How to write a killer Software Engineering Résumé?
This résumé below got selected for interviews at Google, Coursera and Facebook.
So you think you have a good enough resume to get shortlisted for an interview?
According to a recent CareerBuilder study, these mistakes in your resume would get you disqualified immediately:
- Bad grammar and typos (77%)
- Unprofessional email address (35%)
- No quantifiable achievements on a resume (34%)
- Long paragraphs of text blocks instead of bullet points (25%)
- A generic resume that’s not tailored to the job (18%)
- Resume longer than two pages (17%)
- No cover letter attached (10%) (Optional)
“It is your Resume, not your team’s resume, not your mentor’s resume not your manager’s resume, so talk about yourself.”
A good resume is one that:
- Beats the other 250 resumes in the recruitment process.
- Goes past the ATS scan(read on)
- Earns more than 7 seconds of the recruiter’s attention.
I get it, Resumes are too boring, but they get you a job.
You probably won’t finish this article. In fact, I may have already lost you to another tab in your browser. :(
The following is my knowledge about resumes accumulated over a period of 2.5 years and so one can say it took me years to write this article. :)
Mistake 1: GRAPHICS
Mistake 2: CREATIVITY
Do not be too creative with your resume.
A resume is not the right place for your creativity. The recruiter sees 100s of resumes each day, what if everyone had a different resume format?
It will be very hard for a recruiter to understand each resume format and look at proper places to see your details.
After your resume has passed the initial screening, it gets a lot of attention so give it a personal touch (optional, just 1 line)
- I have traveled to 5 countries in the past 2 months,
- Dinner with Elon Musk,
- Danced with Hillary Clinton, or something like that.(more on this at the end)
Do not use a fancy font.
Please Use Good Resume Fonts:
- Times New Roman, Georgia, Helvetica, Arial Narrow, Calibri, Cambria.
- Use a 12-point font.
Summary:- Don’t increase recruiters work.
Mistake 3: OBJECTIVE
You wasted two lines telling me you’re looking for a position in software engineering. Of course, they know it.
That’s the whole point someone is looking at your resume.
Is there anyone shouting out loud “ Hey man look I am not a hard worker “ NO!
Unless you have a unique objective statement, don’t include one. We know your objective is to get an internship/job. That’s why you’re applying.
Write something ( if at all) more like this. ⬇
Summary:- Write to point.
Mistake 4: FORMATTING AND COLOR
You need some space. You really need some space.
Fix your alignment disaster.
Prioritize Important Sections, have consistency in the entire resume.
Being consistent means if you are applying for a Frontend(FE) role, there’s no point mentioning how good you are in Machine learning.
Do not use more than 2 colors.
- Do not complicate, keep it simple. don’t make a designer resume.
- Do not include a photo unless asked. Including a photo is rarely a good idea.
- Use different shades of black as shown below ⬇
Summary:- Use spacing as if your life depends on it.
Mistake 5: NOT USING A TEMPLATE
You know how hard it is if your ‘ creatively designed ‘ resume suddenly flashes before the eyes of the person scanning your resume and then they have to look around and be like:
— ‘Where the heck is his education and skills mentioned? Top? No, Bottom? No, Oh there you go, right in the middle of nowhere.’
Or use this.
Summary:- Don’t reinvent the wheel.
Mistake 6: YOUR EMAIL
- Do not use _underscores.
- Avoid the letters ‘O’, ‘i’, ‘o’ and ‘L’, and numbers ‘1’ and ‘0’ as `O0o` is difficult to differentiate.
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Mistake 7: SKILLS
“Don’t add Irrelevant Skills or Basic Skills Everyone Expects You to Have.”
Communication, Teamwork, Time Management,
Leadership, Detail Oriented, Problem Solving, Critical Thinking,
Decision Making, Customer Service, Self Motivation.
Big Data Analysis, Social Media Experience, Project Management,
Skills, Programming, Technical Writing,
Computer Skills, Debugging, Troubleshooting, Network Security.
Mention only relevant tech skills according to the job profile and not every technical skill that you have.
For Software Engineer :
- Not Important — HTML, MS-Word, MS-Excel, Powerpoint — are unnecessary. They dilute your resume.
- Also, do not list down the 5 languages you can speak and your proficiency in each. Totally irrelevant.
For Cloud Engineers:
Tech: AWS API/GCP/Azure CLI, Kubernetes, Go.
Infra: OpenStack, Docker, Cloud Foundry, AWS ELB
For Backend Engineers: Sample
Tech: ASP.NET Core, Spring-Boot Framework, Java, C#, Git, NodeJs, Laravel, Ruby on Rails.
DB: RDBMS or NoSQL
Infra: Salesforce & Adobe AEM/CQ (CMS and CRM)
For Frontend Engineers:
Adobe Creative Suite — Photoshop, Illustrator, In Design, Fireworks.
For DevOps Engineer:
Tools: Puppet, Ansible, Chef, JIRA, saltstack, Opsworks, Cloud Formation, Jenkins, Maven, Gradle
System’s Engineer tech stack.
Summary:- Mention things you have used and can explain why you used them.
