Updated in 2023
Software engineering recruiters are inundated with resumes that often look exactly alike. Microsoft or Google resume templates display the same information over and over again. If you can’t stand out from a six-second perusal: your resume runs the risk of being put aside. If your software engineering resume catches their eye, you need the best possible content to move you forward.
Our experts have looked over thousands of resumes, as both interviewers and mentors. Personally, I was a software engineering manager prior to joining Pathrise 3 years ago, so I have a lot of experience. In this article, I am going to outline the 2 biggest mistakes that I see and share the most important tips for software engineer resumes. Avoiding these mistakes and following these tips will help your resume stand out from the crowd and move you from application to interview.
The 2 biggest mistakes on software engineer resumes and how to avoid them:
Mistake 1 – Grunt vs. impact
Grunt is our internal word for resume points that only show what you were assigned to do and what you did in the role. You’re essentially describing the grunt work, but that is usually not a good description of how you spent your time in any past experience or project. Grunt statements usually look something like ‘Developed X for Y’ or ‘Worked on X using Y’. Grunt statements are sometimes a necessary evil, but for the most part, they should be avoided.
Instead, optimize your resume by making use of…
Impact statements. These are statements that focus on your accomplishments and results. Highlight your impact on projects. They usually follow a structure that’s more like ‘Accomplished X by implementing Y which led to Z’ or ‘Developed X to accomplish Y, resulting in Z’. This takes up a bit more space in your resume but pays serious dividends. Analyze job descriptions when writing these statements to mirror some language of the values and goals for added impact.
- For example, a resume for an engineering position should add much more technical language and deep explanation than a resume that’s focused on customer relations.
Mistake 2 – Lack of quantification
We know it might be hard to find numbers to quantify projects that haven’t been launched or weren’t that successful. However, if you ask the right questions, you can find the right information. Here are some questions that should help you quantify your work.
What was the scale?
- How many devices did I serve?
- What was the number of scenarios/permutations/tests that I considered/handled?
- How large was my dataset or many rows of data did I analyze?
- Did I implement different methodologies and if so, how many??
- How many people did I manage or teams did I act as a liaison for?
What did I achieve as a result?
- How many users did I launch to or will I launch to?
- What did I produce in value?
- By what percentage did I improve our old process?
- Who used it? How many users/groups?
- How many many hours did I save the company?
- What percentage of our old process did I replace?
- The best resumes combine the scale and results of your work in bullet points. Depending on the particular item to which you refer, it can take up more than one bullet point on your resume. Think of it as one to set up the problem and the other to elaborate upon the solution. Work in scale and results where they are appropriate to make your software engineering resume really pop.
Top 5 tips to make your software engineer resume stand out
Know your fonts
Sans serif fonts (fonts without feet) are more modern-looking, which is why we recommend them for software engineer resumes. When you use these, you will give the right first impression for the role.
Don’t be afraid to use colors
Colors help draw the eye to important parts of your resume, which is helpful when recruiters are skimming. We recommend that you use cool colors like blues, greens, purples, and teal. Avoid warm colors because they can feel too aggressive or unprofessional. Stick with one color throughout, and remember to save it for the most important parts of your resume
Readability is key
When it comes to formatting, our most important piece of advice is that your resume needs to be readable. Make sure you have a maximum of 2 columns. In addition, never use white or light-colored text. If you include links to your portfolio, GitHub, and/or additional websites you’ve worked on (and you should!) ensure that they are clickable so that your work can be seen.
Emphasize important keywords
Recruiters and hiring managers are not looking at your resume for a long time. Make their jobs easier by highlighting the keywords that matter most to them. If you can, tailor your resume for each specific job. If you are applying for a position that requires certain languages or skills, ensure that they are easy to pick out. Plus, you should match your keywords exactly to the job description.
Context is key
A frequent mistake that applicants make is not providing enough context to their work. Make sure to include the important keywords, but also talk about the purpose of the product, app, or system you worked on. Keywords add great context. Add a line under the job title that lists the technologies used in the work you describe. This makes it easier for recruiters to scan through the resume and glean important information. The context in the description is great and is for the moment when someone takes a closer look at your resume.
Pathrise is a career accelerator that works with students and professionals 1-on-1 so they can land their dream job in tech. With these tips and the addition of cold emails, fellows in our program receive 3x as many responses to their applications.
If you want to work with any of our mentors 1-on-1 to optimize your software engineer resume or with any other aspect of the job search, become a Pathrise fellow.