Tips on applying for a Software Engineer position
A good part of my role as CTO has been building a software development team. During this process, I've seen all kinds of resumes and all kinds of applicants. I thought I’d write this up to help applicants improve their application approach. I’m going to try to skip the obvious that’s been repeated ad-nauseam across the net.
These tips are focused on US based positions. Tweak accordingly for your country.
- You don’t need a photo on your resume. Please remove it if you have one — this is not a modeling position.
- If you have a photo on your email profile, it will probably show up with your application. If you choose to keep the photo, it should be of yourself, by yourself. A smile is great, but limit it to that, don’t make funny faces. Keep it professional, you don’t have to wear a suit, but please do not wear a wife-beater (sleeveless undershirt) https://mic.com/articles/139771/why-are-we-still-calling-white-tank-tops-wife-beaters#.BlQiJSAHZ either. It should not include other people — even your significant other, child, dog or pet rock. Leave that for instagram.
- Use an email address that has your full name in it — funky ones are not only not particularly professional, but not easy to find when I’m searching for you later. Numbers after your name is fine, leave the cutesy email addresses for personal contacts. If your name is John Doe, a good email address would be email@example.com. A gmail tip: gmail ignores the dots in your email address, johndoe1007@gmail is identical to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Make sure your email client uses your full name when sending emails.
- Remove irrelevant content from your resume, no body cares if you pushed shopping carts or waited tables before, it’s irrelevant to this position.
- Don’t list hobbies, passions, unless relevant to the job.
- I don’t care if your resume is one page or five, but it needs to be easy to read and scan for relevant information. Ideally you want a resume for each job type. Say you’re applying for an android developer job — don’t remove your web experience, but highlight the android experience, make my job easier.
- Make sure you’ve actually attached your resume.
- Make a serious effort to make your resume look presentable. No, you may not be applying for a designer job, but your job will reflect the work of a designer and an eye for detail is important. You don’t have to take design courses, but pick a decent typeface, don’t use Times News Roman, Arial and I shouldn't even have to mention this — Comic Sans. Use one and only one typeface — don’t mix multiple typefaces across the resume. Make sure your bullets and tables are aligned. Make sure there’s adequate spacing between sections. Make sure a section heading is not one page and the content on the next, move the whole section to the next page if this happens. The easiest thing to do is find an online template — search, there are many out there.
- Colors are OK, but don’t use hard to read or garish ones — unless you have a good eye for design, this might be better used from templates.
- Don’t title your resume with Resume, or Curriculum Vitae, I know what it is, put your full name there.
- Leave out the meaningless objective, instead put in a 2–5 line summary of yourself.
- Make sure your resume looks good when seen from the GMail viewer. Send it to yourself and see how it looks for your recipient. Some resumes get mangled and make you look bad. While you’re at it, make sure you test with the Microsoft Office Online viewer as well.
- You don’t need an address on your resume, but definitely include your city and state, email, phone and other contact info like linkedin, skype, etc, if you use it. If you’re applying for a position in another country, remote or otherwise, mention the country where you live.
- Make sure all links are clickable and work correctly.
- If you want to show case an app, try to put it on the app/play store. Try to have this under your name — it makes it obvious that it’s yours. Having this under a company name yours or otherwise, makes it harder to prove that it’s yours. This is far more likely to be looked at than looking at the source-code you have on github. If you are applying for a job in a different country, make sure it’s accessible from the target country. Don’t put screenshots within your resume, attach a separate document.
- Don’t use emojis, lol or smiley faces in your resume or cover letter
- Don’t refer to yourself in the third person — “Mr. So&So has created this wonderful app” on your resume and especially in your cover letter. It sounds ridiculous. Either be direct and say “I have created this wonderful app” or don’t refer to yourself at all and say “Created this wonderful app”.
- A cover letter is highly encouraged. Keep it brief — 3–5 lines. Mention directly related experience that would make you a good fit. Mention anything that makes you stand out positively. Don’t ramble, don’t mention irrelevancies. Cover letters should absolutely be targeted to the company and position you’re applying. Be careful not to mention the wrong company’s name in the cover letter.
- This one should be obvious, but you’d be surprised how many resumes I receive in foreign languages. If you’re applying for a job in the US, make sure your cover letter and resume are in English.