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Writing a resume as a junior software engineer that strikes the right chord for both technical and non-technical readers is a crucial skill. In this guide, you will learn how you can craft a masterpiece junior software engineer that will get you more calls and possibly interviews, let’s get going!

How to write an impressive junior software engineer resume

Table of contents #

Intro #

You have applied to 10s of jobs (maybe it is reaching 100 or more) but you have not got even 2 calls. That means a conversion (hit) rate of less than 2%. There are multiple reasons for this situation. You need to make your resume as sharp as a butcher’s knife, you cannot cut meat with a butter knife.

It is a topic that is near to my heart. I have previously written about 5 practical steps to land your first tech job and helped 10+ people find their first tech job in Australia leveraging a side project. I had done a talk for an event on 24-Jun-2023 and below are the slides and the talk video from that event.

Slides #

Video #

The video of the talk is below:

The text below is like an edited transcript of the talk video, you can extract the main points from the prose. Some of the content is tailored toward an Australian software engineering job seeker.

6 seconds test #

With 10s or even 100s of applications flowing in, have you ever wondered how much time tech recruiters give for each resume or application? Recruiters typically spend only 6 seconds on average looking at a resume as per eye-tracking software research before deciding whether to move forward with an applicant. This means that it is important to make sure that your resume is well-organized, easy to read, and highlights your skills and experience in a way that is relevant to the position you are applying for.

Make sure you make your resume 1 page for anyone with less than 5 years of experience and also put the most important part on the upper half of that page. With these facts in mind, it is essential to carefully craft your resume to make the best impression.

Understand the hiring funnel #

Many junior engineers or those new to the job market may not be aware of the hiring funnel that leads to receiving a job offer. Initially, there are numerous applications for a job, but only some make it past the Application Tracking System (ATS) level to receive a recruiter call. If you're applying for a technical role, you may then be given a coding challenge, followed by a behavioral interview to assess your fit within the company and team.

Understand how the hiring funnel works and get around it

Next, you'll likely have a technical interview, where more in-depth technical questions are asked. Once you've successfully cleared all these steps, you may receive a job offer. In some cases, a reference check step may be required before the offer is made. It's important to note that the sequence of these steps may vary depending on the company.

The hiring funnel is designed to filter applicants, and only a select few will receive job offers in the end. Therefore, it's crucial to craft your resume in a way that helps you stand out and secure that initial recruiter call.

In the next section, you will know about the main purpose of the resume.

Main purpose of the resume #

It's a common misconception that a resume should be long and filled with everything you know. However, the primary purpose of your resume is actually to get a call from the recruiter. While it's crucial to showcase your technical abilities and skills, you should prioritize making a strong impression within the first few seconds of the recruiter's review.

Think of your resume's primary goal as persuading the recruiter to call you for an initial interview.

Any secondary purposes should be considered after ensuring that your resume is designed to achieve this main objective.

When redesigning your resume, keep in mind that your primary goal is to make an impact within the seven or eight seconds the recruiter spends reviewing it. Focus on crafting a junior software engineer resume that will entice the recruiter to call you for an interview.

To get the call from the tech recruiter as a junior software engineer, your resume contents will not only need to be tailored for the job but also adjusted precisely for the audience. You will learn about that in the following segment.

Taylor your resume to the right audience #

It's also essential to understand your resume's target audience. The first person, or potentially a machine, to review your resume will likely be a recruiter or talent acquisition professional. They will only spend a few seconds deciding if you're a candidate worth calling, so make sure your resume is tailored to capture their attention quickly.

Ensure that your resume effectively showcases your abilities within the limited time a recruiter spends reviewing it.

Even with a single-page resume, consider what's immediately visible and whether it helps persuade the recruiter to call you.

After the initial review process, other professionals like senior engineering managers, VP of Engineering, or CTOs at smaller companies may examine your resume from a more technical perspective. While it's important to include technical details, avoid overloading your resume with jargon, as it may not be useful for the talent acquisition person.

Striking the right balance between showcasing your technical abilities and maintaining clarity is essential for creating an effective resume.

When crafting your resume, it's important to maintain a balance that addresses both the recruiter and technical professionals who may review it later.

As you are now aware that the primary audience of the resume is a tech recruiter, let’s find out what they look for in a resume in the preceding section.

What recruiters look for #

I conducted some written interviews from 2019-202 with some in-house tech recruiters in Sydney. From interviews conducted between 2019 and 2022, here's what recruiters look for in a resume:

Cloë emphasizes the importance of including side projects, particularly for junior engineers who may have limited industry experience. Showcasing side projects allow you to demonstrate your skills, share your code, and provide a working URL, which can help you stand out and prove your abilities beyond your primary job experience.

