7 Tips for the Coding Resume (for Software Engineers)


Hey, you there. Well come on over here and sit down. Welcome back to another episode of the TechLead. This is the second part of coffee time. That’s why the coffee has been watered down. Oh, that’s gross. I might try opening up a coffee shop to sell this stuff. The profit margins must be quite good. I wanted to talk to you guys about seven basic resume tips for the technical coding interview. It’s come to my attention that some of you guys out there – you’ve been sending me resumes to critique, to take a look at and they are extraordinarily bad, hideous and I wanted to make a video just so that in one shot, I could give you guys all a few basic tips to up your game. One thing to know is that the technical resume is very different than the normal resume. There are few things that are different that if you’re new to the game, you’re not going to know about so I’ve seen hundreds of resumes myself and I feel that I can just give you a few basic pointers to help you guys get going. And now, the first thing to know is that this video is sponsored by brilliant.org so check them out, they’re an educational website. They make learning fun with very experienced educators. Check out their website at brilliant.org/techlead. Okay, so the other thing I want you to know is that I’m not a recruiter, okay, so recruiters are often the gatekeepers into a company, they’re perhaps the number one audience for your resume. Since I’m not a recruiter, I don’t really know necessarily what they’re looking for, what their side of the picture is. But there are a number of people who view your resume. I would say about three different people. The first group are the recruiters. After that, the resume goes to the hiring manager sometimes. The hiring manager has life experience, might take a look at your resume and decide whether to bring you on site. Then there’s a third group, the group I belong to. I’m just another interviewer. I’m the engineer, the developer, your colleague, I conduct the interview. Everyone’s looking for different things, so you need to craft your resume kinda for three different audiences and you need to be able to hit all of them. One key thing to note is that in tech, there’s so many resumes. Hundreds of millions of resumes, actually. In order to really process them, people use photos. So that’s tip number one. Make sure that your resume is easily searchable. You’re hitting those keywords. A lot of people will be doing this. The tech resume often has the skills and languages section that just list a bunch of keywords like C++, Java, JavaScript, MySQL, Python, PHP, Objective C, Swift, Android, iOS, Angular, Kotlin, just a whole bunch of different technologies that you think a recruiter may be looking for as they’re trying to filter for a candidate for a specific role. The section is generally prioritized from the most experienced to the least experienced. And this is something that I used to include in my resume as well. But we’ll see in a moment, why I actually decided to remove the skills and languages section from my resume. And I’ll tell you why, in a moment. The second tip is remember that less is more. I strongly recommend that you keep your resume to just one page. The reason is that when I’m sitting across from you interviewing, I have your resume out there in front of me, that’s one page and I’m not going to be flipping through all the time. I mean, sometimes I will be, but it’s better if there’s just one page with a concise list of things that we can talk about, that presents the best version of you. It’s just your highlights, and you’ll find that I think like even Steve Jobs just had a one page resume, you know, like, how many pages do you really need? Take just the best highlights, and just show that. Be concise and cut out anything that you think doesn’t really help your case. Many things can actually make you look worse, like listing things like you got certification level two in Microsoft Excel, may actually show that you are at a lower level than what you should be at, because you had to actually go through all the steps to get that certification. I would say it’s also okay to leave out certain positions, certain projects that you feel don’t really add to your case. You know, like if you’re an Uber driver, it’s a lot like photography. Everyone can take a good picture, but the good photographers know which picture is good, and they only show that. Tip number three is, in my opinion, the less formatting the better. A lot of the really good tech resumes that I’ve seen look very similar to my resume. I’ll show my resume later on and you can just copy that format but once you start getting really creative and doing a bunch of different stuff like putting your photo on there, using multi-column layouts, using italics, crazy fonts, charts, pictures, you know, it just starts looking like amateur hour. And then it starts showing that maybe you’re an insecure person, you’re trying to hide something, maybe you’re trying to distract me with all those flashy colors. People who review resumes review hundreds of millions of them per hour. And they’ve developed a high sense of cynicism. So just show the facts. Also, I would say that a lot of these resumes get scanned in anyway and you want your resume to be scanner friendly. So for me, I limit myself to just using bold fonts to highlight a few things that I think are worthy. Italics, I hear, don’t scan very well. I would also recommend that you export your resume in PDF format. A lot of people send me their resume in Microsoft Word, that docx format and then I struggle to try to open that. And right off the bat, my first impression is – you don’t really know what you’re doing. You don’t understand your audience. You’ve delivered a format to me that is just not really widely used. One easy way to do this is you go into Google docs, write your document, export as PDF, and that’s what I do. Tip number four is to try to avoid exaggerating too much. It is a real turnoff when I’m interviewing somebody, and I can tell that they’re just fronting themselves. If they’re doing that, I’m going to try and challenge them. I’m going to see if I can trick them, see if I can get them in their own trap that they’ve set out for themselves. I want to make them prove themselves, show me that they’re really that good. It becomes very clear if they’re just exaggerating, they say they led some project, but then when I hear them talk about it, it’s not quite like that. You know, not every role is looking for a senior lead. You know, if you’re fresh out of college, people are expecting that. They know that and the role is crafted for somebody of that caliber. That’s