7 Tips for the Coding Resume (specifically for Software Engineers)

I wanted to talk to you guys about 7 basic resume tips for the technical coding interview. It's come to my attention that some of you guys you've been sending me resumes to critique to take a look at and some of them are extraordinarily bad, hideous, and I wanted to make a post just so that in one shot, I could give you guys all a few basic tips to up your game.

One thing to know is that the technical resume is very different than a normal resume. There're few things that are different that if you're new to the game, you're not going to know about. So I've seen hundreds of resumes myself and I feel that I can just give you a few basic pointers to help you guys get going.

The other thing I want to say is that I'm not a recruiter, recruiters are often the gatekeepers into a company, they're perhaps the No.1 audience for your resume. Since I'm not a recruiter, I don't really know necesarily what they're looking for, what their side of picture is. But there're a number of people who view your resume. I would say about three different people. The first group are the recruiters. After that, the resume goes to the hiring manager sometimes. The hiring manager has life experience, might take a look at your resume and decide whether to bring you on site. Then there's a third group, the group I belong to. I'm just another interviewer. I'm the engineer, the developer, your colleague, I conduct the interview. Everyon's looking for different things, so you need to craft your resume kinda for three different audiences, and you need to be able to hit all of them.

Tips 1

One key thing to note is that in tech, there're so many resumes. Hundreds of millions of resumes, actually. In order to really process them, people use photos. So that's tip number one. Make sure that your resume is easily searchable. You're hitting those keywords. A lot of people will be doing this. The tech resume often has the skills and languages section that just list a bunch of keywords like C++, Java, JavaScript, MySQL, Python, PHP, Objective C, Swift, Android, iOS, Angular, Kotlin, just a whole bunch of different technologies that you think a recruiter may be looking for as they're trying to filter for a candidate for a specific role. The section is generally prioritized from the most experienced to the least experienced. And this is something that I used to include in my resume as well. But we'll see in a moment, why I actually decided to remove the skills and languages section from my resume. And I'll tell you why, in a moment.

Tips 2

The second tip is remember that less is more. I strongly recommend that you keep your resume to just one page. The reason is that when I'm sitting across from you interviewing, I have your resume out there in front of me, that's one page and I'm not going to be flipping through all the time. I mean sometimes I will be, but it's better if there's just one page with a concise list of things that we can talk about, that presents the best version of you. It's just your hightlights, and you'll find that I think like even Steve Jobs just had a one page resume, you know, like how many pages do you really need? Take just the best highlights, and just show that. Be concise and cut out anything that you think doesn't really help your case. Many things can actually make you look worse, like listing things like you got certification level two in Microsoft Excel, may actually show that you're at a lower level than what you should be at, because you had to actually go through all the steps to get that certification. I would say it's also okay to leave out certain positions, certain projects that you feel don't really add to your case. You know, like if you're an Uber driver, it's a lot like photography. Everyone can take a good picture, but the good photographers know which picture is good, and they only show that.

Tips 3

Tip number 3 is, in my opinion, the less formatting the better. A lot of really good tech resumes that I've seen look very similar to my resume. I'll show my resume later on and you can just copy that format but once you start getting really creative and doing a bunch of different stuff like putting your photo on there, using multi-column layouts, using italics, crazy fonts, charts, pictures. you know, it just starts looking like amateur hour. And then it starts showing that maybe you're an insecure person, you're trying to hide something, maybe you're trying to distract me with all those flashy colors. People who review resumes review hundreds of millions of them per hour. And they've developed a high sense of cynicism. So just show the facts. Also I would say that a lot of these resumes get scanned in anyway and you want your resume to be scanner friendly. So for me, I limit myself to just using bold fonts to highlight a few things that I think are worthy. Italics, I hear, don't scan very well. I would also recommend that you export your resume in PDF format. A lot of people send me their resume in Microsoft Word, that docx format and then I struggle to try to open that. And right off the bat, my first impression is you don't really know what you're doing. You don't understand your audience. You've delivered a format to me that is just not really widely used. One easy way to do this is you go into Google docs, write your document, export as PDF and that's what I do.