Mistake 8: EXTRA and UNNECESSARY DETAILS
- Signature and Photograph (unless relevant to the position)
- Social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram. Unless relevant to the position)
- Full education History right from nursery to elementary till graduation, mention recent education only.
- Personal details like Birthdate, Age, Gender, Marital status, Religion, or Nationality.
- Full native address.
- A list of all your previous roles and responsibilities.
- Your salary expectation.
Have you ever seen a 20-something with a CEO, CFO, CMO, or any manner of executive job title in their resume? It’s pretty common these days with the proliferation of startups. Such titles aren’t always impressive though.
Summary:- No fillers.
Mistake 9: MISSING IMPORTANT DETAILS
[Include this if you are applying for software roles]
- LinkedIn profile and Github account and repository links for your projects.
- Overall GPA of your degree. [Unless your GPA is greater than 3.6/5.0 or 7.0/10.0, don’t include it. The only thing it does is discount you and lower your chances of being selected over higher GPA candidates.]
- Your position and rank in relevant competitions (coding contests like ACM ICPC, hackathons)
Mistake 10: TONE OF YOUR RESUME
Use Active, not Passive Voice.
- “I did” rather than “Was part of”.
- “Managed” rather than “was asked/recruited to manage”.
- “A promotion to team leader was awarded to me after only six months of service,” is not as direct as the active form, “Was promoted to team leader after only six months.”
- “Increased sales” or “Overhauled the department”.
Avoid the use of I/Me/He/She, everything should be in either the First or Third person whenever possible.
- Example: “Managed a team of 20.” “Responsible for setting sales targets and establishing individual key performance indicators (KPIs).”
Mistake 11: CLICHÉS AND BUZZWORDS
Avoid using popular buzzwords:
‘Results oriented’, ‘ Go getter’, ‘ Creative’,
‘Innovative’, ‘energetic’, ‘driven’,
‘motivated’, ‘enthusiastic’, ‘hardworking’,
‘team-player’, ‘loyal’, ‘client-focussed’, ‘achievement-oriented’.
Everyone uses these words, how can you make your resume stand out?
Instead use: Powerful action verbs and examples, such as:
- “Developed a new training software manual”
- “Achieved all my sales targets”
- “Managed a team of three”
- “Initiated a health and safety program”
- “Founded a new society at the University”
- “Established new sales targets to help our company achieve a greater share of the market.”
- Use — created, led, analyzed, automated, owned, styled,
and not — helped, assisted, worked, presented.
“Accomplished [X] as measured by [Y] by doing [Z]”
— Laszlo Bock
That’s more like it.
Do not words like “participated” or “assisted.”
Verbs like “spearheaded” and “mobilized” can grab a recruiter’s attention and improve the readability of your resume.
Mistake 12: NOT ‘ATS’ COMPATIBLE
Many large companies now use an automated Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to scan resumes and help them identify the most relevant ones.
To do this, an ATS looks for keywords that match the job description.
An organization is more likely to search for a specialist skill they want, rather than candidates who’ve described themselves as ‘ enthusiastic’ or ‘ hardworking’, using ATS.
Examples of Non-ATS Resume:
- Do not use acronyms, as ATS software might not understand what that means, use Bachelor of Technology and not just B.Tech, or write both.
- Random capitalizations, special characters, lack of consistency, stray blank spaces, abbreviations, and typos. This is bad.
So, make your resume ATS proof.
A few ATS recognize tenses, plurals, and other word variations, but most only find exact matches.
Mistake 13: PROJECT DESCRIPTION (CRITICAL)
- Use STAR technique in resume and in answering questions-
Situation, Task, Action, and Result.
- Write the timeline, of when you did that project.
- Write the impact of your project.
- Also state why you did a project you did, what was underlying motivation, if you do not include it, be ready with an answer during interviews. (Optional)
- If possible, include any test cases or how many test cases you wrote for a project/internship.
- Have % and numbers in projects, eg — accuracy was 76.15%. Or used 100,000 image samples to train an ML model. Improved performance by 13%. Reduced latency by 2ms/check.
- Also, include how you reduced latency andhow you improved performance.
- Start your bullet points with powerful verbs.
- What you want them to talk about in an interview, put it to the top in your resume.
- Don’t put your job responsibilities, focus on what you have accomplished.
OR Follow this structure to describe your Internships Experience.
What was done?
What you did?
How you did it?
What did you learn?
What was the challenge?
Should be like:
- Grew email subscriber list from 80 to 200 in six months by implementing a new email format.
- Reorganized storage of supplies, reducing time spent on inventory by 20%.
- Built a cost-effective face detection API model, which saved $250k+ dollars per year for the company by replacing a third party service used for face detection and blurring technique by using ensemble technique for building multiple ML models and achieved an accuracy of 92% with a less false positive rate of around 5%.
Should not be like:
- “Implemented Pixel perfect image processing”
— It’s not quantifiable, write what makes something pixel perfect.
- Worked with NLP and research work related to image processing and model creation and proving support to other members.
— This is a vague and bad project description. Write what and how you did, not what a Machine Learning engineer generally does.