entry level, and that’s fine. And for somebody like that, it’s far better to look like somebody who is just eager, excited, really passionate about learning. They know that they don’t know everything yet. They’re humble, and they’re just really ready to learn. That’s great. That’s somebody that I’m looking for, instead of somebody who’s coming here, trying to act like they’re really smart, like they’re arrogant, like they know more than they are. And it seems kind of disgenuine. Along with that, though, I might mention that you want to generally highlight your strengths, not your weaknesses. For myself for a long time, my resume was not actually in chronological order. I put the projects that I was most proud of, the ones I wanted to talk about the most, the ones that were most technically interesting, at the top of my resume. And I think that’s fine. You know, it doesn’t necessarily have to be in chronological order. Tip number five is make sure that the first two to three items on your resume are ones that you can talk about at length. For me, when I sit down in front of a candidate, I want to talk to them a little bit. And usually I only read the first, say, two to three items on your resume. Anything after that seems like old news to me. And I might just pick the first item on the resume and ask you to tell me about it. You want to make sure that it’s understandable and doesn’t contain too much crazy technical jargon. Time after time, I’ve seen resumes and it’s using so many crazy words like “set up the orbits node x engine in order to prevent thruster failure”. I don’t even know what that means? I’m the type of person who will just say, well, if I didn’t understand that, it was your fault. You weren’t clear enough. If I have time, I’m going to try and get you to help clarify some of this technical garbage that you’ve put on your resume, but if there’s just too much of it, then I just can’t make any sense of it at all. One key thing that everybody is looking for here is, what did you do specifically. You want to make sure that that’s clear. It’s not about what your team did. It’s not about what your company is doing. It’s not about what that product is. That’s really irrelevant. It’s about what you did. And resumes contains so much fluff. Everyone’s always trying to sort through it to try to figure out – okay, this project was cool, the team was cool, but, were you cool? What did you contribute? What role did you play? You want to make sure you’re not using really weak verbs like participated in X, helped work on Y, took part in Z. You want to use words like implemented, developed, launched, architected, led, design, things like that. Tip number six is Get some feedback for your resume. You know, it’s funny that in my first few years I didn’t let anybody see my resume. That was private. I didn’t want my friends seeing it, I didn’t want my family seeing it. You know, this was something that was too close to who I was. It showed my weaknesses, my vulnerabilities and even to this day it’s funny that I don’t see the resumes of my family very often. I think that it’s just such a shame that with a little bit of proofreading, you can really up your resume game, you can get a lot of feedback. People can point out things that make you look silly. You really want to make sure you get spelling check, and a grammar check on this stuff. I would encourage you to make it kinda like a competitive game like, let’s see what my resume looks like, let’s see if we can give each other tips, who has the best resume, let’s try and see who can make the best one. Tip number seven is to do what I do. So check out my resume, you can check out the way I format it. For each position, I list the title, the company, the dates, the location, and then the short paragraph explaining what I did. Now the way I do it next to each project, I list the languages that I had used. And I think that this gives a clearer picture about how well I know the languages that I’m using, because if all you do is have a section that just list the languages, you know, you may list that you know, Java. But the funny thing is everybody knows Java. Right? The difference is how well do you know it? And if you can show that you’re using it extensively, time after time, over multiple years, well then, yeah, that’s going to show that your knowledge of Java is actually really good. I personally hate reading these sections on the languages and technologies that you know, because then when I meet the candidate, I have to ask, okay, so how well do you really know this stuff? And, you know, the answer, at some point invariably comes to, yeah, I didn’t know this one really well, I just used it, you know, three times or something like that. And you know, that’s fine, but just doesn’t paint as clear of a picture as it should be. I like to list my interests and hobbies. It’s not really relevant, but I find that sometimes helps spark a little topic of conversation just for fun. And I might also recommend that you think about the cover letter that you might write. When you send them the resume, you usually have a chance to introduce yourself a little bit, talk about something that you’ve done. That I think helps grab attention and helps the recruiter understand whether they should get you immediately or not. If you’re able to explain why you should be prioritized, why you may be a good fit for this role, then definitely include that in the cover letter. It doesn’t really have to be formal. It can be pretty casual, I would say, actually. And then my last bonus tip is – it’s really about the content. Work on building up your content. And you can do that using brilliant.org, a fun educational website. I mentioned it earlier. I think this is a great place where you can start building up your additional skills. It is a great thing to mention to employers that you’re interested in learning about things like math, probability, statistics, expanding your knowledge to all these different areas and brilliant.org also has courses on computer science, algorithms. You know, you can format your resume all you want, add all the colors and pictures you want, but in the end what people are really looking for is that content, is whether you have that fundamental knowledge. One of the best ways to build this up is through continued learning. Brilliant.org offers you a way to do that. So check out their website, tons of free content. I managed to get you guys 20% off for the first 200 people to subscribe to Premium. That’ll do it for me. If you have any resume tips, make sure to post them below in the comments. I read all comments. If you like the video, give it a like and subscribe and I’ll see you next time.

