What Google recruiters look for in a technical resume
The world's most famous technology company has specific things they want to read about you on your resume.
Google technical recruiter Jeremy Ong and colleague Lizi Lopez created a video providing Google’s advice for resumes, both technical and non-technical. At Leet Resumes, we write experienced engineers’ resumes for free, so we thought we’d share and compare Google’s advice with our own, show where they mostly line up, and show where your resume needs to appeal to employers beyond Google. Given our focus, we’ll concentrate on how this advice applies to experienced technical or engineering professionals.
With three exceptions, the Google recruiters’ advice matches up with Leet Resumes’ advice, and I’ll explain why their advice is so very accurate, and also where we differ and why (the Google way is not everybody’s way). Further, we explain our design choices in detail in our documentation.
First off, Jeremy and Lizi advise, “Make sure the format is simple and consistent in design, font, sizing, and spacing throughout so that the person reviewing your resume can easily scan and find information quickly.”
This sounds like obvious advice, but many engineers complicate their resumes with colors, columns, graphics, multiple fonts, font colors, and font sizes, that they put a tremendous burden on the people reading their resumes. Simple is better.
They continue, “Include your contact information and email at the top. You don't have to include objective statements [or] references. Use bullet points with consistent formatting and structure throughout the resume rather than long paragraphs.
“Keep your resume to… no longer than two pages for engineering roles. And perhaps the most important tip we have overall is to always check for typos.”
We agree with all of this advice at Leet. Bullet points and quick, scannable text are far superior to long paragraphs. It’s how readers ingest resumes in 2021.
On resume length, in our documentation, we advise 1 page for those with 10 years’ or fewer experience, and 2 pages for those with 10 or more years of experience.
Typos might seem like a small matter, but many engineering managers have learned that engineers who aren’t careful with their resumes, also aren’t careful with their code. Be smart about it and check very carefully.
Lizi and Jeremy continue, “It's also critical you list your GitHub profile or other prominent open source work that shows us you're contributing to the open source community, passionate about the work you're doing, and looking to improve your skills.”
We agree that your Github link should be in your contact information, and that your LinkedIn (which is a subset of your resume info, and therefore extraneous) should not be.
Jeremy and Lizi further comment that, “Experience should take up the bulk of your resume.”
Another obvious point, perhaps, but the most popular formats online, including those at the top of Google search results for software engineering resume template, break this good advice. These complex formats often push the experience section into as little as 25% of the available surface area of a resume. Again, simple is better.
The Google duo share: “List everything in reverse chronological order with your most recent experience first. Include your employer, position, and dates employed for all jobs… in the month-year format. Keep your bullet point descriptions concise and clear, and make the most of your space by streamlining bullet points that spill over onto the next line by only one or two words.”
Again, we agree and the resumes we write for experienced engineers follow these same guidelines. Concise and clear is usually a problem for engineers writing their own resumes, and that’s where Leet can be a big help in cutting out words, phrases, and even whole bullets that don’t advance your story.
“For each bullet, use action words like created, designed, debugged, negotiated, developed, managed, and so on, so the person reading your resume can easily and quickly understand your skills and experience.”
At Leet, we go further and suggest that you use success verbs - verbs that show how your work created successes - rather than simply using verbs such as managed or developed, which are more focused on duties and responsibilities instead of outcomes.
“It's important to focus on the results and impact of your work, so list metrics and examples concisely rather than writing long descriptions. We value data at Google and want to see you know how to apply it when speaking to your accomplishments. Use data and comparisons or averages to provide context.
“To ensure you focus on results and impact in this section, we recommend using this helpful framework – accomplished X as measured by Y by doing Z.”
Google is exactly right on this advice - use data, numbers, and metrics, to explain your results. Instead of writing that you reduced page load time, write that you reduced page load time from 700 ms to 322 ms. Numbers make your accomplishments seem more real, and are more persuasive.
Lizi continues, “Let's walk through a few examples for different types of experience.”
“If you're applying for technical or engineering roles, this example should be particularly helpful… ‘Increased server query response time by 15% by restructuring API.’
“This concisely conveys the impact backed up by data and communicates a skill. In this case, it's restructuring an API, but it could be an experience like adding new hardware, algorithmic improvements, caching answers, or implementing machine learning.”
Three cheers for Google on making this point so effectively. Your technical resume should include numbers.
A few more good points from the Google folks before we get into our disagreements.
“Include any relevant leadership positions, awards, university honors, scholarships, or other types of recognition.”
Remember, recognition indicates that someone else thought you were good, worthy, and successful. Including these external validations help show that your career progress is already endorsed by others - a good sign for a future boss.
And they also mention, “If you're applying for technical or engineering roles, be sure to include the programming language you used in bold for each project you include.”
This is advice unique to Google, and I feel more targeted towards junior engineers, for whom the particular language experience is important in hiring. The further you rise in your engineering career, the more the specifics of language choice and deployment fall away, and the bigger architectural issues come to predominate in any assessment of your capabilities.
Ok, so we’ve agreed with everything Google has to say, right? They’re flawless, right? Well, not quite. There are a few bits of advice that aren’t effective for candidates who are not applying to Google. Specifically:
“PDF formatting is preferred.”
As I’ve shared in my mega-interview with the CEOs and technical experts at resume parsing companies, PDFs can sometimes render in a graphical format that evade the comprehension of companies’ HR systems. MS Word, Google Docs, or even .txt should be preferred to PDF.
“List your programming languages at the top of your resume and make sure you're comfortable interviewing in them.”
In contrast to most other technical resume advice, Google suggests putting your programming languages at the top of your resume. I honestly don’t see how this advice can be realistic for most experienced programmers, and Leet Resumes places your technologies at the bottom of your resume.
To take just two examples, here are the technologies listed by two Leet Resumes users today:
Frameworks/Libraries: Express, NestJS, React, Redux, Cypress, Jest, Selenium, ReactNative, Node.js
Database: PostgreSQL, MongoDB, TypeORM, Mongoose
Certification: Certified Scrum Master
Tools: AWS Services, Git, Jenkins, Docker, Postgres, Camunda (BPM Engine), Gradle, Maven
Libraries/Frameworks: SQLAlchemy, boto3, JUnit, Pytest, Spring/Spring Boot
Other: Node.js, SocketCluster, REST APIs, Dreamfactory
It does not seem possible or realistic that either of these technology professionals could fit their technologies at the top of their resume without breaking the important formatting conventions that both Leet and Google advocate regarding placement of work experience and professional summary.
And finally, their advice to customize your resume per job simply isn’t accurate, “A big tip here is to read the job description and look at the language it uses. Writing a resume for a specific job description takes a little bit of effort, but it can really help your application stand out. You can even bold and italicize keywords related to the job description to highlight your relevant skills and experience.”
As with all users, there is a difference between what technical recruiters believe they do, and what they actually do. Given the amount of time spent in reviewing a resume, only the absolutely most relevant keywords are considered - perhaps 2 or 3, sometimes as many as 6. But never, ever dozens.
Your Leet resume will list all of the technologies in which you are proficient, and all of your major accomplishments. So if your well-constructed, thorough, thought-through resume doesn’t already have those 2-6 keywords on it, are you really a fit for the job?
It’s simply unlikely that your primary resume is truly missing a critical keyword that can be added to a secondary resume to catch a recruiter’s eye, and there is therefore no need to customize multiple resumes with keywords.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this review of the advice Google recruiters have for your technical resume. If you’d like Leet to write your technical resume for free, please sign up. You can also read the stories of other engineers - there’s a reason we can say users love us!