Land Your Dream JavaScript Job with a Better Resume

Eric Elliott
Jan 23 · 7 min read

I recently published an article titled “What to Pay JavaScript Developers in 2020”, with lots of stats about developer salaries and retention. If you suspect you’re being underpaid, take a look. It may be time to brush up your resume. That’s where this article comes in.

I build software teams for a living, and I’ve sifted through more resumes than I can count. These tips are coming from the perspective of a hiring manager.

Your resume is generally your first (and often last) chance to make a good impression.

Your resume has one job: Get you a meeting.

Here’s how to get that done:

Keep your resume experience to 1 page. Your resume is a highlight reel, not a documentary. Resume evaluators are glancing at resumes for a few seconds, not carefully reading each one. They’re looking for a few bits of information. Make it easy to find by keeping your resume short. Senior developers (10+ years) should feel free to use a second page for education/projects/accomplishments. Don’t list anything that won’t make a meaningful impact on a hiring decision.

Make it easy to discover your experience level. Include it in a 1-line intro at the top of your resume, just under your name.

Are you a junior developer with a passion for learning? (0–3 year’s experience, some knowledge of the language and tech stack). Say so at the top of your resume. Hiring managers often look for junior developers to pair with senior engineers in order to increase bandwidth, save money, and foster a culture of learning and mentorship on the team.

Junior developers are valuable. Instead of trying to hide it (tip: you can’t), own it. Use it as a selling point.

Are you a mid level developer? (1–3 year’s experience with a good working knowledge of the language and tech stack). Drop “Junior” from your 1-line intro.

Seniors engineers are the most in-demand, highest paid, and hardest to find developers. The average difference between a junior developer salary and a senior engineer salary is $40k, and it’s not uncommon for senior engineers to earn double what a junior earns. If you’re senior, say so in a one-sentence summary at the top of your resume. If you’re junior, level up as fast as you can.

As long as you’re qualified, say you’re senior, even if your current job title doesn’t use the word. A senior engineer will have a minimum 3+ year’s experience and a mastery of the language and tech stack that can only come from dedicated study and thousands of hours of practice. Managers prefer to see 5+ year’s experience for senior roles, but will make exceptions if you’re exceptionally good.

A developer with fewer than 5 year’s experience can get exceptionally good by constantly studying at the boundaries of their current skills and abilities. Engineers who constantly push their skills can be much more productive after 3 years than others with 10 year’s+. Don’t let a couple years hold you back.

Warning: If you say you’re senior on your resume, you’d better have the chops to back it up. DevAnywhere.io offers mock interviews and evaluation services. Drop us a line with the subject “mock interview” for details.

Worked for some recognizable brands? Make it easy to find those brand names. Put company and brand names in bold.

Experience section. Focus on related jobs. In the description, try to mention major responsibilities and results. Did you supervise developers? How many? Did you double users while you were there? Say so. Make a change that improved conversion rates by 35%? Quantify your value. Did you mentor other developers? Share the sharing. Keep it short (2–3 lines each job) and make it count. Feel free to use a few words to list the major components of the tech stack and process (e.g., React+Redux, Node, TDD, CI/CD).

If you’ve been at the same job for more than 5 years, and you haven’t kept up with modern best practices and tech stack developments, you might want to explore your options. You can probably find a better job with better pay and avoid falling too far behind.

Will this be your first job? Replace the experience section with an overview of your personal and educational projects. Build a good example app to prove you can code and throw it up on GitHub.

Do you have gaps in your resume? Stop that today. Always be working (unless you’re on vacation). When you’re between jobs, find freelance work. Between freelance gigs? Study your craft. Get yourself a DBA and go find yourself some freelance clients. No more resume gaps to explain.

Make sure you have a small portfolio project mainly created by you available on GitHub. If you have code available, hiring managers will definitely want to look at it or have it evaluated by the engineers on the team.

