What I Expect from a Developer’s Resumé

On a recent local programmers meetup we discussed the topic of writing a developer’s CV in such a way that it allows one to get to an interview past the initial screening. As this is closely related to my posts on interviewing developers, I will cover what we discussed and what are the things, which when seen in a programmer’s resume make the team-lead in me eager to meet its owner in person.

For all technical positions the first thing that both the recruiter and the team lead will search in a CV is work experience with relevant technologies and tools. This is the easiest one, because if you have it you just need to make it stand out. To do so make sure that you resume has the keywords that describe the technologies that you would like to work with. While people are quite different from Google search engine, when I look for a new hire I inevitably have to scan dozens of CVs and the easier it is for me to spot the names of the technologies that I need, the higher the chance that I will pay attention to the candidate. Trivial, right? Just remember that you have to be honest about what you have experience with and what you don’t — if you’re caught lying about these things, you will likely be wiped out from the list of candidates at the same instant.

On the other side, a resume consisting solely of keywords will be even less successful than a resume with no single one. That’s because merely “knowing” all the buzzwords doesn’t make you a professional, while having lots of achievements in the field of software development does. Here make sure that every job or internship mentioned in the CV lists every one of your accomplishments on that position — ideally, focus on what you have done instead of what you have been doing. Moreover, don’t stop on the jobs — remember all the pet projects that you had done alone or with your friends, remember every conference that you talked at and the articles that you have written — all of these underline the experience that you reported and show that you’re a person of achievement.

Such activities as pet projects and extra education — an open-source library that you helped to develop or a course that you have taken online — also show that you are willing and capable of learning new skills and technologies. That’s especially good if these go beyond your main programming language or framework of choice, because breadth of experience demonstrates your ability to adapt to changing circumstances and employ different mind-models and approaches. Mentioning such activities in a resume also draws a potential employers’ attention to one more thing — your fascination with the profession and desire to work and learn beyond your day job, which by itself puts you in front of the crowd.

Another important note is that all of us look for reliable employees, which in particular means that we want them to stay with us as long as possible. Planting a developer into the team and bringing him or her up to speed may take an awful lot of time, so when the process starts I want to be as confident about the result as possible. Essentially this means that a CV consisting of a long list of short jobs — e.g. those under 18 months each — will at least get me concerned. That’s not something that you can change about your resume right now, but the thing is certainly worth remembering when you think over your next career move. I don’t mean that you should stick to one job for decades, but after you’re sort of settled with your career people may expect that you don’t change employers too often.

Finally, the resume must allow you to express yourself in a clear and comprehensible manner. In particular this means that you should adhere to the generally adopted standards, such as listing your jobs from the most to the least recent one, displaying a photo of yours and so on. However, there is more to this, because to show that you’re a person worth speaking to you must be polite and caring. In written communication that means that you don’t brag too much, your language is good, its style is appropriate and there aren’t many typos. You will also want to save your interviewers the time needed to find you at Facebook, Twitter, GitHub and elsewhere, showing that you have things to share and don’t put crazy stuff up for public display.

It’s that simple in regards to the contents of a resume, but I also have a couple suggestions in regards to the process of producing it. First of all, be sure to use external help when preparing the resume. Simply ask a friend, a teacher or even me to review the resume — an extra pair of eyes will spot mistakes and unclear sentences, which will help you look better. Some people prefer to ask a professional to prepare a CV for them. Here I can’t advice much as I never used such a service, but it may well be a good move. In my experience, though, having someone proofread the CV is just enough. The last advice is similarly simple, even though less obvious — prepare your resume in advance and always have it ready. You never know when you will have a chance to apply for your dream job and don’t want the need to write up a whole new CV to be an obstacle for that. This is not mention the fact that from time to time a friend of yours may run into you shouting something like “We desperately need a good programmer on that project! Could you send me your resume right now?!” More opportunities is better, so be prepared.

As you can see, there is no rocket science about producing a good resume and all of the above advice aligns well with what common sense would suggest. At the same time, if you follow these simple guidelines you will help recruiters and managers spot what they look for in your CV and thus increase your chance to hit an interview. That’s it for this article and I hope that the advice is valuable. If you still have any questions on what to include in your resume, please ask in the comments. If, instead, you have a better idea in regards to what a good resume should look like, be sure to share it here!