Scott from Canva highlights another important aspect recruiters look for in a resume: interest in the product and good business acumen. As a software engineer, it's essential to understand how the business makes money and be knowledgeable about the product or company you're applying to. This shows that you're not just a developer working in isolation but rather a team player who understands the bigger picture.

Pam from Harrison AI emphasizes the importance of having an organized and clean CV. Ensuring your resume is free from typos and grammatical mistakes not only creates a positive first impression but also highlights your communication and organizational skills.

Taking all these factors into account, there are some guidelines for creating a great resume. The golden standard is to have a one-page resume. If you have only two or three years of experience, a three-page resume may be excessive. Aim for conciseness and clarity while including all relevant information.

In the next section, you will learn about the guidelines for a superb junior software engineer resume.

Guidelines for a great junior software engineer resume #

Creating a concise and impactful resume is an art. When writing each sentence, weigh its importance and consider your audience and purpose: will this help you get a call within the crucial first few seconds? Aim for a one-page resume that effectively showcases your skills in just a few seconds.

Think of your resume as a collection of pixels, and use the available space wisely. While some whitespace is necessary for readability, too much can detract from the content. Even professionals with 15+ years of experience can craft a one-page resume that effectively highlights their accomplishments. Remember, it's about quality, not quantity.

Prominent figures like Marissa Mayer of Yahoo, Mark Zuckerberg, and Andy Jassy’s (CEO of AWS) resumes can fit on just one page. If their resume can fit on a page, anyone with a few years of experience can certainly create a one-page resume as well.

The key is to be ruthless in selecting content – ask yourself if each piece of information is relevant and necessary. If not remove it.

To create an effective resume, ensure it's concise and focused on securing the initial recruiter's call. Include vital information such as your contact details (email and phone number), making them clickable or tappable for added convenience. Also, add links to relevant social profiles like GitHub, LinkedIn, and your personal blog if you have one, as these showcase your skills and communication abilities.

Incorporating side projects with working URLs can make a significant difference, particularly for the technical audience who will review your resume later. For example, if a junior engineer's resume includes a side project with a working URL, it demonstrates their skills beyond their primary job experience, enhancing their chances of being called for an interview.

When faced with the challenge of fitting your resume into a single page, prioritize the most important aspects of your experience and skills. By focusing on what truly matters and cutting out irrelevant details, you can create a concise, impactful resume that will grab the attention of recruiters.

XYZ formula #

To write a resume that gets calls, follow the XYZ formula when describing your job experience and achievements: "Accomplished X measured by Y doing Z." This formula helps showcase the impact of your work and the methods you used. However, it's essential to strike a balance. For example, if you have five points in a job description, use the XYZ formula for three of them and describe the other two in a more straightforward manner.

Finding the right balance between showcasing your accomplishments and providing clear information is crucial.

Many junior software engineer resumes tend to include only straightforward descriptions, but incorporating the XYZ formula can help your resume stand out and increase your chances of getting calls from recruiters. Write about the impact and how you have saved cost or helped the business earn more money. For example, if you have worked on a project that has saved the company $10,000, mention it in your resume. This will help you stand out from other candidates.

If you have a line in your entry-level software engineer resume like "Worked closely with business analysts, etc.," you could ask Bard to rewrite it using the XYZ formula. The AI tool may not provide a perfect conversion, but it can offer valuable pointers and hints for making your resume more impactful and audience-friendly. By incorporating AI assistance and following the previously mentioned tips, you can create a resume that stands out and increases your chances of receiving calls from recruiters.

No Typos or grammatical errors #

Remember to keep your resume up-to-date and free from typos or grammatical mistakes. In 2023, consider using AI-powered tools, such as ChatGPT or Google's Bard, to fine-tune your resume. While you shouldn't rely solely on an AI tool to create your entire resume, it can be helpful in refining your content.

Networking is critical #

Another essential tip for increasing your chances of getting noticed is networking. It is not something you put directly in your resume but it helps a lot to find your first junior software engineer job.

Your network is your net worth, so try to find someone who can refer you to a company.

Referrals offer two main benefits:

  1. They can help you bypass the ATS (Application Tracking System), avoiding the "black hole" where your resume might be lost without ever being seen.
  2. The person referring you may receive a referral bonus, creating a win-win situation for both parties if you're hired and stay with the company for a certain period.

Leveraging your network and referrals can significantly improve your chances of landing a job and ensure your resume gets the attention it deserves.

Networking is crucial for expanding your professional connections and increasing your chances of landing a job. To expand your network, attend relevant meetups. In 2023, meetups are back in full swing, with events happening frequently in various cities. Look for events that align with your interests, such as Python meetups or other tech-related gatherings.

When attending meetups, set simple goals, like adding three new connections on LinkedIn at each event.

With consistent networking, you can significantly expand your professional circle within months. This increases the likelihood of finding job opportunities through your connections.

