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Resume Writing Tips

molly_struve profile image Molly Struve (she/her) ・4 min read

In case you missed it, @kaydacode wrote a great post offering Jr. devs a chance to post their resumes for feedback. After giving feedback on a few resumes I realized I was offering the same advice over and over again so I decided it might be useful to put it in a post.

Purpose of a Resume

Remember when you are writing a resume the purpose of it is to prove as quickly as possible that you can do the job you are applying for. For this reason, you want to be detailed about your experience BUT you also want to keep it succinct. The person reading your resume likely has 10 other resumes to read so they are going to appreciate a resume that gets to the point. Here are some general guidelines to help you accomplish this!

Length

If you have less than 5-10 years experience keep your resume to 1 page. This is something I was always taught growing up and I think it is good advice. By forcing yourself to stick to one page you will ensure that you only talk about what really matters.

Experience First

Since you want to sell yourself as quickly as possible you want the first thing someone sees is that you have the ability to do the job you are applying for. Usually your experience is what is going to show you are the most qualified so that should go at the top. I would follow it with either Skills or Education. As for what to include...

  • Make sure you give details about your experience. "Developer Intern at Startup Y" doesn't give someone enough information to determine if you are a qualified candidate. Expand on that, what did you do at Startup Y? What languages did you work with?
  • Pick and choose your experiences carefully. Even though you might want to list all the details for every one of your personal projects, stick to what is most relevant. Pick the projects you are most proud of or that highlight your best skill sets and just talk about those.

Keep Skills Relevant

Most people want to pile on every language or framework they have touched but that can make it hard for someone reading your resume to really know what you are good at. Here is where a little customization comes in handy. Usually when you start out you have a broad range of skills, which is awesome! When you are applying for a job, however, make sure that you highlight the skills that the job is looking for. It can also be really helpful to those reading your resume to list your skill level. I personally setup my Skills section like this.

  • Proficient: Ruby, Rails, Elasticsearch, Redis, MySQL
  • Familiar with: Ansible, Javascript

Make Education Relevant

Whether you have a college degree or a Bootcamp degree, make sure what you list under your Education section is going to be relevant to your future employer. For example, usually once you have a college or bootcamp degree you no longer need your high school education on your resume because it likely won't add much value.

Also, make sure to include relevant course work! Giving a GPA shows that you paid attention but listing relevant course work can reveal that you have skills the employer might be looking for. With that said, if you took some bad ass engineering classes in high school then that would be a good reason to include high school in your Education section.

References

I personally do not ever include references on a resume and most resumes I have seen do not have them. Rather than wasting space with other people's contact info I like to end with the line "References available upon request." It is simple, easy, and the employer knows they are available if needed.

Personal Summary

I usually save a personal summary section for a cover letter or email rather than my resume. This allows me to put more details about my experiences in my resume. With that said, if you do decide to include a personal summary make sure it adds value! "I want to become a better programmer and improve my skill set" is pretty vague and doesn't add much value. "I have been doing full stack development but I am really passionate about the front end and would love to do more UX/UI design work" is much more detailed and will allow a company to decide if you are a good fit for a job.

Formatting

Honestly, there are so many formats that you can use that work. While reviewing resumes I saw some nice single column formats and I also saw some slick 2 column formats. Some people had colors, some were black and white. Any style can work but make sure it is pleasing to the eye and, once again, easy to read. If someone had 30 seconds to glance at your resume could they quickly digest it? If the answer to that is yes, then your formatting is probably good to go!

As you can see the theme of this post is relevance. Make sure every word on your resume counts and is adding value to it. These are just a few guidelines that I like to follow when writing a resume. Hopefully others will find them useful! Feel free to chime in if you have any good resume guidelines you like to follow!

Happy resume writing!!!

Posted on by:

molly_struve profile

Molly Struve (she/her)

@molly_struve

International Speaker 🗣 Runner 🏃‍♀️ Always Ambitious. Never Satisfied. I ride 🦄's IRL

Discussion

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I have not updated my resume or created a CV, for more than 12 years. I have been at the same job for that time. Recent events bring me to possibly need to bring it up to date. I have developed several significant applications for my employer over the years.

