aisha, Keisha and Tamika got 2.2 percent, 3.8 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively. And having a higher quality resume, featuring more skills and experience, made a white-sounding name 30 percent more likely to elicit a callback, but only 9 percent more likely for black-sounding names.
    That sucks...but having worked in a banking call center before, I know that people on the other end of the phone make up their mind about you in about the first 30 seconds of a call. Did I agree with it? No, but I know it happens.

  • User profile image
    DoomBringer

    For me, instead of the 6 or so categories Karim put, I just listed my things as Primary, Secondary, and Other.

  • User profile image
    Detroit Muscle

    billh wrote:
    At what point (threshold) do you put a skill on your resume?  For instance, I have made a couple of toy apps in C#. Nothing serious, nothing formal.  I don't see anything particularily difficult in learning C#, as I know a fair amount about C and C++ already.  I don't list C# as a skill, though.  Would you?


    C# isn't a skill. C++ isn't a skill. These are programming languages. If you list C#, C++, Java, etc. as skills on your resume, it makes you look ignorant.

    Visual Studio isn't a skill. Photoshop isn't a skill. These are tools. Similarly, if you list a tool as a skill on your resume, it makes you look bad.

    Object oriented programming is a skill. Embedded system design is a skill. Digital image manipulation is a skill. "I know programming language X" is not a skill.




  • User profile image
    billh

    Detroit Muscle wrote:
    C# isn't a skill. C++ isn't a skill. These are programming languages. If you list C#, C++, Java, etc. as skills on your resume, it makes you look ignorant.

    Visual Studio isn't a skill. Photoshop isn't a skill. These are tools. Similarly, if you list a tool as a skill on your resume, it makes you look bad.

    Object oriented programming is a skill. Embedded system design is a skill. Digital image manipulation is a skill. "I know programming language X" is not a skill.
    Yep, you're an embedded systems guy alright. Expressionless

    I probably should have elaborated as to what categories go on my resume as it stands today: Programming languages, platforms, tools, experience, education, and...that's right...skills (basically what doesn't land in one of the other categories). Of course I should have realized that getting into resume discussions can be as subjective as a discussion about the uses of programming languages themselves.

    Or the merits of managed code.

  • User profile image
    DoomBringer

    Detroit Muscle wrote:
    billh wrote: At what point (threshold) do you put a skill on your resume?  For instance, I have made a couple of toy apps in C#. Nothing serious, nothing formal.  I don't see anything particularily difficult in learning C#, as I know a fair amount about C and C++ already.  I don't list C# as a skill, though.  Would you?


    C# isn't a skill. C++ isn't a skill. These are programming languages. If you list C#, C++, Java, etc. as skills on your resume, it makes you look ignorant.

    Visual Studio isn't a skill. Photoshop isn't a skill. These are tools. Similarly, if you list a tool as a skill on your resume, it makes you look bad.

    Object oriented programming is a skill. Embedded system design is a skill. Digital image manipulation is a skill. "I know programming language X" is not a skill.





    Its just a generic catch-all word.  I think on my resume I specifically list languages separately, but its just an arbitrary distinction.

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    Detroit Muscle wrote:
    C# isn't a skill. C++ isn't a skill. These are programming languages. If you list C#, C++, Java, etc. as skills on your resume, it makes you look ignorant.

    Visual Studio isn't a skill. Photoshop isn't a skill. These are tools. Similarly, if you list a tool as a skill on your resume, it makes you look bad.


    Hardly.

    You can be skilled in using the Visual Studio IDE, you can be skilled in the language.

  • User profile image
    zzzzz

    Allot of good advice has been given.

    If you want to impress the interviewer or the reader of the resume include a url that details your work and shows example  apps  you have done.  This gives allot substance to your resume.

    Also don't be surprised if you are given a test on your programing knowledge of a speific language.

    If you are on good terms with your present employer ask them for references and see if thay are willing accept phone calls from possible employers...


