Applying for software jobs can be stressful and time consuming. One of most stressful components is writing a resume. A lot of people struggle to write strong resumes and end up paying the price by getting passed over for tech interviews.
In this article, I will provide tips on how to write a strong resume and how to avoid common mistakes made by applicants.
🔗What is the applicant tracking system?
The applicant tracking system will collect and sort through thousands of resumes and help determine which ones match the job description posted. The program will look for keywords in the job listing and search for those keywords in the resume. If there are a lot of missing keywords and skills from your resume it will be rejected by the ATS software. But if your experience and skills match the job listing then it a recruiter or hiring manager will take a look.
🔗Why are ATS programs used?
When companies post job listings online, they will often receive hundreds of resumes and it can be overwhelming for hiring managers to go through all of them. The role of the ATS program is to filter out applicants who don't meet the listed criteria for the job.
🔗How to get past the ATS programs
When you are applying or jobs, it is important that you list of few key skills and keywords mentioned in the job listing so you will have a better chance of making it past the ATS program. It is best to tailor your resume for each job instead of sending out generic resumes to hundreds of companies.
You should also use consistent formatting and use standard fonts like Helvetica, Garamond, or Georgia. Lastly, avoid using tables or columns because they don't always work best for ATS programs.
🔗How to format your file for ATS programs
It is important to submit a resume in either a .docx or .pdf file so it can be easily read by ATS programs. Submitting our resume in a format that dosn't work well for ATS programs can lead to automatic rejection by the software.
🔗What to include on your resume
Your resume should include these key sections:
- Contact information
- Work experience
- Software projects
At the top of your resume, you should include your name, phone, email address and location. If you are in the United States, just list your City and State. If you are based elsewhere, just list your city and country. There is no reason to include your full mailing address on your resume because that could lead to privacy or even discrimination issues.
You can also choose to list your GitHub profile or Linkedin profile under the contact section. If you have a website or portfolio, you can list that here as well.
Under your contact information, you can have a short 2-3 sentence summary. This is meant to be a section to explain why your experience and skills make you qualified for the job. Remember that recruiters and hiring managers will only spend a few seconds on your resume. Focus on making an impactful short summary that recruiters will want to read.
If you have a degree, even if it is not in computer science, you should definitely list that on your resume. If you don't have a lot of work experience, it is ok to list your education at the top. But if you have some work experience, you will want to list that first.
When it comes to online courses, I would suggest being selective about what to list. If you have AWS or Oracle certifications, then list those. But if you have a whole bunch of Udemy courses, then I would personally avoid listing those. There is nothing with Udemy courses, but it is important to remember that recruiters and hiring managers will place more weight on college degrees and certifications from large tech companies.
When it comes to your work experience you want to focus on the contributions you made to the team and the value you brought to the company. Be specific about what you contributed to the projects because potential employers want to see what you can bring to their teams.
In this section, you want to focus on substantial side projects you have built and been involved with. Avoid listing every single small class project you did in an hour or so. Only list projects where you have invested significant amount of time and effort into. Remember that this is a chance to show off your skills.
When it comes to listing your skills, focus on the core soft skills and technologies you have worked with the most. Remember that any technology you list on your resume is fair game during a technical interview. If you haven't worked with that technology enough to be comfortable discussing it in an interview, then avoid placing it on your resume.
Here are some free resumes templates you can look at to help you write your resume.
🔗Mistakes to avoid in your resume
There are a few important mistakes you need to avoid doing in your resume to help ensure that it is not immediately rejected by potential employers.
If your resume is filled with spelling errors, it sends the message that you produce sloppy work and don't care about the finished product. When you have finished a draft of your resume, make sure to read it out loud to catch obvious spelling and grammatical errors. Then share it with your friends, family and others in your network to look it over too. A fresh pair of eyes can help you catch errors that you might have missed the first time around. You can also use tools like Grammarly to help check your work.
🔗Unprofessional email address
When you are applying for these software jobs, you need to come across as a professional in every way possible. This includes having a professional email address. If you are still using an email address from high school like "email@example.com" or "firstname.lastname@example.org" ,then please change that.
It doesn't matter how good of a software engineer you are. If your email address is unprofessional, recruiters will throw your resume away. Take the time to set up a professional sounding email address so people will take you seriously. A good safe format would be your name followed by the email provider.
For example: email@example.com
🔗Head shots on a resume
In the United States, it is not encouraged to include an image on your resume. Some recruiters and hiring managers will view that as unprofessional while others unfortunately will discriminate against you for your photo. Also, a lot of applicant tracking systems don't work well with images.
It is best to leave it off your resume and just focus on your skills and experience. If recruiters or hiring managers really want to see an image, they can visit your Linkedin profile or other social media sites.
🔗Listing to many technologies on your resume
If you are a software engineer with 15+ years of experience, it is expected that you will have worked with a variety of technologies. But if you are just starting out with very little work experience, avoid listing every single technology you have programmed "hello world" in. Listing dozens of technologies in a short time frame could come across as scattered and unfocused to a hiring manager. Make sure to just list the those you have built substantial projects with, or have worked with professionally.
For example, I took a couple of classes early on that involved C and Python. But I don't list them on my resume because I only spent a few weeks on them and never built anything substantial. So I chose to only list technologies that I have worked with and am comfortable talking about in interviews.
🔗Summaries are to long
Writing a short clear, and concise resume summary takes a lot of time and effort. A big mistake would be to write a summary that is too long and not filled with any substance. Keep your summaries to three sentences, and talk about the value you bring to companies. If recruiters or hiring managers see a summary that has multiple paragraphs, they will just skip over it.
🔗Avoid stuffing our resume with keywords just to pass the ATS software
Some people will stuff their resume with keywords in an effort to get pass the ATS programs. The issue with that is when a recruiter or hiring mangers sees that, it will be obvious that the applicant is just stuffing their application with keywords. Avoid doing this practice because it usually leads to automatic rejections by hiring managers.
No one enjoys having to work on their resume but it is important part of the hiring process. Take the time to draft a strong resume and get feedback from friends and family before submitting it to potential employers.