Hi, I’m Brian, a former senior software engineer and now software engineering advisor at Pathrise. I work with hundreds of software engineers to help them land their dream job.
This past year, there were more applications for software engineering positions in Silicon Valley than ever before. In fact, often there were more than 1500 hundred applicants for many new grad software engineering positions.
That means that recruiters are inundated with resumes that often look exactly alike. Out of the thousands, too many to count use the same Microsoft or Google resume templates. If you can’t stand out from a first glance, your resume runs the risk of being put aside. And after your resume catches their eye, you need the best possible content to move you forward.
Our advisors have looked over thousands of resumes, as both interviewers and advisors, and so we asked them to share the 2 biggest mistakes they see and the most important tips for software engineer resumes. Avoiding these mistakes and following these tips will help your resume stand out from the crowd and move you from application to interview.
2 biggest mistakes on software engineer resumes and how to avoid them:
Mistake 1 – Grunt vs. impact
Grunt is our internal word for resume points that are focused only on what you worked on and what you were assigned to do. You’re essentially describing the grunt work that you did, and it’s usually never a good description of how you spent your time in any past experience or project. Grunt statements usually look something like ‘Developed X for Y’ or ‘Worked on X using Y’. Grunt statements are sometimes a necessary evil, but for the most part should be avoided.
Instead, optimize your resume by making use of…
Impact statements – statements that focus on what you accomplished and what your results were. They normally follow a structure that’s more like ‘Accomplished X by implementing Y which led to Z’ or ‘Developed X to accomplish Y, resulting in Z’. They might sometimes be a little bit longer, but being able to show the recruiter that your work mattered is definitely worth it.
Mistake 2 – Lack of quantification
We know it might feel hard to find numbers to quantify projects that haven’t been launched, or weren’t all that successful, but if you ask the right questions, you can find the right information. Here are some questions that should help you quantify your work.
What was the scale?
- How large was my dataset or many rows of data did I analyze?
- How many devices did I serve?
- How many scenarios/permutations/tests did I consider/handle?
- How many different methodologies did I implement?
- How many people did I manage or how many teams did I act as a liaison for?
What did I achieve as a result?
- How many users did I launch to or will I launch to?
- How many users/groups used it?
- How much money did I produce in value?
- How many many hours did I save the company?
- By what percentage did I improve our old process?
- What percentage of our old process did I replace?
Top 5 tips to make your software engineer resume stand out
- Know your fonts
Sans serif fonts (fonts without the feet) are more modern-looking so they work better for software engineer resumes. When you use these, recruiters will see that you are tech-savvy and that you know how to give the right first impression.
- Don’t be afraid to use colors
Colors help draw the eye to important parts of your resume. But, it’s important to use cool colors like blues, greens, purples, and teal. Avoid warm colors like red because they can feel too aggressive. You don’t want it to look like you are yelling at the recruiter. Also, be sure to stick with one color so your resume looks professional.
- Readability is key
Your resume needs to be readable and that is the most important aspect of formatting. Make sure you have a maximum of 2 columns and you never use white or light-colored text. If you include links to your portfolio, GitHub, and/or additional websites you’ve worked on (and you should!) ensure that they are clickable so that your work can be seen.
- Emphasize important keywords
Your resume is not spending a long time in front of each person. Make their jobs easy by highlighting the keywords that matter most to them. If you can, tailor your resume for each specific job. If you are applying for a position that requires certain languages or skills, ensure that they are easy to pick out.
- Context is key
A frequent mistake that applicants make is not providing enough context to their work. Make sure to include the important key words, but also tell the story and purpose of the product, app, or system you worked on.
Pathrise is a career accelerator that works with students and young professionals 1-on-1 so they can land their dream job in tech. With these tips and guidance, we’ve seen up to a 20% increase in initial screen conversion and up to 80% increase in interview success from our fellows in the program.
If you want to work with any of our advisors 1-on-1 to optimize your software engineer resume or with any other aspect of the job search, become a Pathrise fellow.