Even though demand for software engineers is sky-high at the moment, and companies are pulling out all the stops to attract qualified candidates, you’ll still need to demonstrate to potential employers that you have the skills and background necessary to do the job.
A key element in your quest for a new, high-paying job: A “results-driven” resume. In this guide, we’ll cover the major steps to creating an effective software engineer resume, as well as delve into some of the things hiring managers want in a software engineer.
Characteristics of an Effective Software Engineering Resume
“What have you built?” That’s what hiring managers want to know when they review resumes for software engineers, explained Dave Fecak, founder of Résumé Raiders and former recruiter for tech startups.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a product that you built from scratch that had a positive impact on the company’s top and bottom lines, a website feature, or an internal product to optimize a business process, Fecak continued. What's important is to show a prospective employer that you have succeeded in producing software, applications and products that are “being used in the wild.”
What’s the key to doing that well? Including lots of details in your resume. “You need to be somewhat specific about what you built, who uses it and why it is important,” Fecak said. Here are some examples:
- Wrote a React-based analytics web app to support the membership team that enables them to view custom or predefined segments and perform exploratory analysis to gain insights on consumers.
- Designed and coded APIs and a map-based UI to monitor county-level unemployment rates to enable better understanding of the pandemic’s sales impact where members are located. Built using Python, React, D3, BigQuery.
Looking at the questions asked at software engineering job interviews shows that employers are looking for more than programming skills. The ability to make others better through teaching, coaching and influencing can give you an edge over the competition.
Realistically, not everyone is going to be able to show how they impacted customers or played a role in increasing revenue or profits, Fecak noted. However, helping to improve productivity, reduce staff costs, promote efficiency and improve output is just as valuable.
For example, describe how you influenced teams in improving engineering discipline and introducing scalable development practices. Or how you used top code analysis tools and code review tools to deliver high-performing (and secure) code faster. Here’s an example:
- Improved release and deployment processes and leveraged Terraform for deployment of resources and apps to GCP, enabling zero-downtime deployments.
Showing the capacity to learn new concepts and new skills very quickly and adapt can also make your resume more appealing to hiring managers. If you have knowledge and skills in a variety of areas—whether that’s cloud administration, data analysis products or creating embedded code for a refrigerator—be sure to include them in your skills listing, as well as specific examples in your software engineer resume work experience section.
Define Yourself or Be Defined
The professional summary at the top of a software engineer resume is the first thing a reviewer will see. Based on what they read, they make quick judgments about your proficiency level, which influences how they interpret the rest of the information in your resume.
Hiring managers read for biases and stereotypes, Fecak explained. Therefore, a hiring manager may peg you as more of a developer or a team leader, depending on how you frame yourself. To avoid falling into the trap of being defined too early (and restrictively) by a reviewer, create a high-level summary that only “teases” specific accomplishments. Fecak provided this example:
Software Engineer with a six-year track record of success in delivering high-quality software solutions in complex and fast-paced environments. Proven ability to contribute across the full development lifecycle and collaborate with cross-functional teams and consultants that include local and offshore talent. Driven by a passion for professional development and helping others reach their full potential.
How to Write a Work Experience Summary
To provide context or the “backstory” for the bullets that describe your experience and accomplishments, create a brief description for each company and position in your work experience section, describing your major goals and why you were hired or what you were promoted to do.
When it comes to bullets, write for humans. Remember that software engineer resumes should be values-oriented, which requires bullets that are achievement-based as opposed to task-based. Don’t make them laundry lists of buzzwords; make sure they convey a complete message.
Here’s an example:
Principal Software Engineer, COMPANY July 2021 - present
COMPANY builds an energy management solution powered by machine learning.
Recruited by a newly hired VP of Engineering after a reorganization to serve on a core team hired to rebuild and improve flexibility and scalability of COMPANY’s IoT solution that tracked real-time usage of power sockets and enabled on/off scheduling to reduce power consumption and carbon footprint.
- Built a flexible API leveraging PostgreSQL and InfluxDB (a time series database) that enabled the aggregation of metrics (e.g. energy consumption, carbon produced, current draw and voltage) from any selection of sensors.
- Designed and built a system that synchronized rule schedules to smart plugs to control on/off times for each socket. Implemented as a Kubernetes deployment written in Go that watches a ActiveMQ queue.
- Built workstation utilization capabilities to enable customers to understand when and how often equipment was in use. Implemented as a Kubernetes cron job that identifies deployed power strips, determines which have computers or monitors plugged in, and analyzes usage activity to determine arrival and departure time.
Final Tips and Characteristics of an Effective Software Engineer Resume
The length of your resume doesn't matter quite as much as the content. However, its best to focus on the last 10 to 15 years of your career. If necessary, provide an additional list of jobs at the end of the document.
Match the job description: To capture the attention of automated and human reviewers, make simple modifications/customizations to match the requirements in the job description—including the hard and soft skills, types of design, mediums and the organizational culture – before hitting ‘Send.’ Even better, use a free tool like Jobscan or Résumé Worded to compare your résumé to a specific job description, make changes, add the right keywords, and get past applicant tracking systems.
Provide a skills summary or toolbox: Provide a summary of your technical skills and show how you applied them in your work experience summary.
Provide work samples: Provide a link to samples or a portfolio that reflect your work, and are representative of how you work.
Be sure to include certifications and coursework: You should include top certifications, as well as coursework that demonstrates expertise in must-have technologies and a passion for continuous learning. (In addition, more specialization and skills will allow you to potentially negotiate for a higher salary.)
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