    I did interviews for  machinists one guy just floored me and i would like to hirer him on the spot but could not afford him.  He brought in parts he made himself on a Bridgeport...  This impressed me allot more than his resume...

  • User profile image
    ScanIAm

    Detroit Muscle wrote:
    billh wrote: At what point (threshold) do you put a skill on your resume?  For instance, I have made a couple of toy apps in C#. Nothing serious, nothing formal.  I don't see anything particularily difficult in learning C#, as I know a fair amount about C and C++ already.  I don't list C# as a skill, though.  Would you?


    C# isn't a skill. C++ isn't a skill. These are programming languages. If you list C#, C++, Java, etc. as skills on your resume, it makes you look ignorant.

    Visual Studio isn't a skill. Photoshop isn't a skill. These are tools. Similarly, if you list a tool as a skill on your resume, it makes you look bad.

    Object oriented programming is a skill. Embedded system design is a skill. Digital image manipulation is a skill. "I know programming language X" is not a skill.



    Do you honestly read what you type before you hit the 'post' button? 

    Let's hear your description of what makes OOP a skill and developing software in C++ not a skill.

  • User profile image
    Karim

    billh wrote:
    That sucks...but having worked in a banking call center before, I know that people on the other end of the phone make up their mind about you in about the first 30 seconds of a call. Did I agree with it? No, but I know it happens.


    I suppose I don't mind something being "unfair" per se, so much as whether it's unequally unfair.

    It's ok if something has to be rationed, as long as it's rationed equally.  Taking 30 seconds to make up your mind about someone is not so bad if everyone gets the same 30 seconds.

    The point of the study was that you could take identical resumes, do nothing but change the name at the top, and the resume would get a radically different treatment.

    If what you observed in that call center was everyone getting short shrift, all you can do is shrug.  "That's life."  If what you observed was some people getting 30 seconds and others getting 30 minutes based on their race, that's discrimination, and it needs to be protested.

  • User profile image
    ScanIAm

    Karim wrote:


    The point of the study was that you could take identical resumes, In Chicago and Boston, do nothing but change the name at the top, and the resume would get a radically different treatment in Chicago and Boston.



    There, I fixed it up for ya.

    The second article, btw, also mentioned competing studies that showed no such bias.

    I'm not going to go so far as to say that such bias (aka prejudice) doesn't exist, but the information you showed doesn't prove diddly-squat.

    And so what if it does?  What can be done?  The people in charge of hiring are looking to eliminate any candidate so that they can reduce the choice of candidates to a manageable size.  Age, Weight, Nationality, Accent and unfortunately Race are the only non-job related 'traits' available to catagorize candidates.  So, I think the bias does, actually, get spread around a lot more than just having a name that associates you with one race or another.  And how about nepotism?  You could be functionally retarded and still get a job if your relative is running the business.

    I'm open to suggestions, but complaining isn't going to solve the problem. 

  • User profile image
    Karim

    ScanIAm wrote:
    I'm not going to go so far as to say that such bias (aka prejudice) doesn't exist, but the information you showed doesn't prove diddly-squat.


    Straw man: I never said it proved anything.  It's a single study.  That doesn't mean the study is invalid, or wrong, or that Boston and Chicago are sufficiently different from the rest of the United States to warrant the suggestion that they're special cases.

    I have anecdotal, PERSONAL EXPERIENCE corroborating the results of the study, but I won't bore you with my own version of Black Like Me.  Besides, anecdotes aren't proof either, are they?  So let's ignore them.

    ScanIAm wrote:

    And so what if it does?  What can be done? 


    Well, it's not as nothing can be done.  Companies could process resumes by entering the name & address into a computer, then printing out a unique ID or barcode sticker, then internally circulate the resume with the name obscured to eliminate name bias.  Is that complicated?  Yes.  Will anyone do it?  Probably not, because who cares if black people don't get hired?  "Doesn't affect ME, 'cause I'm WHITE," right?  But it is something that can be done.