In addition to attending meetups, make good use of LinkedIn, join communities, and consider helping to organize events. These activities can further broaden your network and improve your chances of finding job openings through referrals and connections.

Expanding on networking strategies, consider reverse searching recruiters from your target companies and roles, and connect with them on LinkedIn. Have a list of companies you want to work for and start building connections with their recruiters. This proactive approach can increase your chances of being noticed by the right people.

Contribute to open source #

Volunteer experience, such as contributing to open-source projects or participating in events, can be valuable additions to your resume, especially if you lack professional experience.

Contributions to well-known projects in your field can significantly enhance your profile.

In the next section, you will see a sample resume (template) that works and gets the job done.

Sample resume #

The sample resume provided demonstrates a good balance of different elements, such as the XYZ formula, straightforward job descriptions, and quantifiable achievements. While you may not always have specific numbers available, use tools to gather data and showcase your accomplishments. Be honest and ensure you can confidently explain these achievements during an interview.

When listing skills on your resume, it's essential to provide context. Avoid using word clouds or a simple list of skills without explaining how you have applied them in your work.

For example, if you mention Docker, Git, or other tools, it's helpful to explain where and when you used these technologies, as opposed to simply listing them.

Providing context makes it easier for the recruiter to understand your capabilities and how you have used your skills in the past.

You can find the sample in this Google Doc.

The resume template provided has been successfully used by over 30 individuals to secure their first tech jobs in Australia, demonstrating its effectiveness. Remember, striking a balance between your technical skills and interpersonal qualities in your resume can make you a more well-rounded candidate, increasing your chances of landing the desired role.

You might be in a catch-22 situation of the job first or work experience first. You can get some work experience/internship following some tips listed in the section below.

How to get work experience (internship) #

If you're facing the challenge of having no work experience or internships, it's essential to find alternative ways to showcase your skills and capabilities. This can include side projects, volunteering, or personal initiatives that demonstrate your technical abilities and problem-solving skills.

To overcome the challenge of not having work experience or internships, one solution is to start your own side project.

No one is stopping you from pursuing a project that showcases your skills and interests. Bring in some friends and collaborate on a project together.

Initiating and working on side projects can be a valuable way to demonstrate your abilities, creativity, and initiative to potential employers, even in the absence of traditional work experience.

If you're concerned about the costs of starting a side project, don't worry. As a student, you can take advantage of resources like the GitHub Student Developer Pack, which offers numerous free services, including domain registration and CI/CD pipelines.

Other platforms, like Forage and Entry Level, provide virtual work experience opportunities.

Programs like Startmate Student Fellowship and job seekers' groups on platforms like Slack can also be helpful resources.

When applying for internships and early career opportunities, it's important to remember that some roles may prioritize behavioral aspects over technical expertise. In such cases, you can showcase your adaptability, teamwork, and interpersonal skills to demonstrate how you can fit into the group.

Emphasize your willingness to learn and grow with the company, as this can be a valuable trait for organizations looking to invest in potential future leaders.

Additionally, participate in hackathons, attend conferences (many offer scholarships or free tickets for students), and network by volunteering at events. These experiences can help expand your network and contribute valuable content to your resume.

Stay connected to the tech community and explore community job boards and professional groups on platforms like Slack. By leveraging these resources, networking, and focusing on your resume's purpose and audience, you can create a strong resume and increase your chances of landing a job in the tech industry.

Ambassador programs #

To boost your resume, consider participating in ambassador programs from big tech companies,

such as Google Developer Student Clubs, GitHub Campus Experts, Stack Overflow Student Ambassdor and Microsoft student ambassador programs.

These connections demonstrate your involvement in the tech community and add credibility to your resume.

Next, you will learn about some job boards and a couple of them will be focused on early career professionals like yourself.

Job boards #

Explore various job boards and communities focused on different aspects of the tech industry.

GradConnection by Seek is specifically tailored for graduate and internship roles, while Early Work has a Slack community with job postings.

My Startup Gig is another job board suitable for junior or entry-level individuals, as startups often provide rapid learning opportunities and may be more willing to hire those with less experience.

Consider connecting with local startup communities and hubs, like Fishburners and Microsoft Reactor, for networking and job search resources. For women seeking a more female-friendly work environment, the Work 180 job board is worth checking out.

By utilizing these resources and actively participating in the tech community, you can increase your chances of finding the right job opportunities and making valuable connections in the industry.

Conclusion #

By following these tips and tactics, you can significantly improve your chances of landing a job through effective networking and a well-crafted resume. You have got multiple tips about how to structure your resume, what to delete, and things to highlight.

You have also been made aware of the superpower of networking and how to push the other knobs of volunteering, ambassador programs, and finding jobs on job boards. I hope you crack your first tech role soon and break into tech faster. It might just be your key to a better life. Best of luck!


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