September 26, 2019

3 Aspects of Software Engineering Resumes Frequently Neglected by Applicants

What Software Engineers Most Often Neglect in Their Resumes

  • A list of the languages, frameworks, and tools used in each role or for each project (instead of only having them lumped together in the skills section)
  • A succinct overview of the primary challenges they faced, actions they took to overcome those challenges, and the results of their efforts for each role
  • Correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation

What You Should Do About It

You need to understand your audience before you can effectively write a resume for it. So let’s get you thinking like a recruiter by taking a deeper look at which aspects of software engineering resumes recruiters think are most often neglected by applicants.

Thanks to SurveyMonkey and LinkedIn, I was able to ask this question of 100 Boston area tech recruiters over the last few months. Here were their answers:

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This tells me that recruiters are saying, “Hi! Please, help us help you. We want to hire you. In fact, it’s our job to hire you. So please, describe the challenge, project, or cool thing you did in layman’s terms and reference which technologies, processes, procedures, or frameworks you used to accomplish that cool thing. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.”

And why are recruiters so focused on correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation? It's because many hiring managers believe that your level of accuracy in this area is a reflection on your attention to detail.

Wondering what those 27 comments in the "other" category are? They're listed below for your reference! (Note: These answers were copied and pasted directly from the survey in the order they were received, so please forgive any formatting inconsistencies, that the order may seem random instead of logical, and that some of the comments may seem to contradict each other. I also corrected a few spelling and grammar errors and left out 2 answers, one wishing me good luck with the survey and the other saying "all of the above").

  1. Keeping things brief, to the point, and accurate to what they have done specifically (not their team).
  2. In general we look for well formatted, easy to read resumes. Including a brief synopsis of the company is great so you can better understand someone's role. We want to quickly look at a resume and understand what someone has done and what they want to do next.
  3. Most candidates have a general CV / resume used to catch the eye of a recruiter, but lack a customized resume to the job they are applying for. All companies are not the same. Don't use one resume for all positions.
  4. Simple, to the point.
  5. A skill section is good at the top to get immediate attention, but then you must put in the body of your resume where, when how you used these skills, secondly your basic responsibilities / duties, thirdly accomplishments & actions. What managers look for most are: patterns / track record, education (training, certs, etc.) & projects completed! Latest technology (even if it is hobby or volunteer) and yes it should be visually appealing with no spelling errors and brief; a resume should be a "flirt" (get the date / invite) save the life story for the "date" interview.
  6. Please list every single skill / technology used at each job! It may not seem relevant to you, but hiring managers find it extremely relevant.
  7. Key Words to match the job description so it gets noticed more by the ATS [applicant tracking system] too much white space overly verbose descriptions
  8. Candidate should mentioned technical skills in the project.
  9. Employment they require sponsorship to work for my company?
  10. Most of the time candidates resumes list the job description that was used to hire them. That doesn't tell me what you did and how amazing YOU personally are. Your resume is where you should brag about your accomplishments!
  11. Understanding the details of a project an SE worked on rather than just a list of tools/technologies used.
  12. Skills they have been working on matter the most and these skills should be visible in their project responsibilities not in environment or tools used or Summary sections.
  13. A list of languages/tools/frameworks doesn't tell me if you've used them to solve problems, or used a technology once five years ago and then never touched it again. Experienced recruiters/sourcers that understand the technology can put two and two together, but most don't have the time, knowledge, and/or patience to put it all together.
  14. Also some neglect to identify how they used those languages/frameworks. A list is great but take the clients through your process. Software Engineering resumes can be as long as needed.
  15. Contact info sometimes gets forgotten Visa status, some software engineers include it and it's been appreciated, but not seeing it reminds me that I actually need to ask the question.
  16. Keep the resume consistent when formatting. Also the more information and technical language the better. Put it in the skills, in the bullets. The more times those words come up the easier it is to see where that experience comes from and what it is.
  17. They forget KISS . . . keep it simple stupid. They add all kinds of tables, pictures, text boxes, unusual formatting and they don't realize that when these highly formatted resumes are sent through an ATS [applicant tracking system] that they are often completely unreadable. It can be the best resume in the world but if it comes through and is unreadable . . . it does them NO good. Hey Engineers, I'm genuinely curious  how do you feel about this comment that blames the applicant instead of the system?
  18. A brief overview of the company they worked for can help when sourcing for engineers with industry-specific experience. Also, I find many SW Engineer's resumes, specifically those who work many contract positions, can be exceptionally long and redundant, listing the same experience in different wording under the same position. This can be distracting and time consuming to read through for both recruiters and hiring managers.
  19. Highlighting a resume to better reflect the job description. Unfortunately, we often have to work with "gate keepers" who don't understand how technology is related to each other and if they don't see the specific skills required in the job, then a candidate is rejected.
  20. Using the first person so people understand a candidates specific contribution to a project in a job.
  21. Information about how they fit in with the team, who the customer was, what value they added.
  22. Their bullets don’t reflect the software, programming language, or other technologies there were using or programming in.
  23. Engineers often do not include a link to a repository of their projects/code that can be viewed easily. Engineers often do not describe the complexity or significance of the system or product they are working on very well either and default to acronyms to fill in space.
  24. Tell me what you used (languages, frameworks, tools) to complete particular projects. Example: Utilized language X to with framework Y to complete whatever task it may be.
  25. A good overview of what projects they were involved with and what their responsibilities were within that team.

Recruiters: What else do you think SWEs can do to write a resume that sourcers, recruiters, and hiring manager can all understand and appreciate?

Software Engineers: What do you wish recruiters would do differently? How do you feel about some of the conflicting opinions listed in the "Other" section?

Robin Guidry is Leading the talent acquisition efforts for R&D at Acquia. Follow her on Twitter: @RobinGuidry42.