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Reading this question, I wondered why this style of "contributions" in CVs is popular in different places. It's not popular where I live and I always wonder what the readers of those CVs in other places gain from it.

Example sentences might read:

  • Developed software for warehouse transfers saving 15$ million in costs.
  • Improved packaging algorithm to save thousands of man-hours of manual labor.

As a software developer, my experience is that we are not free agents that roam the company and pick projects based on what we perceive needs improvement. There is a Boss that delegates his wishes to a leader (Product Owner/TeamLead/Manager) that in turn makes developers on the team implement this project.

Even when the project is done, there is a non-zero chance that the project is canned for reasons absolutely outside the influence of developers or even leaders.

The success of the project itself is rarely a product of good or bad coding or generally speaking good or bad software development practices. There are too many factors that have nothing to do with the technicalities that influence the outcome heavily.

Also, individual contributions result in different outcomes based on company size. It's easy to save a huge corporate entity millions. You could probably do that buying cheaper toilet paper for a month. But lets assume it was done writing code. Writing the same code for a smaller company might only save a lot less. It was still the same quality of work. Whether the in-house software was distributed to 1.000.000 people or just 10 is nothing the developer could influence. In this example, even a developer half as good would have a bigger "contribution" by working at a bigger company.

Last but not least... I don't even know my contribution in exact quantities. Nobody tells me how much money my software just saved. Why would they, chances are I would immediately ask for a raise if I saw those numbers.


So back to my question. As a reader of CVs like that, what do you gain from reading such a CV? If you see somebody "saved the company a million dollars by doing X", how could you weight that against another candidate, assuming that neither of them actually has the power to make the decisions about X that lead to that savings?

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    I thought the same reading that question - I have neither put that on my cv nor read it on anyone else's. I think "worked on a system that handles 10,000 concurrent users" is more useful than "worked on a system that saved £10,000" – Fermin May 20 at 13:35
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You asked,

As a reader of CVs like that, what do you gain from reading such a CV?

I am in agreement with your concerns over why these sorts of sentences may be meaningless, but they still provide value in a resume:

  • It shows that the employee understands that the software they're developing has an impact. It doesn't really matter if the software caused a million in savings or ten cents, but the employee is showing that they understand the impact and can even quantify it. Employees who understand the impact of their work are typically more motivated to do quality work.
  • It gives a starting point for soft skills questions. A sentence like "Solved X problem and got Y result" is practically a canned answer for a question like, "tell me about a time when you did..." Interviewers like "storytelling" questions because it gets the candidate talking in a more conversational nature, and it shows that they can think about a large or complex problem and explain it to a stranger. Having a resume with "seeds" for these sorts of questions is great, because as an interviewer, I can ask, "Talk a little bit about what you did on project X" or whatever. Often, the content of these questions isn't as important as just listening to the candidate explain something.

Overall, your question seems to focus on a developer as a cog in a giant machine that they are not directly responsible for. While that is often very true, these machines are living, breathing things (collections of people) and as such, showing that you understand and can explain "the machine" can be valuable.

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    I understand the positive impression of knowing how it all works and what impact the work of the person has. However, as I'm not used to it, on a personal level, whenever I read a sentence like this, I have the opposite feeling: That person does not understand how complex this whole thing is and that there is no way to measure their personal contribution quantifiably (at least not without being the companies accountant). – nvoigt May 20 at 13:47
  • If someone's being hired as a software developer, then I'm not really interested in auditing the accuracy of their claims from an accounting perspective. The candidate doesn't have to be able to explain the whole picture as if they're the expert on it, and this shouldn't be the focus of the interview, but it adds value if they're at least able to recognize the scope of what they're involved in. Ultimately, even if you're a cog in a machine, you're never just an ignorant mechanical contributor, there's always some degree of human and organizational awareness to your work. – dwizum May 20 at 14:14
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    @nvoigt Sometimes it is possible to tell, e.g. if you're the only developer on a (sub) project, or if there was a clear issue that the dev in question spotted and fixed. That said, I don't like this style either. – Llewellyn May 21 at 18:04
  • As someone who hires software developers there is almost nothing that turns me off more to a candidate then one who it appears views themselves as "as a cog in a giant machine that they are not directly responsible for". Developers who appear to lead projects or who take as much ownership and leadership in a project are the ones who I look for. This helps in many ways as I can hope that this new employee will not require constant supervision and direction. Most Dev managers have more jobs requirements then just supervising and guiding developers – Tim Brown Sep 25 at 16:47
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While I'd agree that this is not something common that I've experienced, as I can read, this is a poor attempt at expressing (bragging) the fact that the employee was involved with a bigger client / enterprise and the product that they have worked on is actually deployed on field. This can indicate two things:

  • The product / contribution to the product they made is actually sell-able.
  • Their is rough measurement of the "impact" of the work done.

For example, in India, having it mentioned in the CV that the engineer was actually assigned some "client project" and "billable" is considered better that working on some in-house R&D project, which is yet to hit the market and generate revenue.

As a reader of CVs like that, what do you gain from reading such a CV?

Based on my experience, this does not add any significant weight to the CV overall - most of the decent recruiters will ignore it anyways. Couple of reasons for instant:

  • There's no way one can verify that claim without having knowledge of the organization's balance sheet, which is usually considered a trade secret.
  • There's no way to measure the impact made by the contribution from that particular engineer.
  • Reason for downvote - anyone? – Sourav Ghosh May 20 at 13:48
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    I guess somebody did not like the Q or your A, without feeling the need to let us know what to improve... that happens. – nvoigt May 20 at 14:11
  • @nvoigt The problem with that is, unless they help me (or anyone) with the problems they see - they will continue to see the problem repeated, as we wont get a chance to think and reflect back on the downsides which is/are visible to them. I don't know how that makes the community better. Sad. – Sourav Ghosh May 20 at 14:15

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