When you send your resume to apply for a software engineering job, you should avoid making blunders that can send your hopes straight into the trash bin. Here is a list of the top 11 mistakes that I have seen over and over again.
Using too many words.
Hiring managers receive hundreds of resumes for every open job advertised. During the first pass of each new one, they need to decide if it goes in the trash bin or the “potentially interesting” pile. Too many words are a shortcut for the garbage.
The first page is critical and will receive the most attention. The last page usually has education information, and will also get some attention. Managers will tend to skip or just scan anything between the first and the last page. In other words, anything that is not the first or the last page is a waste of time for you and the hiring manager.
Keep your resume strictly to 1 or 2 pages. Cut all the fluff. There is no need to list everything you did in every job you ever had since college, especially if you have worked for many years.
Using fonts that are too small.
Do not try to condense your resume by using horrendously small font sizes. Use Times New Roman, and stick to a point size between 11 and 12 for the main text. Use larger sizes for titles. Other fonts to consider are Verdana, Georgia, Arial, Tahoma, Calibri, Helvetica, Century Gothic, and Lucida. If you are using fonts other than Times New Roman, change the point size to be visually pleasing, but make sure is not too small when printed.
The largest font used in the resume should be utilized for your name at the top of the first page.
The resume cannot be printed.
Hiring managers commonly take a quick initial look at resumes on a screen. After the initial selection, sooner or later they will try to print the resumes for a more accurate review. I can’t count the times I tried to print a resume submitted in MS Word format, and couldn’t do it without headaches because the border was too small or the page size not standard.
Make your resume easily printable! Set left and right margins between .6” and .8”, and top and bottom margins to 1”. In the US, use “US Letter” paper size. Make sure to test printing the resume on US Letter paper to avoid surprises.
The resume is not submitted in PDF format.
MS Word is a fine program, but not everyone uses it. Before sending your resume in electronic format, convert it to PDF. PDF is the golden standard for document exchange. It ensures that a printed copy looks like the original, and it prevents many compatibility problems.
The most important information is not first.
The most important stuff needs to come first. The order of importance of the information listed must be strictly descending.
Here is an example of the proper ordering of resume sections:
- Name and contact information (email, phone, physical address). The address is important not because anyone will send you snail-mail, but because it gives the hiring manager and the recruiter an idea if relocation is necessary.
- A paragraph or two about your career objectives.
- A summary of your major skills and experience.
- Professional Experience, starting from the most recent job.
Employment history doesn’t contain the company names, titles, or employment timeline.
It might sound crazy, but I have seen resumes where the work history was hard to decipher. The names of the companies you worked for, the titles you held and the time you held that title for should be clear and unmistakable.
If you worked for one company for many years and held multiple titles, make sure that it is clear that you were in the same company for a prolonged period, and specify the time you spent in each position. Employers don’t want to see job-hopping from company to company, but getting promoted within the same organization is a good thing.
If the company changed name during your tenure or got acquired, make sure that it is evident. You don’t want to risk being labeled as a job-hopper if all that changed was the company name.
Spelling and grammar errors.
Even a software engineer is expected to be able to write a resume without spelling or grammar mistakes. I cannot count the times I’ve read a resume with the wrong form of “its,” “yours,” or other English blunders. Depending who the hiring manager is, this kind of error could cost you the interview, especially if the rest of the resume is not impressive to the reader.
Details are not consistent.
When writing your resume you make the rules; however, you must keep those rules consistent. Punctuation, font type, font size, usage of bold and italic, capitalization of titles, they should all be deliberate and coherent. If the style changes, the result will appear unprofessional and red flags will be raised regarding your attention to details and ability to focus.
Use of humor or hyperbole.
It might seem cute to define yourself as a programmer Ninja, guru, startup hero, stud, etc. However, it is not appropriate in a resume, and it could raise some eyebrows. Avoid anything that is “cute” or humorous, and cut all hyperbole.
Use of cliches.
Eliminate all cliches and unnecessary or redundant expressions. For example, cut any and all of the following:
- Seasoned manager
- Influential leader (redundant)
- Go-to guy
- Go-to person
- Big Picture Thinker
- Out-of-the-Box Thinker
- Thought Leader
- Inspirational Leader
- People person
- Excellent oral and written communication skills (show it, don’t tell)
- Problem solver
- References available upon request
Use of weak and overused adjectives.
Eliminate most overused adjectives, especially when referring to yourself. For example, cut any and all of the following:
Why? Telling someone that you are “passionate” or “creative” doesn’t make it so. Show it by how you describe your experience, and during the interview.