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Why Women in Tech Can, and Should, Write a Better Resume

iStock Resume closeup

Linux jobs are plentiful these days but all hopeful applicants still need a solid resume to land a position. And chances are yours could stand an upgrade.  

Women especially should take a closer look at their resumes for language or omissions that undermine their own accomplishments and abilities, says Leslie Hawthorn, community manager at Elasticsearch and a former corporate recruiter for Google's Linux kernel team. Women, more so than men, tend to sell themselves short, she says.

“I'm frequently called upon by my colleagues to help them brush up their resumes and I consistently find my female friends making the same mistakes with regards to promoting their own accomplishment and skill set,” she said. “It bums me out to see such accomplished people sell themselves short.”

Leslie HawthornThrough three years of experience in human resources and almost a decade working as a program manager overseeing developer programs, Hawthorn has cultivated many tips and tricks for finding and fixing the common pitfalls women encounter preparing their resumes. She'll share these insights and more in a resume workshop for women at LinuxCon North America in Chicago on Wednesday, Aug. 20 from 2:30-4 p.m. Here she discusses why she's holding the workshop and what you'll learn, some do's and don'ts of resume writing for women, and why your resume is so important.

Linux.com: What will your resume workshop cover?

Hawthorn: The workshop is divided into two segments. The first focuses on common pitfalls when preparing your resume that ladies may find themselves encountering more often than men. I'll go over three sample resumes from highly accomplished women I know and do before and after feedback from me. The audience will identify things that could be problematic, then we'll go through each resume and discuss them. In the second part, we'll break into small groups and augment each others' resume and do a before and after look. So bring your resume.

Why is the workshop geared toward women? Can men still attend?

Men are welcome to attend if they're invited by female workshop participants. Imposter syndrome is well documented – women tend to suffer from it more. I want to provide a safe environment for women to talk about their accomplishments as well as their fears around how to present their skills without humble about it.

Should a woman's resume really be any different than a man's?

Absolutely not. A woman's resume shouldn't be any different. We need to bring feature parity to resumes from both men and women. Resumes from my female colleagues don't do justice to their accomplishments, while my male colleagues' resumes make them shine. Men will think, “I looked at Javascript once so I'm going to say I'm proficient,” while a woman who has written thousands of lines will present herself as a beginner.

What are some of the essentials of a resume for anyone looking for a Linux job?

Experience with Linux is an important thing – a track record of tinkering and involvement in the open source world. Working in drivers, embedded Linux, etc. At this point companies are desperate for Linux talent. The most important thing to show is you've gotten hands-on with bits of the kernel, whichever ones are interesting to you personally. Time spent as a site reliability engineer or working in a DevOps environment is particularly attractive to employers these days, as are well rounded sys admin skills. Even if you just run Linux as your primary operating system and know how to tinker with your machine, you’re ahead of many candidates.

What tips can you offer women, in particular, when it comes to working on a resume?

When you're writing your resume, pretend you're writing about your best friend, not yourself. Then compare your resume to the one you wrote for you best friend and ask why there are differences. How do you better position yourself for the next job you want to be in?

What one thing should women avoid completely when writing their resume?

You need to be more willing to use the word “I” and drop words like “co-” and “team.” I makes the individual writing the resume seem more accomplished and authoritative. There's a tendency for women to focus on their accomplishments as a member of their team. That can make women seem less authoritative and capable.

For example, take these two descriptions:

a) Implemented Foo, the most requested enhancement to our product, in just 6 months.

b) Worked with a team of six to implement Foo, the most requested enhancement to our product, in just 6 months.

Both statements are true. Which ones makes the candidate look more attractive to the hiring manager? I’ve repeatedly seen that the language in option a garners more interest from hiring managers.

How would you describe your approach to writing a resume?

It’s great to be humble, but never deny your own awesomeness. As long as the statements on your resume are true, never feel bad about making them.

If there are so many Linux jobs out there, why is resume writing important?

Just because there's a plethora of open positions available doesn't mean the initial presentation of yourself to hiring managers and recruiters isn't important. If your resume doesn’t do justice to all you’ve accomplished (and have the right keywords), you'll never get the call back even if they have 16 open positions. If you don't craft your calling card well, you're not going to get a call.

 

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  • zitstif Said:

    "Men are welcome to attend if they're invited by female workshop participants." "I want to provide a safe environment for women to talk about their accomplishments" [sarcasm]There's clearly nothing sexist about this. All men are beasts/predators anyways...[sarcasm]

  • phil Said:

    "Imposter syndrome is well documented – women tend to suffer from it more." alright then, let's have a workshop about heart diseases only for men because they 'tend to suffer from it more.' sry, but this really is a stupid agenda

  • Stan Miller Said:

    I'm aware of the problems with mixed sex groups and it goes both ways, men and women are both inhibited by some amount by the presence of the other sex. While I'd like that not to be the case and the sessions open to everyone I do see the value of restricting participation. Your allowing limited male participation my backfire on you as that will cause a problem for some women no matter how well behaved and even inconspicuous the male attendees are. More so in the small group portion where the impact will be greater. What I'd like to see is a parallel track, called "reading women's resumes" that would not have to be restricted to either sex but open to all. You could go over the problems you find in women's resumes and discuss how to understand the differences in viewpoints and presentation between the two sexes. That would be of value to folks reading resumes regardless of their sex and training a single hiring person will impact a lot of folks looking to be hired.

  • Dave Said:

    Why would an equal need segregated empowerment classes, to talk about their accomplishments? Women are masters at misrepresenting themselves to get what they want, i.e. marrige, so this article tell me that women don't really want the career, as much as they want a provider with a career.


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