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100 thoughts on “7 Tips for the Coding Resume (for Software Engineers)

  1. I agree with exporting as PDF, but ".docx… ….is a format that is not widely used", jeez that feels like wishing to me.

  2. I am a consultant I have interviewed for more jobs than any tech lead!
    I have interacted with recruiters, HR, Tech Leads, Managers, teams.
    1. More is better, highlight exactly what you did.
    1. HR people are stupid, they look for keyword, more the better.
    1. Recruiters are idiots, they look for keywords, and poach people out of jobs, ignore those out of work as deplorable.
    1. Tech leads are a mixed bag, few are chill, most have a huge ego! If you;re smarter than them, you not getting the job, it's call job security.
    1. Managers just want to know if you can get the job done and not make them look like the true idiot they are. Most managers are not tech people.
    1. People on teams are beta, they will look to make you look dumb and them smart. It is your job to expose them for the fake they are. They will instantly crumble.
    No on, almost no one looks at your resume, most devs are forced to give interviews they hating doing. It is a form of punishment for bad code commits!!!

  3. You said that you read all comments, and since we both seem to have the same sense of humor…

    I have had you read this because I could, and now you have read it….

    That is all…

  4. Been on both sides of the table plenty of times myself. On the interviewer side, yes, I see all too often that someone as stated a lot of real cool and interesting projects only to find out they really only worked on some minimal ancillary part of it. The best candidates are those who can actually back up such claims with actual depth and breadth of knowledge of and participation in the project.

  5. My question is, ow does someone with predominantly a hardware background but also a great deal of experience and talent (having worked with a lot of software engineers and seen the pool of candidates out there as the company I work for is trying to hire more software engineers, it seems that my talents are above average) but wanting to break into a more formally software role, how does one craft a resume to get traction? It seems that no matter what I do, prospective employers apparently only see a hardware engineer and dismiss the seriousness of my abilities.

  6. TechLead, you're awesome! Love your commentary. One question: How will someone like myself who is way over 40, (but under 60) spruce up their resume? Been learning (Python, Ruby) programming for a year but not sure what to say on paper.

  7. Not everybody should try to make their resume look like the TechLead's depending on your profile. For example, if you're fresh out of college, the most important highlight of your resume is your college education, probably not your work experience which will have less to do with your target position. If you have a lot of work experience, your resume would look more like the TechLead's where it's job experience is listed first and then education.

