9 Key Things the Hiring Manager Is Looking for on Your Developer Resume
You can have solid tech skills but not know the first thing about writing a killer resume. For example, I’d always worked at startups where resumes were just a formality, but now that I’m a hiring manager in charge of bringing in new developers, I pay a lot of attention to them.
Of course, there’s no such thing as a perfect resume. What works at one company may not impress the hiring manager at another. Every CTO or engineering manager I know has a different set of skills or list of red flags, so unfortunately no list of tips will guarantee you a job.
However, there are several pieces of advice that are universally helpful in crafting a great software development resume. Here are nine of the things that I personally look for:
1. It Should Show Your Career Trajectory
When a hiring manager reviews your application, he’ll want to see a positive and compelling career progression that fits with the role you’re applying for. If your last job was as a junior front-end developer, and now you’re applying for a back-end role, think about why this move makes sense and how employers might interpret it. Does it seem like you’re trying to build full-stack experience? Or does it seem like you’re desperately applying for any and all jobs you can find?
If you’re making a shift, an objective statement can help. Another option: Discuss your passion for—and less obvious experience with—back-end development in your cover letter, too.
2. It Should Be Customized
Along those lines, the story you tell will vary with the position you’re applying for. I recommend writing a separate, master list of all your projects. Then, when it comes time to compile your resume, switch out sections and projects depending on the job you’re applying for.
In other words, if the job listing says “You should be familiar with C#,” add those three-year-old C# projects and delete something less relevant.
3. It Shouldn’t Be Embellished
Customized means you talk about the skills you have and how they relate to a specific role. It does not mean stretch the truth so you look like a dream applicant. You’d be surprised how many developers send me resumes claiming to be “highly experienced in skill X,” but when it comes time to interview, I’m told it’s something they just began learning.
I take this as a sign that an applicant is lying—or completely unaware of his experience level. (Either way, it pretty much ends the interview.) So, be honest, even about the little things.
4. It Should Utilize Keywords
So long as you’re being honest, it’s a good idea to include any keywords on your resume that also appear in the job description. A lot of tech organizations use keyword parsers to filter candidates who match the job description best.
Just remember that after the computer picks you, a human will look at your application too, so read it out loud to see that it sounds natural.
5. It Should Include Links to Professional Sites You Want Employers to Find
Employers will search for your social media profiles and website, so you can make their lives easier by including these links on your resume. (Not to mention, doing this controls what they find—and you never quite know where a Google search will lead.) Additionally, including your beautiful website gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your technical chops!
So, be sure to include a link to your personal website, Linkedin, and GitHub profile pages—as well as any other positive professional sites you maintain.
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6. It Should Prioritize Content Over Aesthetics
I’m not a fan of creative resumes. Yes, every hiring manager differs and sometimes, something crazy will get you hired. But, day in and out, I’ve found that most hiring managers, like me, want candidates who stick out because of their unique experience rather than their resume design flair.
So, as a developer, spend your time outlining your use of the latest programming framework, including a script you wrote to solve an interesting problem, or illustrating the results of your latest projects rather than making it pretty.
7. It Should Be Typo-Free
Don’t freak out about every single word choice, but keep your grammar consistent and for the love of God, spell things correctly. Every computer in the world has spellcheck. Show that you care enough to correct the squiggly red lines on your resume.
Remember: Developers need strong attention to detail, and you want to show that you have that. So even if “writing” isn’t your strong suit, this is an easy opportunity to show that you can catch even the smallest of errors.
8. It Should Not Be Named “Resume”
This tip comes from Erik Martin, who was a hiring manager at Reddit. It sounds obvious, but I’ve also encountered candidates who need this advice a lot lately: What you name your file matters.
People send their resumes via email or upload them to our ATS, and half of them are named “resume.pdf.” Those don’t stand out, and any time I search for it, hundreds of other docs will come up, too. So, be sure to include your full name, too.
9. It Shouldn’t List an Embarrassing Email Address
To set up an interview, most hiring managers will send you an email. But, if you’re using a strange handle (or one that’s the same as your dirty Twitter account), it just could change their minds. I suggest a combination of your first and last names or initials.
Remember, developers are supposed to be tech-savvy. If you’re using a Hotmail account, I will not be impressed with your internet know-how.
It’s true: These tips might not make writing your resume any easier. But, they will help you know that you’re on the right track when you’re submitting an application, and that’s well worth it.
What tips would you add? Tweet me and let me know.
About The Author
Karl is the Chief Technology Officer at The Graide Network, and has several years of experience in management at education technology startups. He's worked with companies from the MVP, pre-revenue stage to the multi-million user mark, and enjoys writing prose as well as code.