You woke up this morning and decided that you’re ready for a job writing software. You can build things, you’ve creating things for friends and for fun. It’s time to start getting paid!
Then reality hits…how do you write a resume!? You have no engineering jobs. You probably don’t have a CS degree — and if you do it didn’t come with building apps. You look at job sites and begin to panic.
Take a deep breath. I’ll hold your hand through this process and give you some tips for getting your first technical resume written. While every resume should look different, there is a standard format that recruiters and hiring managers expect to see.
The most important thing to remember is to avoid red flags. Since you don’t have tons of tech accomplishments at this point in your career, focus on what you have done. Let your hustle find you the job.
All of the tips I’m recommending apply whether you are looking for a software engineering job or a software engineering internship. They work if you are a new grad or attempting to transition careers. If you’re looking for a full framework, check out my post that takes you from zero to paid software engineer.
Here are my suggestions:
- Include the languages, frameworks, and tools you are familiar with. You should be able to talk about them and how they work during an interview. You also should be able to write code using them with someone else watching.
This doesn’t mean you need to be a total master. If I asked you to explain the pros and cons of using the tech that should be enough.
- Highlight the recent projects you’ve worked on before you talk about previous work experience. What!? That’s right, the most important thing you should show off are the apps you’ve been building.
You want the top of your resume to be focused on technology. Makes sense, right? Start with the tech you understand, then showcase the projects you’ve worked on using that tech.
If I’m quickly scanning your resume (most get between 7 and 12 seconds of visual time), I’m looking for keywords. I want to see the exact same things I’m looking for. I want to see React or Node experience.
I also care about the projects you’ve built so that I can ask you about them when we interview. Include the tech stack for the project and the area you worked on.
- List the recent companies you’ve worked for last. Unless you have 2-3 years of practical software engineering experience, your work experience won’t be that relevant.
It is important to show that you have had previous jobs or internships, but you don’t need to include more than a couple. If you’re switching careers highlight the most technically related or recent roles you’ve had. If this is your first job post-college then highlight any academic achievements or internships in a small section.
Regardless, the point is that the top of your resume should be the main focus. This area needs to be on technical things. The bottom can be about previous career or schooling.
- Include all of your relevant links at the top of your resume. This means your LinkedIn (update your profile!), your GitHub, and your personal site if you have one.
You also want to include your personal email and your cell phone. Make it easy for people to contact you or research you online.
- Under each of your projects or company sections you want at least 2 bullet points. Generally you want a maximum of 4. The goal is for each of these bullet points to be specific and focused around the project itself.
People tend to really struggle with the bullet points, but there is a formula. Attempt to be tangible (wrote 252 tests covering 77% of the frontend code to allow for a clean refactor). If you don’t have numbers, make sure to include what you did and why within the bullet.
The why is always important, even if you think it should be obvious. The why is what people are looking for so they can have a discussion about the projects you’ve worked on in the past.
The last piece of advice is to use this formula: <action verb> + <what you did> + <why you did it>. Don’t repeat your action verbs, and even if you had the same role across projects highlight the differences.
- This should go without saying, but I see it so often that I need to bring it up. Only include technical projects or previous work experience that you actually want to talk about! If you were let go from a job or hated it, don’t put it on your resume.
Instead, include the projects you’ve enjoyed working on or learned a lot from.
- Here’s a list of some things not to do:
– Include any images or weird graphics, machines can’t read them
– Try to be funny, this often doesn’t work and can be a red flag
– Lie or embellish, if you haven’t done something please don’t list it
– Focus on school too much, unless you are intentionally looking for an internship
- Add in a little bit of hobbies or personal interests. I think it’s okay, and great, to include a bit about yourself. When I’m warming up at the beginning of an interview I like to talk about what interests a person has. If they have hobbies that we are or that I know something about I’ll dive in here.
While this section doesn’t need to be long, I’d argue that it’s one of the most important sections. Include a list of a few different things. No need to be verbose, a single sentence or a short list are fine.
Are you looking for feedback on your resume? Join my slack community and we’ll look it over for you. Here are a few other resources I think can help with your search. I wanted to focus on the two areas I see students struggle with the most.
The first is bullet point writing! Check out both of these for some additional help if you’re having a hard time writing clean bullet points.
- Columbia University has a great article covering effective strategies for writing bullet points.
- While I find The Muse a bit spammy, they do have good career focused content and this article on bullet points has good examples.
Here are a couple of resources related to Google Docs. Again, keep it simple and don’t use any of the templates with bars or meters.
- The Muse has some really clean templates, I like these a ton.
- This is a list of 19 templates (not all great, simple is better!) from Hloom.
Go forth and good luck. As always, please subscribe below for more content helping you level up your engineering career! And if you have any questions or find other great content please pass it along so I can share. Have a wonderful day.