  8. I think this hits the nail on the head.

    It's better to put less stuff than having the recruiter having to do the heavy lifting work of figuring out that you exaggerated half of the things on your resume.
    The golden rule of resume is "only put stuff that you actually used extensively"

  9. sounds great
    but where's your profile picture and your personal info besides ur email?
    damn impressive resumé tho

  10. If Elon Musk can have a one page resume, then so can you. Here's a link to his resume 🙂

    https://novoresume.com/career-blog/elon-musk-one-page-resume

  11. Dear dude,
    You sound's like a Borat at the beginning of the video.
    You must be from Kazakhstan?

    Am I right ?

  12. sometimes I like to comment on videos because some of them are really good and I've got to say that I've been watching some of you it was for a while and you know is other times when I'll be watching other videos and some of them are good and some of them are not so good but I really do like to comment on them because I think it does add a little bit to the discussion the conversation is continually going on so anyway I really loved was watching your video and I thought that there were some interesting points that were made and there were also some other points and that was really good also made some other videos that maybe I'll watch them sometime or I've watched him in the past

  13. Tech Lead: I strongly recommend that you keep your resume at just one page

    Me trying to lengthen my business card of a resume:

  14. Good job . The honest, clear, concise, and short enough to read. Recommendation respectfully maybe one or two sentences regarding you goals.

  15. What if you don't have any work experience in the software industry but are trying to secure a placement or internship? My work experience section is completely barren right now, but just full of unrelated positions I have had in the past that relate to organisational skills, teamworking skills, communication skills etc… Should I just buff my resume with personal projects or just reserve that for my website and GitHub?

  16. TechLead should change the formatting of his résumé to emphasize the degrees he received, rather than the schools he attended. I almost overlooked the fact that he has a master's degree. It's the degree and major that matter, not the school attended (unless you're applying for a job unrelated to your major).

  17. Decided to take some notes and make a TL:DR of this vid, good luck guys

    – Hit the keywords and highlight them to grab the attention of the reader (Example: Make words like "Java" and "C++" a larger size than other letters or bold lettered)

    – Less is better, do your best to fit all your information into one page without making it hard to read.

    – Relevance, don't put info you don't think the interviewer will ask you about or doesn't help you out. Or projects and jobs you don't think really matter that much.

    – Trying to make it overly fancy and edited will be percieved as insecurity and hiding something, keep it clean and straight to the point.

    – Make your CV scanner friendly by avoiding things like fancy unique fonts, pictures, or weird borders and styles. (Italics apperantly don't scan well)

    – If you'll send your resume online make sure its not Microsoft DocX format, just make it Doc or export it as a PDF preferably.

    – List your strengths and most proud projects that matter, don't list weaknesses (Why would you?) Put the most important projects ontop of your list.

    – Make your verbal use of words more impactful, avoid words like "Helped, Worked on, Tried" and use words like "Implemented, Contributed, Designed"

    – Get some feedback on your resume and some criticism on wether its good or not, preferably from a person with experience in reading resumes.

    – List some interests and hobbies, they can humanize you more and spark a topic of interest for discussion with the interviewer.

    – If you can list a reason or a purpose you can serve the company you're trying to get a job at for why you think you specifically can assist them then go ahead and include that

  18. Is it a good idea show source code in your cv, for example having an link to download code that you wrote, as a way of showing the reader that you are skilled in the language(s) that you advertise on your cv?

  19. Only after watching this video I completed my cv I was worrying too much about the layout and now I stepped up my content. Much thanks to you sir!

  20. I used to have a one sheet resume, with no skills table.
    Many MANY talks with interviewers who told me, please do it, there is no reason to limit yourself to just one sheet and please include your skill table.
    So yea, it might just be you, who is not HR or management.