Prior to this job I was an freelance developer. I have over 30 years of experience in the field, and I have done development for a myriad of industries.

I am self-taught so my educational info is sparse, although I am constantly learning new technologies to stay current.

What tips might you have for a senior developer wanting to revamp their CV?

 

Great question!

First and foremost, I would say keep it relevant! I would focus on those applications you built for your current employer and the freelance projects that really show off the skills you want to highlight. If you just pile it all on there it will be overwhelming for the person reading it. Be picky about what you choose.

As for education, since you have SO MUCH experience, I wouldn't worry about that too much. Your experience is what is going to shine and make you stand out.

Since you like to stay up to date on technologies make sure you list those technologies you are currently working with and those that you are familiar with or taught yourself.

Lastly, because you have so much experience with all kinds of technologies, make sure you tailor it to the kind of job you want. For example, if you apply for a job working with a single language, make sure you are showing all the ways you have used that language over the last 30 years.

Not sure what kind of feel you want your resume to have but if you really want to spice it up and want something "younger" looking I reviewed this resume from Resume Feedback Post and I personally loved the look of it. The two columns in my opinion make it look younger bc its different than more traditional ones. However, that is literally just my opinion other people might think differently.

Hopefully that helps!

 

That would be awesome! I created a PDF of my Linked-In profile as a starting point. bit.ly/2DHmj8T

SNAZZY!!!! I love that layout!

Thanks but I can't take credit for it. Just did a download of my Linked-in profile to a pdf. :)

 

Great tips, Molly! In case somebody's still following this useful post, I'd like to add something. I also have one resume recommendation I always give: USE ACTIVE VERBS IN YOUR 'EXPERIENCE' SECTION.

As I see from CV Compiler users, candidates often limit themselves with plain descriptions of their duties. Instead, I recommend using the 'golden rule' for creating bullet points:

Accomplished [X] as measured [Y] by doing [Z].

This is a common tip, but somehow developers often miss it when crafting their tech resumes.

 

I love that formula!!! I have never heard that one before, thanks for sharing!

 

I always struggle with the education part since I never really was able to finish any type of school, so I just put Hard Knocks. Or I could just put "No School had to get a job new baby on the way".

 

While formal education is good, I think practical education can be worth so much more! Having taken relevant classes or doing bootcamps I think a lot of times is more valuable than just having a degree bc that is the "right thing" to do. If you took valuable classes in high school or college I would list them, then just leave off a graduation date. Or load up on experience and projects if you have more of those things. If you want feedback on your resume I would happy to help and take a look :)

 

Hi Molly!
It seems that I came too late to the party =(. I posted my resume, but I had no luck.
hope you don't mind taking a look at my resume. I'm currently looking for a remote job, and I know my resume needs to give a good first impression of me.

Resume

Thanks in advance for your help

Surely!

First off, I would suggest putting your experience at the top followed by your projects since those are going to be the most relevant to your future employer when they are trying to determine if you are capable of doing the job.

I would also recommend adding more details to your experience positions. "Software and web development" is really vague. What exactly were you working on? What languages were you using? The most descriptive you can be the better the picture you will be able to paint for your prospective employer.

Your projects have AWESOME details but I would suggest making them bullet points so they are less of a wall of text. This will make them easy to quickly read. Under projects I would put your skills and then under that I would add your education. Since your skills will be lower on the page I would suggest adding what language you worked with to each experience so as someone is reading down your resume they can get an idea for what languages you are most experienced with.

Hope that helps!

 

Great article but one suggestion though. Keep your skills first, that experience. Limit your experience just to two last places. Otherwise - solid tips! For anyone who looking for a good dev resume template I would also recommend to check the fullstackresume.com service where you could build your Full Stack Resume in less than 30 seconds. Instead of writing all the content by yourself the service will generate it for you based on your unique experience using the minimalistic A/B tested resume template!

 

Very useful tips, and a good reminder for me to update my resume. Thanks!