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I've been a Software Engineer and Manager in Silicon Valley for 15 years. Most recently I was the 19th engineer at WhatsApp, prior to the $18 billion acquisition by Facebook. I have built stellar products, engineering teams, and diverse communities as a Software Engineering Manager and a leader. I'm also the Founder of Exaltitude, helping engineers unlock their full potentials and shape the future of technology! Growing and nurturing future leaders of Silicon Valley has been my passion.
A resume should only be a page in length, while a cover letter should be around 2 pages or longer for Ph.D. holders or experienced engineers. Details on items in the resume should be written in bullet points and single lines, with the font size kept at 11-12 pt and margins between 0.5”-1”. The overall formatting must be consistent; for example, if there is a bolded title then all titles must be in bold.
A resume does not need to be fancy - avoid statement fonts or colors in the interest of simplicity.
Some companies have internally built tools that scan resumes, the presence of any unnecessary components that the computer can’t read may make it difficult for your resume to be processed.
The most important items that a header should include are
Anything that isn’t valuable or of interest to the reader should be excluded.
Education was often put as the first section in the resumes of the attendees at the workshop. I advise those who attended one of the schools that the recruiter often sources from to put their education section at the beginning. However, if your professional experience is more representative of your abilities as a candidate, then that should come first. Any awards or honors received should be included, but GPA should only be added if it is above 3.5.
The skills section must be written with the job of interest in mind; any skills that are not relevant to the job should be excluded. For example, if you’re looking for a software engineering role, don’t include Microsoft and salesforce skills as they are unrelated to the field. Additionally, the section should separate between different categories of skills, for example, technical abilities and language skills should be put on different lines.
Highlight experiences that relate to the job you’re applying for. The best way to appeal to a recruiter is to provide tangible experiences that showcase your technical skills; in the descriptions for different experiences, the technical aspects should be highlighted and the non-technical components left out.
When writing descriptions, use action verbs. Lists of action verbs can be found with a simple google search and will make a difference in how your experience is presented.
Descriptions should be written with the ultimate question “what did you achieve?” in mind.
Provide data or numbers to concretely show the direct impact of your involvement in a project.
If you led a team, include the number of people you led; if you built an app, specify the number of users you have; if you improved the speed or efficiency of a program, provide a number for by how many times, etc.
For new grads, including internships as experience is good, but as you begin working they should be the first things to take out of your resume.
Some workshop attendee’s resumes had listed different roles they had at the same company in separate sections, but moving positions at a company should be put under the same section to make the promotion clear and show your potential employer you can stick to a company and grow there.
If you do not have a lot of experience, try to find opportunities like building a website for someone like a friend or family member’s company or at a non-profit organization. Having something live online with real users is a great way to prove your skills to the recruiter.
Hackathons are a popular activity among students looking to work in tech, however, they should not be listed as professional experience since they are personal projects. Instead, create a separate section for hackathons to beef up your resume.
Clubs and activities in college are okay to list but keep the bullet points short, so they don’t take up too much space.
Resume writing requires some element of strategy. Companies who use software to scan resumes are often searching for certain keywords; looking at how a job posting is worded by the employer and including the buzzwords they used in your own resume is a great way to set yourself up as their ideal candidate. A tip for diverse candidates is to add the keyword “women” since some recruiters look for underrepresented minorities; highlight your involvement in any minority group.
Those who are exploring different fields such as data science, android, iOS, etc., should have separate resumes for each field and a master resume with all their experiences that they can pull and create more specific resumes from. Mixing unrelated things is confusing for the reader, especially when they are searching for something very specific.
Check out the Exaltitude resume checklist - a one page list on writing a stellar resume.