  21. There is a few things that would be criticized in Germany:
    – Small font
    – Dates have to come first
    – It is not a gap-free curriculum vitae
    – There is no explenation to the items in your activity & awards section

    So writing applications must be easier in the USA than here in Germany. I expected more from a "Ex-Google TechLead" 😉

  22. I think this is a really useful video, but one thing I'd like to add is not to try and cram everything on one page at the expense of design. Yes, a one-page resume is nice and readable, but as a less experienced person, you should be able to still have a one-page resume with a larger font and larger margins to create a shorter line length (try for about 2.5 repetitions of the alphabet per line), and if you are experienced enough that your text will overflow onto another page, that's fine; the fact that it will be so much easier to read than the 1-inch-margins-cramped-text look should make it stand out from the crowd anyway.

  23. Thank you Tech lead. This is great info, and I respect you (respect the tech lead!) For sharing it. Big Al

  24. I'm 15, and want to get a intern in front/backend web development. How can i contact a company? I have no idea

  25. I really hate when the part in end when from nowhere he is mentioning his sponsor to build up the content of the resume. Means come on dude… !!! Seriously !!

  26. I was wondering what does it take for a fresh graduate to find a software engineering job? Everywhere I applied, they all seemed to be interested in work experience and not so much about my projects. If you click on my YouTube channel, you can find some of the projects I’ve done. Let me know what I can improve on. I’ve been searching for a job for almost a year now

  27. I would love to exchange sarcasm with an interviewer like him. I'd fill the skill section right away.

  28. The video was pretty informative. But won't it be better to have a little bit of color instead of a plain boring resume. As color would help in generating a sense of appeal among the readers.

  29. I love your channel and think the world of you. Thank you for providing excellent tips for us all to have better resumes. I really value what you had to say

  30. Thank you sooooo much Tech Lead…. this particular video was really the eye opener for me … TYSM…

  31. Great video! What is your opinion on devs who do video resumes? Don't hold back, rip me a new one – https://youtu.be/coZWdPJ6n8Y

  32. "People who review resumes look at hundreds of millions of them per hour."
    Who are these people?! 😉
    At least one job will be safe from automation.

  33. I always submit my resume in pdf. Recently I just applied to a position on the Qualcomm website where they rejected my resume attachment for being pdf. They accepted word doc only. I found that strange coming from a tech company

  34. How do you feel about people with a bar meter for their language or skills section? I have seen these in resumes recently and I thought it was a good idea to show which areas you are strong at

  35. Some great tips that I can confirm. I've been using most of these for years. I think my resume is pretty good and it gets me lots of interviews at the moment (almost every application gets me one which of course is also mainly due to the strong IT job market) but there's still room to improve. I use a pretty similar format and design to you (clean and simple) but I still have a separate "Technical Skills" section and I recently reluctantly went from 1 to 2 pages as I got more experience (even though I got only 1 bullet point for my older stations and 0 hobbies etc.) but I'm working on getting it back to 1 page. Comparing my format with yours, I noticed that I use too much vertical spacing and too large section headlines which is great for readability but of course takes much space.

  36. I think your point on making clear how well you know technologies and how you used them is very important and it made me wonder: Is the ideal resume one that leaves absolutely no questions open regarding the role? With my resume, I also noticed that I am often asked the same questions by different people which indicates what my resume leaves unanswered. But maybe sometimes it's even good to leave certain things open if it's something where you can shine in the interview. Not sure about that.

  37. there's always that fear of sending a resume that's basically empty. In the corner of your mind you know everyone else has fluffed their and there is a chance you won't even get through the initial sifting because it's too honest. You can't show you are actually half decent if you don't ever get called to the interview. Maybe a little filler is appropriate sometimes? You might get debunked once you get to the interview, but at least you get to talk to someone, right?

  38. Hi TechLead I have been a coder for 4 more years the problem is that i drop out of school when i just finished my high school education ,nowadays i was been discriminated severely .especially when i'm looking for a new job ,i even need to fake my resume to pass the resume filtering system . sorry for the duplicity but i just need to make a living how can i do to escape from this awkward scene. since i'm aged it's not possible to go back to school again .how can i do hoping to your feedback.

  39. How does a man explain to employers or list a job on your resume that you got fired from? For example, if I got fired from Facebook.

  40. linkedin is the best because you can link to all documents and also verified sites of certificates. No reason for other companies look for people off of linkedin.

  41. Besides you have a Midas touch, you are very smart. But I think that people should not be forced to totally conformist in the resume because of conformist defaults into major errors when outliers are not recognized.

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