“Don’t just list your responsibilities by copying the Job description of the opening.”
Summary:- No BS writing.
Mistake 14: NO RESUME REVIEW
Ask friends, family, and peers to review your resume and give their honest feedback.
Don’t be shy stating that “ But my resume is not worth showing anyone at this point” or “ fear of judgment “ because you’ll be judged anyway.
There are multiple online services that do free/paid resume feedback. Use those.
Mistake 15: FALSE INFORMATION
- Do not claim way too much. Show honesty. They will figure it out eventually.
- Do not claim you are an expert at anything. Period.
- Do not lie. Nobody wins, everybody’s time gets wasted.
Also, don’t lie in your resume because it’s less comfortable than your bed ;)
You don’t need years of experience to get a tech job. Even if the job description calls for “1–2 years experience,” that’s usually flexible.
So how do you get experience without a job?
- Contribute to Open-Source projects. (Always always helps)
- Do freelance projects.
- Do volunteer projects or personal projects.
- Take part in hackathons and list them, you might get an internship out of it.
Mistake 16: VOLUNTEERING ACTIVITIES and ACHIEVEMENTS
You use your skills to give back to society.
One or two bullet points about volunteer experience speak to your character.
Do not explain why you did volunteering.
Do not list every activity you did at college or volunteered for.
Do not list every award or recognition you received to date.
Some Good Examples:
- Volunteered at LIFT-OFF C, a month-long Program to teach C language and clear doubts of 200+ participants.
- Hosted Eastern India’s Largest E-Summit Hackathon comprising of 113 teams.
- Organized and tutored Git workshop, Python workshop and Ubuntu install fest to help bring the student community closer to the field of Open Source.
- 2nd Runners Up at Hack-A-Bit hackathon. Created a platform for live feedback from the audience through grouped emotion analysis.
- Volunteered during summers for Habitat for Humanity and ABC Homeless Shelter.
Summary:- Show off a bit.
Mistake 17: HOBBIES (Optional)
Hobbies people mention.
— dancer, reader, traveler, writer, etc are okay, but you can even optimize hobbies according to the job profile.
Mention targeted hobbies.
— finance profiles prefer candidates with poker skills.
— chess and meditation, will be appreciated by all.
— gymming, if the company is a fitness brand.
- Be exposed to reputable and relevant employers.
- Don’t be shy to talk about yourself. Be humble and brag about your achievements.
- Always keep your resume updated with your skills.
- Put links at the top or side, but not the bottom.
- A 1-page highly targeted resume is enough to get you your dream job.
- Employers care about your experience more than education.
- Internships are more prioritized than Projects.
- Certification and Coursework are good for beginners to have in resumes. Awards and Volunteering too, but keep them short. But other useless certifications dilute your resume.
- Hobbies, personal interests, and Extracurricular are not needed for a strict technical position. These hobbies might help if you’re applying to startups. Startups want a mixed profile.
- Mention your individual contribution/accomplishment first, then what you did as a team.
- Some HRs look for useless things on your resume to judge you and then they look into the real matter.
- You may even work on good projects just for the sake to put them on your resume.
- Do not have e-commerce project on your resume, that’s a cliche now.
An expert once said,
“ Hey, here is what I have done, here is what I can show you, let’s meet and I will be respectful of your time, if this is useful to you.” This should be the format of you calling out busy people. Do not be vague in your talks.
They want to see the product progress. That’s your resume. Proof of work. ~ Naval Ravikant
Have a Redbull, you’ll need some strength.
creative, analytical, decisive, organized, energetic,
calm under pressure, risk-taking, thinking outside the box,
detail-oriented, initiative, flexible, multitasking,
good planner, persistent, good at taking feedback,
independent, data-driven, persuasive, not afraid of challenges,
good mentor; caring, self-critical, add humor and fun to a team,
enjoy learning new skills, prioritization.
lack of confidence, overly confident,
not detail-oriented, unrealistic,
makes too many assumptions, too negative,
indecisive, impatient, procrastinator,
stubborn, hesitant asking for help, difficulty admitting failure,
take feedback personally, overanalyzing,
too direct, bad at multitasking,
easily distracted, shy, short attention span, micromanages people.
Summary:- Write relevent things only.
- Make a video resume → run it as an ad (Google or Facebook or LinkedIn ad) and target your industry’s HR people. It will surprise them if they found you pitching yourself in your ad while they were watching Youtube or scrolling LinkedIn.
Make them curious enough to give you a chance for an interview.
- Most people are hired through networks, not by resumes. Build yours.
I cannot stress enough how important this video is, even if you haven’t read this article and simply skipped till the end, watch this. Please. The best that there is on the internet.
Safe use of Humor in a Resume
- I have an excellent track record, although I am not a horse.
- I procrastinate, especially when the task is unpleasant.
- Personal interests: donating blood. Fourteen gallons so far.
- My abilities include smelling code/fear.
Hands down this is one of the best article for resume tips —
How to write a killer Software Engineering résumé
An in-depth analysis of the résumé that got me interviews at Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, and more.
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