Sunday, 23 October 2011

Landing a job at Microsoft, Part1: The Resume, Catch Their Attention!

In a previous post, I talked about the job offer I got to work at Microsoft. This is the first of a 3 post series where I share my experience and some tips & tricks and resources that could help YOU do the same ;)

So, The first step is your resume/CV. You have to submit a great one, since it’s the first thing they’ll get to see of you (and of your work, since it’s something YOU produced).

However, and before going deep into how to present your resume, I would like to touch on something of the utmost importance. If you want to have a great resume, you need to HAVE a great resume. Confusing? not really. You can’t impress them with what you would/will do, and certainly not by faking it, so you better make sure to invest in yourself, and pack up a good deal of experiences and skills. This will also have the benefit of giving you more confidence in your interviews (more on that later).
Your CV, or resume, is in my opinion, one of the most powerful weapons you have in your arsenal while job hunting! It’s the first interface between you and your recruiter, and will follow you through the entire process. You’ll get questions tailored according to it, and they’ll check your references to see if you really are what your resume says. This makes it a two edged blade, though. You want to show how skilled you are, but don’t overdo it and keep it relevant.

Now, let’s say that you’re armed with a number of interesting skills and experiences. We know that it’s a best practice to keep your resume to one page (2 is acceptable, 3 is nearing bad), so “what to put in there?!” is a very logical question. My answer to that is: Keep It Relevant. There isn’t, INHO, a worse resume, than one that’s an encyclopedia of everything you did or knew (or heard of!). Look with great care at what the job description or the recruitment website/announcement says, and try to match what they’re looking for with what you have. This will let them know that you “did your homework”, and will make it easier for them (or for their automatic system, as this is more and more common) to see that you’re a good fit for the job.

After identifying what’s relevant to the job you’re applying for, you’ve answered the “what?”. Now the question is “How to present this information?!”.

There are two situations. Either you have a template (for print or electronic documents) or a form (for a computerized system) that you HAVE TO use, in which case you don’t really have a choice; Or you are free to style your resume however you like (for print or electronic documents, or copy/paste computerized systems).

For the latter situation, there are a lot of different examples and templates online for CVs and resumes that you can use, some are chronological, by experience, by skills, etc. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t get creative. If you have an idea for an awesome way to present your resume, I would say: go for it. But keep in mind that “awesomeness” is relative ;)

Let’s get a little more practical. How did I present MY resume?

I introduced my resume, after the title and contact information of course, with a “summary” (which would technically make it a “resume’s résumé” :P). I didn’t know such a thing existed, as I’ve never seen it used here in Algeria, and I thank Clint Rutkas from Microsoft who caught my attention to this and helped me with it.

As [good/big] companies get TONS of applications, most recruiters “skim” the resumes at first to identify “interesting” profiles. The summary is meant to give the recruiter a quick glance at you. This is your chance to catch their attention. You should mention things that make you stand out of the crowd. Put your proudest achievement; your most valued award, and your most outstanding experience (while staying relevant). I started my resume with the following:
I'm a soon to be graduate of computer science that is Silverlight MCTS (Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist) along with a Microsoft Student Partner Country Lead and a world-wide Microsoft's Imagine Cup Finalist in embedded device programming.
 
Up to this point, I was safe. The next step I took, however, was a little risky ;).
 
Disclaimer: Now, I did do some research, and asking around about how to nail a resume. However, the information here is presented “as is”, with no explicit or implied warranties. All I can say is: it worked for me :p (actually, all my interviewers said they liked it ;) but then again, no warranties )
 
So, for the main section of my resume, I decided to go with my “creative side” and do something unique. What I came up with is what I call a “P-SWOT Analysis” (or Personal SWOT Analysis) :D. SWOT, as many of you might already know stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats”, which is, according to Wikipedia:
a strategic planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses/Limitations, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or in a business venture. It involves specifying the objective of the business venture or project and identifying the internal and external factors that are favorable and unfavorable to achieve that objective.
 
Needless to say that I didn’t go as far as really applying the analysis method, but the structure seemed reasonable enough, so I went with it. Apparently (and fortunately for me), it worked :D
 
The Strengths section is, obviously, the biggest and most important. Here I put my best and most relevant experiences, along with what I’ve accomplished through them, and the skills I acquired. I practically matched one to one what they were looking for with what I had!
 
I tried to use “Action verbs”, and I emphasized key words in my sentences. As for the order, it was mostly chronological to show evolution. Here’s an example:
- Microsoft Student Partner for 2 years (2009 and 2010) then MSP Country Lead for this year (2011)
Accomplishments:
   o Taught C#, .NET and Object Oriented Programming principals in training sessions at campus.
   o Did a couple of talks in local events (TechDays Algiers, and Web Week)
   o Vice President of the scientific club in my school, and head of the .NET Group in the club.
 
The Weaknesses section was both because it’s part of SWOT (obviously :P ), and because it’s good to be honest and upfront with what you know and what you don’t. I tried to make it more fun, and interesting by adding a “Counter Measure” to each item in the list. Here’s an example:
- Didn't have much experience speaking in English
    o Counter measures: I jump into conversation with native speakers whenever I can.
 
In the Opportunities section, I put some paths I had in front of me and chances I might take, such as:
- Bright future working with Microsoft development technologies
- Fair chance to land a job at Microsoft
 
I didn’t find any Threats to mention, so I just put the following:
- Other applicants, maybe!
 
This got me a good laugh with one of the interviewers ;)

I did my best to keep it concise and to the point, as well as interesting. It did, however, span to two pages, which is as I said earlier, not that bad:) I tried the same for this blog post (which has also gone considerably long :P) and I hope you found it useful.

At the end, I would like to point you to some of the great resources that I used while in the process of writing my resume:
(I’ll try to update this list whenever I find more useful content)

Finally, here's the full resume that I submitted for the SDE position at Microsoft.
I hope this helps, and stay tuned for the next posts in the series ;)

67 comments:

  1. thank you moumen for this post , may allah ne with you always , you make us proud to be algerian
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