    Companies are also scanning resumes using OCR to help eliminate bias:

    http://www.uwec.edu/career/Online_Library/scannable.htm

    If you have the right keywords on your resume, you get forwarded for consideration.  Thus, your name doesn't enter into it.  As the article states, you can still be a victim of bias later, but at least that gets you over the initial hurdle.

    Resumes could also be scanned as images and put into a database.  The name could be obscured and not be available to the person making the hiring decision, until a callback decision was made.

    I could keep throwing out ideas, but who am I kidding?  You really didn't want an answer to the question, "What can be done," did you?  You wanted to say, "TOO BAD, NOTHING CAN BE DONE."  You wanted to stick your head back in the nice sand and pretend the problem was limited to the cities of Chicago and Boston and one study didn't PROVE anything.  Please, feel free to ignore reality.  Don't let me disturb your blissful ignorance.  There is no such thing as discrimination.  Go back to sleep.

    ScanIAm wrote:

    The people in charge of hiring are looking to eliminate any candidate so that they can reduce the choice of candidates to a manageable size.  Age, Weight, Nationality, Accent and unfortunately Race are the only non-job related 'traits' available to catagorize candidates. 


    Generally, people don't put their Age, Weight, Nationality and Accent on their resume.

    ScanIAm wrote:

    And how about nepotism?  You could be functionally retarded and still get a job if your relative is running the business.


    It's not illegal to hire your relatives.  It is illegal to discriminate in job hiring based on race.

    Or at least, it's illegal in Boston and Chicago.  <rolleyes>

  • User profile image
    blowdart

    Karim wrote:


    Generally, people don't put their Age, Weight, Nationality and Accent on their resume.


    I'm currently doing the CV filtering and first interviews at work, and on most CVs I will see age and nationality.

  • User profile image
    Karim

    blowdart wrote:
    Karim wrote:

    Generally, people don't put their Age, Weight, Nationality and Accent on their resume.


    I'm currently doing the CV filtering and first interviews at work, and on most CVs I will see age and nationality.


    That's not the case in America, where the study I mentioned was performed.  (I said "resume;" you said "curriculum vitae")

    Even if it was the case, the resumes used in the study were absolutely identical except for the name.  So there wouldn't have been any bias based on age, because the ages would have been the same.

    Anecdotally, at least, the problem is not confined to America:

    http://www.alternet.org/wiretap/28837/

    Young French North Africans say you've got to be a Jacques or Pierre, not a Karim or Mohammad, to get a job in Paris.

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    Karim wrote:
    not a Karim or Mohammad, to get a job in Paris.


    Did you ever have that problem?

  • User profile image
    Karim

    W3bbo wrote:
    Karim wrote: not a Karim or Mohammad, to get a job in Paris.


    Did you ever have that problem?


    In Paris?  No.  In America?  Yes.  And it was specifically related to my name.

  • User profile image
    SlackmasterK

    billh wrote:
    Should work with a particular technology as a hobby (i.e. at home) count as a software skill on a resume?

    Damn right it should.  That is, if you know the technology well.  I've been programming for 20 years, but it was all educational, recreational, or in pursuit of a project I took on.  Should the fact that it wasn't work-related disqualify the experience and skills?

    billh wrote:
    At what point (threshold) do you put a skill on your resume?  For instance, I have made a couple of toy apps in C#. Nothing serious, nothing formal.  I don't see anything particularily difficult in learning C#, as I know a fair amount about C and C++ already.  I don't list C# as a skill, though.  Would you?

    Depends.  If you think you could do a job that depends on knowing C#, and could answer technical questions about it, then yes.

    billh wrote:
    What it all comes down to is that it's not the actual tech interview process I am worried about...it's getting past the screeners/HR folks. They love buzzwords and keywords, but I think sometimes I knock myself out of the running by NOT listing more skills.

    Sometimes.  Consider that the screeners probably assume most resum├ęs are padded and are X% valid; therefore, X% of more equals more.

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