In my latest e-book, A Developer’s Guide To The Technical Interview, I wrote a section about building your resume using something known as the Pareto Principle.  In our daily lives the Pareto Principle is visible to us more than ever. What is the Pareto Principle? In short, it specifies that for many events or phenomena, 20% of your invested input, will yield 80% of your results.  As we look to examine more closely, let’s take a look at your own job situation.

Research states that we don’t work 8 hours a day, we only truly are productive perhaps only a fraction of that. I know that from my experience, if I truly take a number of when my most productive time is, it would be between the hours of 9 and 12 p.m.  Put in a few coffee/bathroom breaks in between, and you shrink it down to around 2 hours to 2.5 hours.  That brings me to about 2 hours of productivity a day, 10 hours of productivity a week.  Doing the math, I am most productive 25% of the time, and yet have yielded 80% of my results.  There are various articles on the web about the  8 hour work day myth, and how that needs to change.  Sweden is now introducing a six hour work day, which means some countries are starting to catch up.  Try and apply this principle to anything in your life, and you will find it will hold true for the majority of the time.  Another example I found interesting is, I started to apply it to other aspects of my life.  I looked at my closet, and I found that I  only wear 20% of the clothes I own.  Even take your mobile phones, how many apps of the hundreds of installed apps do you use daily? You got it, 20% of the apps of your phone will consume 80% of your output.

Pareto Principle isn’t something ground breaking, considering that Vilfredo Pareto lived more than 80 years ago.  It’s been used all over, and applying it to your resume makes sense, especially those in IT. Even though, it could be applied to those professionals outside of IT, my expertise lies in IT, which is what I can intelligently speak about.  When building your resume, you need to shrink your experience for each place  you have been and write 20% of your accomplishments, which have yielded 80% of your results.  Interviewers don’t like to read 30 page resume, and obviously if you have some experience, a 1 page resume wouldn’t make sense either.  When writing your resume, you need to approach it as if you’re an actor in a play, and your resume is your script.  Your resume is the script to your performance on every interview.   Hard to imagine yourself as an actor, but that’s really what it comes down to.  If you’re going to be an actor in a play, then use the 20% of your input at each company to describe 80% of your results.

To begin with, when writing descriptions, use only 8 – 10 points when describing your experience. The best way to do is using your current company’s job description, or look for similar jobs on career sites, and reword the responsibilities and duties. By doing that, you can merge your accomplishments with the template description, and in turn you can have a neat section for the current company you are at.  For example, if you’re a .NET developer, look at indeed, and do a search. Here is a description I found when I did a search:

  • Focuses on sustainable technical solutions in a fast-moving commercial environment
  • Debugs technical issues quickly and efficiently
  • Strives to optimize and automate, both technically and operationally
  • Manages user expectations and provides clear status updates
  • 4+ years C# development experience
  • Strong demonstrated experience with ‘thick client’ development, design, and analysis
  • Strong WPF/WCF experience
  • Experience with multi-threading and memory management
  • Experience with distributed computing infrastructures
  • Experience with performance tuning and  memory profiling
  • Experience building/enhancing testing frameworks (unit, regression, integration, etc.)
  • Strong analytical and problem solving skills
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills

Piece of cake now. Let’s take 8 – 10 of the descriptions above, add on our own experience, and presto, you have your 20%.  Remember to not write paragraphs for each description.  For example, let’s say we decided to use “Experience with multi-threading and memory management”.  As a .NET C# developer, I have experience writing multithreaded applications, and I can write:

  • Optimized Name Searching Application by creating a multi threaded business logic layer to increase the efficiency of the CPU, due to the processing of millions of records.

Now the description above, is something I can elaborate on, when I used an algorithm to perform similar name similarity, and obviously can speak to it.  Make sure that when you describe your experience, you can confidently speak on it, and not just say to the interviewer, “I was only part of the team that did that, and my part was small”.  This is not a good use of the 80/20 principle if your role was minimal.

Apply this to your resume, and you will see a difference in the way you carry yourself in the interview, due to increase confidence.  Just like any actor, if you have a strong script, and you’ve rehearsed it thoroughly, then you can only expect positive results.

If you need more tips on this, please don’t hesitate to contact me:


Using the 80/20 Pareto Principle when writing your technical resume

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