Applying for a job?

Applying for a job as a software engineer?

The odds are you have a bad resume (since >50% of the resumes I’ve seen arebad)

The Resume


No! Waste of space. It can only hurt. Your objective is to get a phonecall or email. Don’t apply for jobs you don’t want. If you’re unsure,just apply like you want it and ask questions in the first conversation.


2 pages max, 1 page if possible


Prefer PDF — it’s more universal. Windows is losing market-share in development circles. Word is not universal.

Check the job description — if they indicate a format, follow it.

If you do use MS Word:

  • email it to yourself and verify it looks good in Google Docs (I’m notgoing to download it)
  • email it to a friend with a Mac and verify it looks good (some people dodownload it)


  • CS Degree at the top
  • Certificates at the bottom or omitted
  • Github account at the top (as a link)


  • One entry per company
  • Include years worked there
  • Multiple roles => more bullet points
  • What was your role? What did you do?


  • SMALL LIST (wow, you know XML? Really? Cause that’s hard to find andhard to teach … not)
  • technology stacks and platforms are enough
  • don’t list things you would be uncomfortable interviewing in (with 1 daysnotice)
  • Seriously! You list it, the interviewer can ask about it, and expect you to code in it

Good Examples

  • Java: Tomcat on AWS with MySQL
  • Ruby: Rails on Heroku with Postgres
  • Web UI: HTML/CSS/JS on PHP

Bad Examples

  • Java: Tomcat, Jetty, Maven, Ant, JUnit, XML, SOAP, Hibernate, JSP, blahblah blah
  • Ruby: Rails, Rake, JSON, Devise, Cucumber, Webrat, RSpec, VCR,FactoryGirl, ….

Small caveat

If you’re applying to big companies that are tech ignorant, you might needa laundry list to get past HR.

Extra Curriculars

  • yes if you’re just graduating for college
  • yes if they’re significant
  • for non-new grads, at most one line (unless you’re putting in 5+ hoursper week)
  • don’t list every club you’ve ever been a part of
  • don’t list activities that include demographic information (Gay andLesbian orgs, Christian Missionaries, etc)

Don’t list things that some people “don’t get”. No need to mention yourinvolvement with D&D, Video Game communities, or Twilight fan clubs

Cover Letter

Generally not required.

When is it a good idea?

  • when you don’t have a CS degree
  • when you’re applying out of your depth (UI developer applying to be DBA?)
  • when you really want the job and can speak intelligently about thecompany

When is it a bad idea?

  • when you copy paste the same cover letter every time
  • when you have nothing to say (i.e. you’re summarizing your resume)


Active on the job market? You should have one of three things on your resume

  • a great school (Stanford, MIT, Waterloo, UIUC, Carnegie Melon, etc)
  • a great company (Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, or a known startup)
  • a Github account with a bunch of stuff in it

About softwaregravy

Software Engineer, aspiring financial guru, and entrepreneur; all mixed with a bit of awesome.
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