Layoff to Liftoff: Surviving Downsizing in the Tech Industry

Kodeco’s guide to surviving tech layoffs offers actionable tips on stress management, job search strategies, and staying productive post-layoff to prepare for your comeback. By Joey deVilla.

Leave a rating/review
Save for later
You are currently viewing page 5 of 9 of this article. Click here to view the first page.

Update Your Documentation

person writing down the details of their job

With your story complete, you can use it as a guide as you go about your next task: updating your documentation. By “documentation,” I mean your resume and other material that will support your job search. Here are some ideas for getting the most out of them.

Create a Baseline Resume

You may be aware that no two people get the same Google results for the same search term. That’s because Google personalizes its results for each user to drive the outcomes they want to see (they say it’s more relevant results; I say it’s more ad clicks). You need to take the same approach with your resume, customizing it for each company you apply to.

Take your current resume and make it your baseline resume. To use a programming metaphor, this resume is the “base class” for all the resumes you submit. Any resume that you submit to a potential employer will “subclass” this base class. You’ll create a copy of your baseline resume and then tailor it specifically for the position that you’re applying for, adding keywords that match the position and emphasizing relevant skills and experience. Save it with a name that clearly marks it as your baseline resume.

Since your baseline resume is a source document that you will never hand out, you don’t have to keep its length down to the standard one or two pages. For each job listed in it, write down all your related responsibilities, tasks, skills, and accomplishments — everything that you would want a prospective employer to know about your time there — and don’t worry if the document goes beyond two pages. For the baseline resume, you want completeness, not brevity.

Your now-former job will be the most recent item in your employment history and will be the first item that people read. It should be the most detailed entry; give it the appropriate amount of time and care.

For each job in your baseline resume, mention the most important or impactful points first. This suggestion is based on the endless stream of articles that say that on average, recruiters scan a resume for six seconds, moving on to the next one if they don’t see what they’re looking for.

This figure comes from an eye-tracking experiment conducted by Ladders (an online job-matching service) in 2012. They conducted an updated version of the study in 2018, where they revised the time to 7.4 seconds. However, “6 seconds” is a simple, catchy phrase, and it’s the one that everyone still quotes.

Using Your Baseline Resume

When it comes time to submit a resume for a position, make a copy of your baseline resume. Reduce or remove parts that are less relevant to the position, and emphasize the parts that are more relevant. Make sure that this resume contains keywords for the job description, and then edit it down to two pages or less.

The general guideline that a resume should be no longer than two pages is a long-standing, if archaic, practice. However, given the current employment situation in the tech industry, jobs that once attracted dozens of applications now attract hundreds. A recruiter facing the daunting prospect of sifting through hundreds of resumes might choose to skip a resume that they think might be too much to read.

Create a LinkedIn Profile Document

Your LinkedIn profile is a different creature from your resume, and it merits different treatment. I have long suspected that the rule about keeping your resume brief doesn’t apply to LinkedIn, given that there’s are recruiter versions (according to this page, “Recruiter Lite” starts at $1,680 USD a year, and “Recruiter Corporate” costs over $10,000 USD per seat per annum). For recruiters, LinkedIn is a search engine for candidates, which means that if you want to be found, less is not more — your LinkedIn profile should be like a Wikipedia entry of your career.

I’ve talked with several recruiters about my “a bigger LinkedIn profile is better” theory, and they’ve agreed with me. One recruiter has even gone on the record and said that hiring managers spend considerably more time on your LinkedIn profile than your resume25 times longer.

Because of this, my LinkedIn profile is lengthy and contains a lot of details for not just my jobs, but my extracurricular involvement with my local tech community and my tech passion projects.

You should make a copy of your baseline resume and use it as the basis for your LinkedIn profile.
Add the following information to your LinkedIn profile document:

  • Your LinkedIn headline: This is the line that appears below your name in the profile that briefly describes you.
  • Your “About” text: This is the longer description of who you are and what you can do that appears just above the “Experience” section in your profile.
  • Your list of skills: Recruiters often use their special versions of LinkedIn to search for people with specific skills. Add a list of your skill’s names or URLs to your profile document so you can use them as a checklist to confirm that you added them to your profile.
  • Media or links for your experiences: LinkedIn lets you attach media or links to each job item in your “Experience” section. Add their names or URLs to your LinkedIn profile document so you can use them as a checklist to confirm that you added them to your profile.

Create a Baseline Cover Letter

Finally, you should create a baseline cover letter that will act as the basis of every cover letter you submit to a prospective employer. As with your baseline resume, whenever you apply for a job, make a copy of your baseline cover letter and customize it for the job and company you’re applying to.

What you should put into a cover letter could easily fill its own article (or even a book), but here’s an approach that has served me well:

  • Salutation: Try to address it to a specific person (“Dear [name],”), but if you can’t, “Dear Hiring Manager” seems to be the standard alternative. I myself have opened cover letters with “Hello, awesome hiring decision-maker!”
  • Go big with your introduction. Forget the outdated guidance to open with something like “I’m applying for [position] that I saw in [location].” Instead, say why this job interests you and what you can bring to it. For example, I’ve opened with, “I’m a technical advocate, tech community builder, developer, and published author with over 15 years of experience, and I’d love to bring my enthusiasm and expertise to your developer relations team.”
  • Explain why you’re “The One”: The goal of your cover letter is to convince the reader that you’re a viable candidate for the position. Do the following:
    • Cite your experience and skills that are relevant to the position. Use specific examples and quantify your successes when possible. Here’s an example from one of my cover letters: “I grew the mobile developer audience by 25% in my first six months.”
    • Show that your qualifications match the job requirements. Recruiters are looking for a good fit, so you should show that your skills directly relate to the requirements listed in the job description.
  • Have a strong finish: Reinforce the idea that you’re the right person for the job while also conveying your enthusiasm for the job and the company. In one of my cover letters, I started the closing paragraph with this: “When I was managing the [client name] project during my time at [previous employer], the team was debating how to best implement [feature] for the application. My answer was, “Go with [product made by the company I was applying to]. They’ve already figured out the hard stuff.” This approach usually leads to at least a follow-up phone interview.

Given that you typically submit your resume when applying for a job, a cover letter may seem superfluous. You’ll hear many people tell you that they’re useless and that they only write one when it’s required. However, there are times when a cover letter can communicate and explain things that a resume can’t:

  • If you’re new to the workforce and there isn’t much on your resume, a cover letter is the perfect place to talk about the qualities that make you an excellent candidate.
  • We’ve all made mistakes in our career, and if there are things that a recruiter or hiring manager might consider “red flags” — being fired, job-hopping, an inconsistent or messy career path, a gap in your employment, bad references — you can provide an explanation in your cover letter.
  • If you’re pivoting to a different area of expertise or an entirely different industry, you can talk about how your skills are transferable to the job you’re applying for.