Joe Ganley

I make software and sometimes other things.


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I've posted a couple of times about using design and data visualization techniques to create a résumé that is graphical, rather than just a big pile of text.

Well, the Cool Infographics blog has posted a bunch of examples of the sort of thing I was talking about.

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A more vivid case for making résumés visual occurred to me: Suppose someone told you that tomorrow you would have 60 seconds in which to convince a hiring manager to hire you, in person, with whatever props you want. Would you go in there and read to him or her from your work history? Of course not. You'd go in there with pictures, screen shots, maybe a laptop with a demo on it. Your résumé has the same goal, and should be presented similarly.

On the other hand, I found a thread on this topic over at Edward Tufte's site, and many - including Tufte himself - don't like this idea, and think that it's dangerous to break from the résumé status quo. I disagree, naturally. Once I have mine done, I'll run it by my HR contacts and see what they think.

A few more random notes on this work... First, a graphical representation of my education:

It's certainly more compact than the corresponding text would be, though it's not as, well, designy as I'd like. Also, I wonder at this point in my career if anyone - or at least, anyone who didn't go to Virginia Tech or the University of Virginia - cares at all about any aspect of my education other than the fact that I have a Ph.D. in Computer Science. All the more reason to present that information efficiently.

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I've had this thought for some time, but the past year working on analytics and visualization has really driven it home: Pages full of text are a terrible way to accomplish a résumé's goals. An effective business presentation or a sales brochure is very visual, full of charts and pictures. There is a good reason for this: Such communications need to convey a lot of information, not necessarily at a very high level of detail, to people who have limited attention to give, and who are intrinsically difficult to engage. A résumé's audience and purpose are similar.

I've been playing around with some concepts in this direction. For example, the following chart shows my experience with various programming languages chronologically:

languages timeline
You can tell at a glance that the majority of my experience is in C++, that I have a lot of experience with Lisp but not recently, and that recently I have been increasingly working with Python, SQL, and web technologies (by which I mean JavaScript, AJAX, CSS, etc.). I'm working on similar charts for non-language technologies (e.g. OpenGL, Qt, COM), though I'm not completely sure those don't belong in the same chart with languages, and another for the types of applications I have developed. I'm also working on a graphical timeline of where I worked, accompanied by screenshots and other visual descriptions of the work I've done. And, of course, ultimately I will make everything much better-looking than that stock Excel chart. The end result I imagine is something that looks a lot like a sales brochure (which is basically what a résumé is) - something that would be totally appropriate to print on glossy paper.

A couple of online services are small steps in this direction. VisualCV adds some charts and such to an otherwise fairly standard résumé format, and codersCV adds a timeline, but in both cases the résumé is still dominated by text, and they are also aimed at online presentation; I don't know if or how well they support print. What I'm working on will look more like something that could have been done by Nick Felton.

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