How to write a killer software engineer resume?

April 14, 2018

I’ve interviewed many people over the past years and had to go over their resumes before each interview. I’ve seen many terrible resumes written by smart guys. In the best case that those resumes can pass recruiters’ evaluation, they might have a bad first impression on the interviewer.
Put yourself in recruiters and hiring managers’ shoes receiving tons of resumes every day. Your resume should convey as much as possible highlights about you in a short amount of time (5-7 seconds). They usually don’t have time to read every details in the resumes. They might not even have robust technical background and just look for some keywords in your resume. So help them to hire you!
With small modifications, you can make your resumes stand out:

1-2 page resumes. Try to keep your resume in one page but going to the second page is not end of world. Try to be as concise as possible without sacrificing the readability. Sometimes, you can play with margins (not too much) and resume structure to fit everything in one page. Don’t try to make the fonts too small to fit everything in one page. It ruins the readability of your resume!

Do spell and grammar check as much as you can. Ask your friends to proofread your resume. Every time you read your resume, you might find a new typo or grammatical error.

Go with bullet points and avoid putting multiple-line full sentences.

Put the “right” amount of details. Be specific but avoid going to too much details. A good example can be “Reduced our service build time by 1/6th by decoupling our service package from more than 600 legacy packages.”. I see some people write paragraphs about what they did but it’s still hard to understand.

Be consistent. If you put “.” at the end of sentences, do it for all of them. If you use 3 letter month abbreviation, do it everywhere in your resumes. “Jan - March 2016” is an example of inconsistency.

Talk about the achieved outcome not how you achieved them. A good industrial resume is focused on the tangible accomplishments and not the methodologies. So avoid talking about your regular job duties and responsibilities and focus more on the highlighted outcomes.

Put technical skills and previous experience at the top. These two are what most of people reading your resume are looking for.

Mention the impressive projects you have done vs. every single project/assignment at school. Also, don’t add too much details on what you have done on those projects. It’s better to mention the highlights in the resume and details on your homepage for people who might be interested.

Do not write objective or use it wisely. I’m not fan of putting objective in my resume because it doesn’t add that much value to the it and also makes the resume longer. What you are interested in is pretty obvious when you apply for a position. If you plan to use an objective, write a clear and concise statement like “Software engineer with 4 years of experience in developing large scale systems” comparing to “Seeking a software engineer position with an innovative employer where I can contribute to the development of new technologies and work with committed people”.

Avoid putting publications in your resume. Sorry, I know it’s hard. We are talking about industrial resumes and not academic ones. Hiring managers even for R&D positions do not care about publication. As I said, create a homepage (or LinkedIn account) and put your publications listed over there for people who might be interested.

Avoid using photos. It doesn’t give information about your ability to do a job and increases your chance of rejection. Believe me! If they are really interested to see your face before interview, they will look you up on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Try not to write acronyms that are not well-known. For example, people do not have any idea of the acronyms internally used in your previous job.

Do not put references and specially avoid “references available upon request”. It’s a waste of space! they already know that you have references. When you pass interview, they will specifically ask for it.

The above points are just suggestions and not rules (some of them basically are!) Please keep in mind that the resume formats also vary based on target company, position, location, and other factors.

p.s. I wrote this article as an answer to a similar Quora question.