Resumes for Programmers Are Worthless

Written by on Sep 3 2013
resumes are worthless

In my previous article, I wrote about “how to hire a developer” and having job candidates write a sample application as part of the hiring process. Today, I’ll explain why I never ask for resumes. In fact, I tell candidates, “Don’t send me a resume, I don’t want to see it.”

For years, we began every evaluation of a job candidate by reading their resume. I read every line and really tried to understand what s/he had done and discern whether s/he would be successful at this job. Having read hundreds of resumes during my career, interviewed ten of dozens of candidates and hired many of them, I finally had to acknowledge that resumes are worthless. Worse than worthless, actually, because they mislead you.

1. Resumes Lie

Some people actually lie on resumes. Say they have a certain degree, but didn’t actually graduate. List the wrong major. Make up places of employment. Sometimes people list a previous job title as “Lead Developer,” when they weren’t.

2. Resumes Exaggerate

Most people don’t make stuff up, but almost everyone has at least one or two things on their resume that are written in a way to make them seem bigger and more impressive than they are. Sometimes people list a previous job title as “Lead Developer,” when it was just “Developer,” but they were the only developer in the company. Countless times I’ve read someone list a skill (among a long list of skills) that they’re not proficient at. When questioned, they say something like, “I’ve worked with that language, but not very much. I can get up to speed very quickly if needed.”

3. Resumes Mislead

Although there is relevant information on a resume, it is impossible to tell which is relevant and which is garbage. Most items on a resume will mislead you into thinking one thing instead of seeing the whole picture. There may be a list of accomplishments at a company, but in reality the candidate was the junior member of the team, and while certainly involved with all of these accomplishments, actually had very little to do with them.

4. Resumes Bias

Knowing if someone went to Stanford versus no college tells you absolutely nothing about that person’s skill and talent as a developer. Most of the best developers I know either didn’t go to college, didn’t learn programing in college, or didn’t go to a big-name school. But seeing Stanford on a resume may bias you in their favor. Seeing no college might bias you against them.

So if I’m not using resumes, do I just go by the test project? Look for my next article on how I interview, and what I look for in a potential employee.


Hi I'm Steven,

I wrote the article you're reading... Steve is the cofounder of LessEverything. He's also cofounder (now single dad) of three beautiful children. His interests are health, exercise, the beach, looking beautiful, and dancing at inappropriate moments.

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