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At a major IT company the project that I was working on got cancelled. The entire team was benched. Since the team size was large (>300) not everyone was immediately employable. To cover the losses the company took on a project that involved content cleaning.

It involved reading 1000's of pages of documents and fixing the disparity between them i.e. fixing the English! We had to make sure the punctuation was correct, word spellings were consistent, sentence structure etc. We were given 3-5 pages of a checklist of the most common mistakes.

This was NOT a programming job at all. It was just given to the folks who were on bench and had them billable for some time. However, this project duration was about 6 months! There were no projects coming by or the talent pool had more resources IMO. Of course, I did quit the company but I still show the entire duration of my work at the organization on my CV. However, this 'English' (non-programming) project is a bit embarrassing (although I try to frame the English well so it doesn't feel so :)

Should I just get rid of such a project altogether? It was quite a while back, but I'm only concerned about the authenticity of the duration - I did work from date A-B. Should I just indicate the primary project for the entire duration and drop the English one?

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+1 for kinky title =) –  Matthieu Jan 29 '12 at 21:21
duration is important. When interviewing, I get nervous when I see too many short duration projects in a row. –  Kyle Hodgson Jan 30 '12 at 1:13
It's better than trying to explain a gap in your employment. –  JeffO Jan 30 '12 at 18:47

9 Answers 9

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Unless you have no area specific work (ex. are straight out of college), having non-relevant work experience on your resume is just filler. People looking at the resume will be looking for things that indicate you would be good at the job you are applying for.

As far as concern about covering the entire time you worked, I think that is less important. Many companies just confirm the duration of employment when contacted by potential employers.

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+1, @Nupul you should also be ready to talk through the gap (any gaps) in your resume in an interview. –  jasonk Jan 29 '12 at 22:26

Your resume exists for 2 purposes:

1) To convince someone in 30 seconds or less to give you an interview.

2) To give someone hints on questions to ask you during an interview.

Everything that doesn't serve one of these purposes should be left off.

In your specific case, as others have mentioned, if you have enough other information on the resume to show that you've been employed, no need to put anything else on it. While you don't want long empty spots (example: 3 years without any mention of work) you don't need to include everything you've ever done. In some cases this is harmful. If you don't want to work in databases, leave SQL off. If you are a little weak in C, and don't want to be asked questions about it, leave it off the resume.

In a larger sense, creating a resume is more about what to take off than what to add. Per point 1 above, if a person does read it, it's at most for 30 seconds. You can get perhaps 3 or 4 main points across. For example, you can get across "Intelligent", "Server-side" and "Multilingual" but adding, "Computing Theory" and "Ruby guru" would be too much. You don't want anything that distracts from your main points, because you only get 30 seconds at most.

Based on your note, I assume you're on a job search. Best of luck with it! Like everything else in life, persistence will pay off!

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+1 for being realistic about the purpose of a resume. I will add, however, a third purpose: To provide an accurate and auditable accounting of your employment and education history, so HR departments can meet their liability requirements in hiring. –  Stephen Gross Jan 29 '12 at 23:19
True. I took the hiring manager's view. There is also "Pass the HR department's minimum threshold of education and buzzwords." –  MathAttack Jan 30 '12 at 2:33

Why are you embarrassed about this job? Did you do a terrible job at it? Did it make you cry? Or did you show up every day, apply yourself, find ways to improve the editing process, and ultimately help the company overcome a major setback?

Any employer should understand what it's like to face a problem, and good ones should be able to relate to your former employer's desire to avoid laying off good people. You should be proud to show that you were willing to take one for the team by temporarily doing work that might be outside your job description. There's more to being a good employee than just being a good programmer (or manager, accountant, machinist, driver, lawyer, etc.); you should use this example as evidence that you're a team player.

Also, it's difficult to find a job description (at least in the US) that doesn't include a reqirement like: "Strong written and verbal communication skills." Provided that you have plenty of programming experience to show, a short stint editing copy isn't such a bad thing to list.

All that said, you don't need to emphasize the editing gig. A line or two saying what and when should be sufficient. You can explain more if interviewers ask about it, or direct them to it if you get any questions about how you dealt with a project that you didn't like, a difficult situation at work, etc.

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Also being able to say you did a good job and worked hard at something that you really didn't want to be doing has value. But in truth I would minimize it as much as possible, if its a few years in the past probably drop it –  Zachary K Jan 30 '12 at 11:58
@Caleb - hmmm...never looked at it that way. I'm not embarrassed per se, just the type of seemed to be a bit 'off' from the usual work - we were editing/fixing just oodles of content that was purely informational (non-technical) for the masses. I personally felt it to be a waste of all our skills - it was only done for making us 'billable'. I always had it on my CV but am revamping it and thought I could just drop it since it seems to be even more 'off' after all this while :) –  PhD Jan 30 '12 at 18:58

Include the time period when you were employed. Mention the projects you worked on. But don't fret about this. Everybody has some dead time in their career. The farther back you go the less important this becomes.

Don't leave a time gap in your resume, or they will ask questions. You are their only source of information regarding dates, projects, and description. So don't create gaps where none exist.

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there won't be any gaps per se. The duration is correct but the project may just be dropped out –  PhD Jan 29 '12 at 21:08

You now have excellent experience at document reviewing. This applies to software design & requirement specification documents also. Its a very usable skill in IT. Keep it there, but dress it up as something your next employer can look favorably on.

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You can create two versions of your resume : short and long. I would put such "project" on the long CV, but not on the short one. When applying for jobs, I would send only short CVs (long if they ask for it).

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a quote from REWORK, the book written by some of the key people at 37signals:

If you are trying to decide among a few people to fill a position, hire the best writer.

while editing is not the exactly the same as writing, it is still a good skill for any role involving communication, and most development involves at least some communication

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A CV is not a resume. This should most certainly be included on a CV, and there is no reason to be embarrassed. On the contrary, you think that employers don't care if their programmers can communicate clearly in English? I assure you, they do care about it. This is a perfectly reasonable thing to have on your CV, and might even be a plus.

On a resume, I would limit description of this project to a single line and not otherwise bring it out. A resume is different from a CV, and really has only a single purpose: To get you an interview. So on a resume, you downplay or entirely leave out irrelevant content. But on a CV, you must and definitely should include this job.

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A programmer with non-technical skills? What's to be embarrassed about?

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not skills, project :) –  PhD Feb 4 '12 at 4:58

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