This is a great chance to prove that you get things done with the tech stack in question. Your best chance of a tech stack match is to build a React+Redux sample app (the most popular framework choice by a landslide in 2020).

If your sample project isn’t something you can be proud of, leave it off your resume. Instead of helping you, it could hurt you.

The team will be looking for red flags like missing unit tests, poor architecture, etc, so TDD that example project and use best practices.

Bonus: throw it up on Zeit Now and link to a live deploy at the top of the README so evaluators can play with the UI.

Education section. If you’ve got experience, keep this part short. Unless the school is Stanford or MIT, few people are going to pay much attention to this part of your resume after you’ve racked up 3+ year’s experience.

If you’re self-taught, list some of the key resources you used to learn your craft. Don’t worry if you don’t have a college degree. Less than half of professional software developers have a related degree. There are a handful of hiring managers who insist on degrees, but they’re (thankfully) in the minority. What you do need are skills, so practice hard.

Achievements or awards? Win any awards? Published books? Did you speak at a prestigious software development conference? Do you mentor other developers or work as a tech advisor for a hot startup? List the relevant ones. Remember, highlight reel.

Open Source Software (OSS). Not everybody can contribute to OSS, but it’s always a great bonus. If you’ve done it, and it’s good/useful/interesting, list it. If it’s used by nobody, poorly coded, or not that interesting, leave it off.

Please think twice about signing employment contracts that would forbid you contributing to open source projects, or overly-broad language that would allow your employer to claim ownership of anything you did, including side-projects you create on your own time and your own equipment.

Note: Do not create side-projects and open source software on your employer’s equipment, or they could end up owning it.

No flashy designs. A resume should look good, but the focus should be on the information. If you can make it look great without distracting, absolutely do that. That’s a fantastic skill that you should demonstrate. But unless you’re interviewing for the Museum of Modern Art or Marvel Comics, let the design play a supporting role, rather than steal focus.

Example Resume

Joe Coder

joecoder@example.com | https://github.com/hirejoecoder

Senior software engineer. JavaScript expert with a passion for drones and AI.

Experience

ACME Software Company — Senior JavaScript Engineer 2014-present
Led full stack Node/React/Redux app that lets users design & order custom widgets on their cell phones. Result: 60% increased engagement. 100% increase in order size.

Joe Coder Software — Freelance Software Engineering 2012-present
Full stack React software engineering for clients including BMW, Pepsi, Warner Music Group, etc.

DroneRacer — Senior JavaScript Engineer 2010–2012
Built user interface using Backbone that allows users to plan race courses for professional drone races. Refactored from jQuery spaghetti, and improved dev UX and team morale.

RoboShop — Software Engineer 2007–2010
Built a shopping cart using jQuery that allows hobbyists to customize and order robots. Optimized page load times and shopping cart checkout which increased conversion rates by 35%.

Portfolio & OSS

Education

Achievements & Awards

Oscar for best Technical Achievement, “Rise of the Drones” Documentary app.

Next Steps

DevAnywhere.io offers mock interviews with expert mentors experienced with hiring and leading software engineering teams. Service includes:

  • Mock interview
  • Resume reboot
  • Personalized study plan

Interested? Drop us a note and ask about the mock interview service.

Eric Elliott is the author of the books, “Composing Software” and “Programming JavaScript Applications”. As co-founder of EricElliottJS.com and DevAnywhere.io, he teaches developers essential software development skills. He builds and advises development teams for crypto projects, and has contributed to software experiences for Adobe Systems, Zumba Fitness, The Wall Street Journal, ESPN, BBC, and top recording artists including Usher, Frank Ocean, Metallica, and many more.

He enjoys a remote lifestyle with the most beautiful woman in the world.

JavaScript Scene

JavaScript, software leadership, software development, and related technologies.

Thanks to JS_Cheerleader

Eric Elliott

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JavaScript Scene

JavaScript, software leadership, software development, and related technologies.

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