How to write an ATS-friendly, FAANG-ready software engineer resume

From the Career Conversations Series with Jean, Founder of Exaltitude
Jean
|
March 1, 2023
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As a software engineer looking for a job, you know that having an accurate and effective resume is the key to success. ATS-friendly resumes are optimized for automated tracking systems used by employers, including FAANGs like Facebook/Meta, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google. ATS-friendly resumes are designed to get past scanning systems and ensure that your application is seen by hiring managers, even if you do not have a referral or are applying to a large employer.

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As a Software Engineer and an Engineering Manager at Facebook, I've done 3-5 interviews per week and done numerous resume reviews. After years in the industry and reviewing thousands of resumes, I know even some of the most qualified candidates can struggle to make their resumes stand out.

Especially if you don't have a big network in the tech industry or you're starting out your career, you probably don't have a way around working with ATS systems. But if you want to learn how to COLD outreach to grow your network and increase your chances at success, RSVP for the Exaltitude's upcoming FREE talk - "Cold Outreach Networking: Tips for a volatile economy."

💡 In case you're not familiar with ATS;

ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System, a software used by employers to scan resumes and manage the recruitment process. ATS systems can be used to screen out unqualified applicants as well as highlight qualified ones.

Thankfully there are specific tips and tricks to make sure your resume is ATS-friendly and FAANG-ready. Read on to find out:

  • How to build your ATS-friendly software engineering resume
  • How to write good work experience content for Software Engineering resume
  • How to write a simple contact information section
  • Optimizing your software engineering resume
  • Bonus tip: Appealing to the Diversity recruiters

How to build your ATS-friendly software engineering resume

Many ambitious job seekers may not be aware of the extra challenge posed by Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). These systems are used to speed through massive amounts of resumes and often weed out contenders before they reach human recruiters! Be prepared with an optimized resume that follows all ATS requirements, so you don't get cut from consideration too soon.

Every company's ATS is different, but most look for similar patterns in resumes. Here's a handy checklist of what to include on your resume:


Don't try to be creative with the formats!

I cannot emphasize this enough. You want to be creative about how you show your impact or skills, not the font or format.

DON'ts:

  • Don't use photoshop or other graphics editors.
  • Don't use extra colors or highlights
  • Don't use tables, footers, headers, images
  • Don't use columns - I've seen some ATS fail miserably with fancy columns
  • NEVER use symbols anywhere in your resume

Do's:

  • Only use Google Docs or Word to edit your resume to ensure your it is readable and parsable
  • Use PDF files to preserve your formatting when you submit
  • To maximize space, decrease margins down to 0.5 on each side (but make sure to make it consistent on ALL sides)
  • Include the right keywords - we'll go over in detail in the section below
  • Only use 1 page

Only use standard fonts and readable sizes

Use standard fonts like Arial or Times New Roman. ATS systems may not be able to recognize alternative fonts, so the resume won't land in a recruiter’s inbox.

General consensus for the font size is 10-12pt. However, as a Hiring Manager who has read through tons of resumes, I recommend that you use 11-12 pt font for your content. Once your resume passes the ATS checks, human beings will need to read your resume too. You want to make it as easy as possible for the reader.

While it may seem obvious, make sure you use the same patterns of font and sizes throughout your resume.

Use sections with standard headings

ATS systems look for sections such as Education, Experience, and Skills. Use the standard headings so you don't miss out on getting your resume to a human recruiter.

Here are the standard headings:

  • Contact Information
  • Work Experience
  • Skills
  • Education and Projects
  • Optional: Awards, Volunteer Experience, Interests.

How to write good work experience content for Software Engineering resume

Quantifying your work is a key skill in writing a successful resume. For the purposes of this blog, I'm going to focus on the mechanical side of writing the perfect resume. For help using the right metrics and showing the impact of your work, check out this FREE masterclass, where I speak more specifically about quantifying your work and impact to help you stand out from your competition!


Use consistent formatting for your work experience

For example:

Company | title | location | duration
Facebook | Software Engineer | Menlo Park, CA | 02/2019-02/2022


List the company name first if you worked for impressive companies like FANNGs. Otherwise, start with your title.

