Creating the Perfect Rails Resume

People hate writing resumes. Rails programmers in particular. Technical resumes are harder to write, the rules aren’t the same, and everyone keeps telling you different things about them. We’ll run through the six steps of writing a great Rails resume and tell you how to really think about resume writing in general.


Rails Resume Creation Flowchart. Identify Job Requirements, Pick a resume type, Create a tailored summary, List previous experience, Include relevant Skills, Review Format & Feel. Red, Green, Refactor.

You need to know what they want to know what to sell. Find the list of desired/required skills, as well as a list of their current technologies. Your resume should directly address how your experience qualifies you for their job.

Have different resume types (rails developer vs. PM vs. CTO) that focus on skills most applicable to that role. Creating a personalized resume for every position is optimal, but it’s also too time consuming for most.

Address the specific job’s requirements. Having resume types and tailored summaries are the best way to “personalize” each resume. Tailored Summaries should highlight your most applicable skills and experiences.

Focus on deliverables. Instead of talking about your responsibilities, talk about what you accomplished and quantify how it benefitted your company. Write out your past experience in reverse chronological order.

Don’t make them search for your qualifications. Every job has a list of requirements. Including a relevant skills section makes it easy for them to see that you have the skills they need for the position.

Keep it simple. Don’t play around too much with the formatting, the margins, the font color or type. Don’t mix serif and sans serif, and one font is more than enough. Black and white, clean and classic.


You do it with your Rails code.
Now do it with your Rails resume.

Refactoring your resume is just as important as writing it. Think about how to make your accomplishments sound more interesting and engaging. Your test is whether or not it still directly addresses the job requirements.


How the Brain Screens


Fast eliminations usually do with red flags and pattern matching. Spelling mistakes, unprofessional formatting, and a clear lack of ability will instantly remove your resume from the pile.


Slow eliminations often deal with the complexity of previous work, the amount of effort you’ve put into the job application and how smart and capable you seem as a programmer.

Most applicants have no idea what happens after they submit a resume—it’s a black box that might lead to a phone interview. Let’s break down exactly what happens, and what you can do to make sure your resume makes it to the other side. Resume screeners have their tricks; do you know how to avoid them?

Eliminating Fast and Slow

In the New York Times Bestseller Thinking Fast and Slow, Nobel Prize Winner Daniel Kahneman posits that humans think on two levels—the intuitive, implicit, emotional System I and the deliberate, methodical System II. Resume screeners do the same thing.

To get past them, you’ll need to make sure nothing sets off a red flag. After posting a job, 10’s or 100’s of applicants will dutifully forward their resume. Right now, a screener’s job isn’t to find the best candidate; it’s to quickly eliminate the worst. In the same way that programmers implement heuristics to quickly traverse a tree, screeners use similar ones to screen resumes—there's less thinking and more pattern matching during this stage.

Once an initial pass has been done, the screener will start to look more in depth at individual resumes. This is when you shine. Previous experience is key, but don’t fret if you’re new to Rails. With such a strong community environment, there are plenty of gems and projects for you to get involved with. Side projects are a great signaling mechanism to show interest and motivation and a great way to hone your skills.


Tech & HR | Thinking Fast and Slow

Who is actually screening your rails resume? When you apply to tech firms, it depends. Let’s break down who might be looking at your resume and what that means from a neuroscience standpoint.

HR thinking fast:education, GPA, test scores, keywords, spelling mistakes, formatting, certificates. HR thinking slow: soft skills, LinkedIn signals for intelligence. Tech fast: pattern matching to programmers, quick skills check, growth in projects over time, length of projects. Tech slow: mental model of programmer through analysis of experiences/skills. Evaluation of model against position.

Quick & Easy Resume Adaptations

Tech & HR review resumes differently, but how should I change my resume to take that into consideration? The table below makes it easy with small changes to make when you’re certain it’ll first be seen by either tech/HR and a way to split the difference.

For HR, limit technical speak but still use important keywords, keep it to 1 page, include LinkedIn and Stack Overflow, buzzwords are good. For Tech, be technical (but dont overdo it), expand on work (but limit to 4 pages), include github and stack overflow. To hedge your bets, split the difference.

Pulling It All Together

Now that you have a better idea of what happens when you actually submit your resume, it’s time to update it. We included a resume with common errors below, so check to make sure your resume looks nothing like it. On the off chance that it does, we also included a template for a good rails resume. With your new resume all ready, look through the Ruby on Rails jobs, pick out a few and start applying!

Annotated Resume Example

Fast Eliminations

  1. The abnormal fonts instantly set off red flags. Don’t use more than one font and stick with common fonts only.

  2. Make sure that the language is professional and free of grammatical and spelling mistakes. A single error can ruin a resume.

  3. Have sections clearly delineated. The more time screeners need to spend looking for things, the less time they have to read them.

  4. Make sure that you list dates for jobs and that jobs are ordered in reverse chronological order. Don’t list jobs that aren’t relevant to the position you’re currently applying to. Filter the unnecessary information so the screener doesn’t have to.

  5. If they need to talk with a reference, they’ll ask. Keeping resumes short is important, so don’t waste space with the formality.

  6. Don’t include hobbies unless you’ve managed to do something that combines your interests with your work.

  7. If you’ve gone to college, include it on your resume. Even if you didn’t major in CS, including an education section won’t hurt (and leaving it off often does).

Slow Eliminations

  1. Including an overview section usually won't help a resume and can often hurt it. Moreover, because they're often filled with vague statements and cliches, overview sections are often ignored. If you really feel the need to include one, or you need one to explain a role change, attach a cover letter.

  2. Keywords can be helpful when they’re used correctly. If you list them one after another like this, it's just noise that asks more questions than it answers. Don’t make screeners guess what your experience is. Only include pertinent technologies that you're familiar with and are comfortable answering questions about.

  3. The lack of deliverables and concrete accomplishments makes this vague. Clearly state what work you did and what it led to. Quantify your success as much as possible. It makes the work sound more interesting and illustrates the impact you made.

  4. Not changing a resume. After reading through this resume, it’s unclear what the new position is. A technical summary and focused job descriptions should make it clear what kind of position you're applying for and which of your skills will apply. A little goes a long way.