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Of reading too many resumes


We have many interns right now at Coveo. For the summer, this process starts in February when we get over one hundred applications through multiple universities. All those applications had one thing in common, The Resume.

Over the years, I’ve read hundreds of them and have therefore accumulated a good list of what you should and shouldn’t do.

Keep in mind that this will be aimed more toward people looking for internships, but most details also apply to the general public. Also, this is based on personal experience; I’ve not consulted a long list of experts. Finally, I have a long list of notes. This is only a subset of quick things around submitting your resume.

Keep it short!

A study in 2012 has shown that the average recruiter will spend 6.25 seconds (yes, seconds) before deciding if further investigation is required, or if this resume goes into the (virtual) recycling bin. This is probably less time than you invested in your latest tweet.

Best recommendation is to keep your resume as short as possible. Intern or fresh out of school? 1 page, top 2 is if you have had many internships, projects, open source contributions, etc.

Keep it electronic!

Always remember when you apply for what job you are applying. Want to come and code with us? Awesome. The only resume you have is paper? Awesome. As in I just missed my plane awesome.

The electronic version I can share it automatically with everybody I need to, have it on my laptop if I ever need to, search for it, search in it. To achieve the same result with the paper version, I need to scan it, OCR it, then do all the other steps. This is too much of a time investment in turning a document into bits and bytes for somebody that should help us solve gigantic programming challenges.

Oh, and the electronic version cannot get covered in spilled wine. Just saying.

Keep your metadata clean!

You know those special properties in Words and PDF; title author etc.? Be sure to fill them in. The more the document goes into software, the more chances this meta information ends up being used.

You made your resume based on your mother’s because you liked her template? If you don’t fill the properties, you might not only end up using her fonts. Oh, you liked her recipes template. Even better.

Keep your filename clean!

There are a few subtopics here.

First, welcome to 1995. Long gone the 8 char limit. You can use more than a word to name your document. Actually, please do.

Second, choose a name in a way that scales for the person receiving it. You may decide to name the resume with the company you are sending it to (so you know which version you sent). But put yourself in my shoes. I get 100 resume all named “Coveo.pdf”. I then need to do some renaming to avoid them clashing if I drop them in the same folder. 2016 Summer - John Doe for Coveo.pdf Now we are talking. I can guess from this you’d be able to write proper email title, variable and function name and code a distributed resource locking mechanism.

Lastly, don’t PascalCase your words. I may search by name. I have a better chance to find it if the OS or the system can recognize the words. Separate them with a space, hyphen or underscore (the last one does not always work well in all systems).

The Cover Letter

There are two philosophies here. Those who don’t look at the cover letter (some study say it’s 90% of the market), and those who find it’s an important way to know a candidate. I think they are a good way to know the motivations of a candidate (or lack thereof).

You have a few options, in my preferred order:

  • A personalized cover letter where you clearly took the time to write something unique for us
  • No cover letter (Close second option)
  • A cover text sang by a dancing clown while throwing pies and confetti running around the office
  • A generic cover letter that you could have sent elsewhere if you’d replace 3-4 words

So if you don’t have time to make a serious cover letter, then avoid going for the quick fix.

I’ll add that a cover letter is an introduction to your resume. When sending it by email, you don’t need a PDF cover letter. Your email IS the introduction to your resume. It is your cover letter. Don’t introduce your introduction to your resume, I’ll feel over-introduced.


Here you go. A few quick things to keep in mind before submitting your resume. No rocket science, but details can make a difference when we are going through piles of resumes and there is not much separating candidate #19 from #20 in line.

Next time I’ll go deeper into what to write in your curriculum vitae.