I vaguely remember there was a time when I had a one-page resume. I also remember that time didn’t last long. I’m baffled when I get resumes how many of them are two bullets long, especially in our industry (software).

Lots has been said and written about how it helps your professional career to work on open source (especially when you’re just getting started), so I won’t spend any time on that. What I want to rant about here is more broad than that.

How is it possible that someone (presumably at least 20 years old) has spent their entire life without doing any of the following?

  • Work on some interesting personal projects.
  • Join or start a club.
  • Participate in an interesting online community,
  • Volunteer.
  • Learn something you weren’t told to learn.
  • Try something you weren’t told to try.

I understand that as a student you don’t have relevant paid work experience. Of course you don’t, that’s why you’re a student. But really, you’ve done none of the above? And you expect me to give you a job? No thanks, I’d spend less time doing the work myself than I would holding your hand and telling you what to do.

Given the number of empty resumes I receive I have to wonder how many of them are actually good candidates who have done all kinds of interesting stuff but were told not to put any of it on their resume, cause it wasn’t a paid job. Let me tell you something – I don’t give a rat’s ass about how much money you’ve made in the past. I’m not hiring a CEO. I’m hiring engineers, who need to have interest in their field. I am looking for people who can think for themselves. I’m looking for evidence that you want to do this kind of work, and you have at least tried to do something independently. If you have that – at least there’s some hope that you’ll do well on my team. Without that – forget it, don’t bother applying.

As an example, here’s the type of resume I get excited about. Yours might be a page and a half instead of 4. But notice even with a decade of experience how much of my resume is various unpaid work. It’s all relevant! If from all that there are two things that jump out at an employer – that will put you two steps ahead of someone else.

There are lots of students out there. Show me what makes you awesome, and don’t pay attention to people who tell you to have a one-page resume. Those people don’t do any hiring. If they did – they would punch themselves in the face for giving such terrible advice.