Hi, I’m Brian, a former senior software engineer and now software engineering industry mentor at Pathrise. I have worked with hundreds of software engineers to help them land their dream job. Check out my article with tips for your software engineer resume.
Updated in 2021
In the past 2 years, 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, which is often around 6 seconds, then your resume runs the risk of being put aside. And after your software engineer resume catches their eye, you need the best possible content to move you forward.
Our experts have looked over thousands of resumes, as both interviewers and mentors. Personally, I was a software engineering manager prior to joining Pathrise almost 3 years ago, so I have a lot of experience. In this article, I am going to outline the 2 biggest mistakes that I see and share 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 only show what you were assigned to do and what you did in the role. You’re essentially describing the grunt work, but that is usually not 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 they should be avoided.
Instead, optimize your resume by making use of…
Impact statements. These are statements that focus on what you accomplished and what your results were. You are explaining the work that you did by highlighting the impact you made. 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 are often a 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 be hard to find numbers to quantify projects that haven’t been launched, or weren’t that successful. However, 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 many devices did I serve?
- What was the number of scenarios/permutations/tests that I considered/handled?
- How large was my dataset or many rows of data did I analyze?
- Did I implement different methodologies and if so, how many??
- How many people did I manage or 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?
- What did I produce in value?
- By what percentage did I improve our old process?
- Who used it? How many users/groups?
- How many many hours did I save the company?
- 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 feet) are more modern-looking, which is why we recommend them for software engineer resumes. When you use these, you will give the right first impression for the role.
Don’t be afraid to use colors
Colors help draw the eye to important parts of your resume, which is helpful when recruiters are skimming. But, we recommend that you 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 our most important piece of advice when it comes to formatting. Make sure you have a maximum of 2 columns. In addition, 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
Recruiters and hiring managers are not looking at your resume for a long time. Therefore, you should make their jobs easier 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. Plus, you should match your keywords exactly to the job description. For example, if they are looking for “Ruby on Rails” and you have “Rails” on your resume, update it to match their language.
Context is key
A frequent mistake that applicants make is not providing enough context to their work. Make sure to include the important keywords, but also talk about the purpose of the product, app, or system you worked on. Remember: the reader doesn’t know anything about your work, so tell the full story.
Pathrise is a career accelerator that works with students and professionals 1-on-1 so they can land their dream job in tech. With these tips and the addition of strong cold emails, fellows in our program receive 3x as many responses to their applications.
If you want to work with any of our mentors 1-on-1 to optimize your software engineer resume or with any other aspect of the job search, become a Pathrise fellow.