Mastering the Art of Crafting a Standout Software Engineer Resume in 2024
Getting a job as a software engineer in 2024 is going to be tough. Not only have a lot of good developers been laid off but companies are hiring less in general. So what can you do to stand out from the crowd?
Learn some new skills, practise data structures and algorithms or write an outstanding Resume? If you do the first two things but have a terrible Resume, you’re not going to get an interview, so in my books, it makes sense to start with the Resume.
So in this article I’m going to talk about 5 things you can do to write a better Resume and get more interviews.
I’ve created an online course to help you write the best possible software engineer resume which you can get access to here.
If you enjoy this article I highly recommend you check it out.
1. Have a one page, single column resume
Your Resume should be just one page long. Not two, not one and a half, but one page. The person reading your Resume doesn’t have time to dig through two pages of information to find what they’re looking for.
The person who is going to review your Resume is only going to look at it for an average of 6 to 8 seconds therefore just the important information, so skills, experience and qualifications, should be able to fit on one page. And if it can’t, then that means you may have to cut some things out. You could have one or two columns in your Resume. And for the most part, it doesn’t really matter. But, in my opinion, it’s much easier to read a single column Resume than a two column Resume.
And if the aim is to make it as easy as possible to read, for the person going through your Resume to find the information they’re looking for, then a single column Resume is the way to go.
2. Focus on Skills, Experience and Education
In the 6 to 8 seconds a hiring manager or recruiter is going to spend reading your Resume, they’re going to be looking for these three things. 1. Do you have the skills they’re looking for? 2. Do you have the experience they’re looking for? And 3. Do you have the qualifications they’re looking for? Skills, experience and qualifications.
This is how you should structure your Resume. You have to put these things at the forefront so that they’re easy to find. If a person looking at your Resume can’t find these things easily, say in 6 8 seconds, then they’re going to move on to the next Resume. And yours will be one of the 80 percent that get rejected.
At the top of your Resume you should have your name, address, GitHub, LinkedIn, websites, telephone number, etc. Then, right underneath you need to have a section called Skills. You can put technical skills, but I like the word skills because it’s really easy to read and find.
A recruiter would come here first and see if your skills match the skills that they’re looking for and if they do match, then they’ll move on to the next section which should be experience. You can call it Work Experience but to keep things simple I like having sections with one word so just Experience is fine.
The most recent job or piece of experience should be at the top and the oldest one should go at the bottom. If you’ve never had a job, then you can change this experience to projects and you can list all the projects that you’ve worked on in your bootcamp or in your spare time. I would say however, it’s really important to try and get some experience if you don’t have any.
I’m planning to write an article on how to get experience without a job in the future but if you can’t wait till then, I’ve outlined exactly how to do it in my Resume course.
Each piece of job experience you should have no more than five bullet points, and the more you go down, the less bullet points you should have. Then below the experience section, then, you should have a section called education.
This could also be qualifications. But as long as it’s one word, I’m okay. This should contain the highest qualification you have related to software engineering. And the qualification should just have one bullet point.
3. What you did, why you did it and the results
This is one of the most important parts of this article. If you take no other advice away, then please take the advice from this point, this alone could make a huge difference to your Resume. Whenever you’re writing bullet points for the experience part of your Resume, you need to follow this formula. What did you do? Why did you do it? And what was the outcome?
Why did you do it? And what was the outcome? Let’s go through a quick example.
Imagine a bullet point in the experience section under a specific job is;
‘Built a website using React and Node.js’
This at the moment is not that good. It tells the employer what you did, but it doesn’t tell the employer anything else. Any developer could have done this so what makes you doing it so special? Let’s look at how this can be improved.
‘Built a website using react and Node.js To help people find jobs’
This is better. We’ve added the why we’re helping people find jobs, but how many people have we helped? Basically, what was the outcome? Let’s see how this can be rewritten.
‘Designed and developed a web application using React and Node.js to help people find tech jobs. This application helped 50 to 100 people find jobs every month.’
This is much better. You can read what was done, we can see why it was done and the outcome.
No jargon, no slang and no personal pronouns. So don’t use words like I, it’s implied that you did it. Keep it short, as simple as you can and make it sound professional.
4. Use a PDF
What format should your Resume be in? Simple answer is PDF. Not a Word document, not a Google Doc, not pages or anything else. Just a PDF. The recruiter or hiring manager might have a different version of Word than what you use to create the Resume. Therefore, if they open it, the layout could be messed up. And also, Documents can look different on different operating systems.
So if you wrote your Resume on a Linux machine, and the person receiving it is using a Windows then there might be some issues with formatting and compatibility. But a PDF will look the same on any machine, no matter the version or operating system. So in my opinion, it’s the safest option to use.
If we have a look at the image above, this is an image of someone who created their Resume using a Word document, and they put boxes all over it. But when the recruiter opened it, this is what they saw. The layout and the formatting had been distorted so much that it was completely impossible to read.
Please don’t let that be you. Just use a PDF for your Resumes all the time.
5. Don’t add hobbies or interests
Instead of writing a list of hobbies and interests, you can replace that whole section with a list of achievements you’ve had using the what you did, why you did it and what was the outcome technique, let’s try it. So imagine this specific bullet point was in the hobby section of a Resume:
“I like to play football”
Now, in my opinion, this is a terrible way to add a hobby to your Resume. It doesn’t give the employer any indication of how good you are and why you like playing football. Let’s see how this hobby can be rephrased.
“Play as a goalkeeper for my local team and have won the league three times”
This is a bit better. It tells the outcome and what you do, and shows the employer that you have teamwork skills and dedication, since not everyone can play football long enough to win the league, especially three times. Again, let’s see how this bullet point can be improved.
“Regularly play as a goalkeeper for my local team, London Lions, to maintain fitness, contributed to winning the league three times in the last five years”
This is much better, and this is what you should be aiming for when you’re adding your hobbies. This contains the what, the why, and the outcome. And it sounds much more impressive than the first version.
This is what you can do to turn just any hobby into an achievement. And this is why I highly recommend you do not have a Hobbies or Hobbies and Interests section. Instead, turn those around into an Achievements section and this will make you look much more impressive in the eyes of an employer.
To Wrap it All up
So there you have it, five things you can do to write a better Resume and get more interviews. Weather you’re a junior developer frontend developer or a senior developer fullstack developer, these tips will be sure to help you out.
If you want to learn more about how to write a better Resume, again check out my online course that goes into a lot more detail than this article. I’ve put a lot of work into this talking to recruiters, hiring managers and combining it with my own experience, so be sure to check it out.
Until next time. Happy coding 👋