Tips 4

Tip number 4 is to try to avoid exaggerating too much. It is a real turnoff when I'm interviewing somebody, and I can tell that they're just fronting themselves. If they're doing that, I'm going to try and challenge them. I'm going to see if I can trick them, see if I can get them in their own trap that they've set out for themselves. I want to make them prove themselves, show me that they're really that good. It becomes very clear if they're just exaggerating, they say they led some project, but then when I hear them talk about it, it's not quite like that. You know, not every role is looking for a senior lead. You know, if you're fresh out of college, people are expecting that. They know that and the role is crafted for somebody of that caliber. That's entry level, and that's fine. And for somebody like that, it's far better to look like somebody who is just eager, excited, really passionate about learning. They know that they don't know everything yet. They're humble, and they're just really ready to learn. That's great. That's somebody that I'm looking for, instead of somebody who's coming here, trying to act like they're really smart, like they're arrogant, like they know more than they are. And it seems kind of disgenuine. Along with that, though, I might mention that you wanna generally highlight your strengths not your weaknesses. For myself for a long time, my resume was not actually in chronological order. I put the projects that I was most proud of, the ones I wanted to talk about the most, the ones that were most technically interesting, at the top of my resume. And I think that's fine. You know, it doesn't necessarily have to be in chronological order.

Tips 5

Tip number 5 is make sure that the first two to three items on your resume are ones you can talk about at length. For me, when I sit down in front of a candidate, I want to talk to them a little bit. And usually I only read the first, say two to three items on your resume. Anything after that seems like old news to me. And I might just pick the first item on the resume and ask you to tell me about it. You want to make sure that it's understandable and doesn't contain too much crazy technical jargon. Time after time, I've seen resumes and it's using so many crazy words like "set up the orbits node x engine in order to prevent thruster failure". I don't even know what that means? I'm the type of person who will just say well, if I didn't understand that, it was your fault. You weren't clear enough. If I have time, I'm going to try and get you to help clarify some of this technical garbage that you've put on your resume, but if there's just too much of it, then I just can't make any sense of it at all. One key thing that everybody is looking for here is, what did you do specifically. You want to make sure that's clear. It's not about what your team did. It's not about what you company is doing. It's not about what that product is. That's really irrelevant. It's about what you did. And resumes contains so much fluff. Everyone's always trying to sort through it to try to figure out, okey, this project was cool, the team was cool, but were you cool? What did you contribute? What role did you play? You want to make sure you're not using really weak verbs like participated in X, helped work on Y, took part in Z. You want to use words like implemented, developed, launched, architected, led, design things like that.

Tips 6

Tip number 6 is get some feedback for your resume. You know, it's funny that in my first few years I didn't let anybody see my resume. That was private. I didn't want my friends see it, I didn't want my family seeing it, You know, this was something too close to who I was. It showed my weaknesses, my vulnerabilities and even to this day it's funny that I don't see the resumes of my family very often. I think that it's just such a shame that with a little bit of proofreading, you can really up your resume game, you can get a lot of feedback. People can point out things that make you look silly. You really want to make sure you get spelling check, and a grammar check on this stuff. I would encourage you to make it kinda like a competitive game like, let's see what my resume looks like, let's see if we can give each other tips, who has the best resume, let's try and see who can make the best one.

Tips 7

Tip number 7 is to do what I do. So check out my resume, you can check out the way I format it. For each position, I list the title, the company, the dates, the location, and then the short paragraph explaining what I did. Now the way I do it next to each project, I list the languages that I had used. And I think that this gives a clearer picture about how well I know the languages that I'm using, because if all you do is have a section that just list the languages, you know, you may list that you know Java. But the funny thing is everybody knows Java. Right? The difference is how well do you know it? And if you can show that you're using it extensively, time after time, over multiple years, well then, yeah, that's going to show that your knowledge of Java is actually really good. I personally hate reading these sections on the languages and technologies that you know, because then when I meet the candidate, I have to ask, okay, so how well do you really know this stuff? And, you know, the answer, at some point invariably comes to, yeah, I didn't know this one really well, I just used it, you know, three times or something like that. And you know, that's fine, but just doesn't paint as clear of a picture as it should be. I like to list my interests and hobbies. It's not really relevant, but I find that sometimes helps spark a little topic of conversation just for fun. And I might also recommend that you think about the cover letter that you might write. When you send them the resume, you usually have a chance to introduce yourself a little bit, talk about something that you've done. That I think helps grab attention and helps the recruiter understand whether they should get you immediately or not. If you're able to explain why you should be prioritized, why you may be a good fit for the role, then definitely include that in the cover letter. It doesn't really have to be formal. It can be pretty casual actually.

My Resume