Use simple date formats like 02/2021 or February 2021—include the month and year for dates and duration instead of fillers like "early" or "spring" to reduce any confusiong.

Whichever order and format you decide to use for your resume, make sure to be consistent throughout.


How to write a simple contact information section

Must-haves:

  • Name (Very top of your resume)
  • Email address (Use prsonal email)
  • Phone number (Use personal phone number)
  • Linkedin profile
  • Location: City, State (Not necessarily include the whole address)

Nice-to-haves:

  • GitHub profile
  • Personal website

Don't include:

  • Other social media links unless it's relevant to the specific role

How to write a Skills section for a Software Engineer

Include programming languages, technologies, and frameworks that you are comfortable with.

Scan the job posting you're applying for the keywords, and be sure to include as many keywords in the job posting as you can. If you don't have direct work experience with the technology, think of personal projects you've done or coursework that you can include using the keywords.

The GOAL isn't to show you are fluent in these keywords/languages but to get past the ATS scan! Once you get the opportunity to speak to a recruiter or interviewer, can goer into more detail about the level of your experience or willingness to learn.

How to write the education section for a Software Engineer

If you've been working for 3+ years in tech:

  • The education section can be brief. Simply list the school name, major, and degree.
  • You can skip the graduation year.
  • You can include coursework relevant to the job you're applying for if you lack the keywords listed in the job posting in real-life work experience.

If you've been working for less than 3 years in tech or are still in school:

  • The education section will play a bigger role. Include the (expected) graduation date, GPA, if above 3.0.
  • Include any courses or specializations that are RELEVANT to the role you're applying for.

How to write the optional sections

If you have any awards or recognitions that are RELATED to the role, include them here.

Include volunteer experience or leadership activities if you're a recent graduate. Or if you can include relevant keywords from the job posting here.

Bonus tip: Appealing to the Diversity recruiters

If you are from a minority or underrepresented background, include the keyword in your resume through the Leadership, Activities, Volunteer, or Interest section.

Examples:

  • Committee member of AnitaB - Serve on the committee to help grow the number of women in computer science roles
  • Member of /dev /color - to accelerate representation for Black software engineers in tech

Optimizing your software engineering resume

Highlight the best achievements to show off on your resume

Think of yourself as an editor for your resume. Highlight the most impressive achievements, and leave off any information that doesn't add anything to the picture you're trying to paint or isn't relevant to the role you're applying for.

As a hiring manager or a recruiter, you are bombarded with resumes. You need to be able to quickly scan the resume and get an idea of what you're looking at.

I'd often scan through the first half of the resume quickly, and then if something stood out, I'd go back and read more carefully. If anything is a miss, I'd pass and move onto the next resume immediately.

Optimizing for keywords

Remember, it's quality over quantity.

Avoid writing long paragraphs, and focus on using the keywords from the job posting that are relevant to you. If a keyword isn't there, add it wherever you can.

Steps to build the optimized resume

1. Analyze several types of job postings by noting all keywords listed and highlighting the skills, duties, or technologies you have experience with.

2. Crete a "Master resume" that has all the different versions and keywords I have gathered over time. This master resume could be several pages long.

3. Create multiple versions of the master resume if you're applying for different roles like front-end, back-end, or full stack. This helps me quickly find the right version when applying for different roles with minor customization for each company.

4. Test your resume out with free ATS checkers to make sure it's "machine readable"

5. Lastly, connect with recruiters and your network to start applying for roles!


Optimizing your resume for ATS to apply for companies you have no connections with is an important step to landing a Software Engineer role.

However, if you want to learn how to bypass the ATS checkers, and get your resume in front of recruiters directly, check out Exaltitude's upcoming FREE talk - "Cold Outreach Networking: Tips for a volatile economy."


Also read: 3 Steps To Building Your Personal Brand As An Engineer



Exaltitude newsletter is packed with advice for navigating your engineering career journey successfully. Sign up to stay tuned!

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