The purpose of a resume is to clearly convey your top skills and establish credibility through past work experience, projects and educational qualifications.
Start with the audience in mind - who reads your resume?
- Hiring manager
- CTO, Senior Developer, Tech lead, Engineering Manager
Here are some tips for how to make your resume stand out:
Mirror the language of the job/role description.
Many companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) - software for automatically scanning and filtering resumes before any human reads them. You need to make sure your resume gets through that by including all the most important keywords relevant to the contract.
You can also run your resume through an online ATS scanner like Jobscan, which gives you a match score by comparing your resume and job descriptions.
But don't take it too literally. Their algorithm is too simplistic. If you added all the keywords they recommend, your resume would become a list of buzzwords.
Instead, just look out for any obvious important keywords you're missing and add them.
Keep your resume short - no more than 1–2 pages long.
You only need to provide enough information to get an interview. Avoid including irrelevant projects, certifications or hobbies.
Use results-oriented active verbs.
For example, try to use words like "shipped", "delivered", and "led" instead of "took part in", "wrote code" or "was part of team".
Where possible, quantify the impact of your work.
If you can attach any monetary ($) value to your work, make sure to mention it. But keep it real - don't inflate the impact and never lie.
Make sure to mention any performance improvements you delivered. For example, "Improved website load times by 25% during peak shopping season".
Or at least mention a qualitative benefit to the business. For example, "simplified onboarding process for new vendors on platform by automating upload of key documents".
If you led a team, mention how many team members there were.
If you built some tool used by your employer, mention how many people in the company or how many customers used it.
Mention the key technologies used.
For each line item of work experience, make sure to mention the key tech stacks used. This ties back to the point above about ATS.
But don't just list lots of programming languages, frameworks and tools without the context in which you used them.
Use a good simple template.
You can use a simple one from Google docs or a nicer one from Canva - https://www.canva.com/resumes/templates/
Avoid using overly fancy non-standard layouts or colour schemes.
Tailor your resume for each job or contract.
It's a bit more of an effort, but you can really stand out if you emphasise parts of your experience that are particularly relevant to a company.
Make it easy to scan quickly.
Bold words throughout your resume to highlight and draw attention to important keywords. No one will read your entire resume, so make it easy to scan.
Link to your important online profiles
At the top of the resume, include links to your personal website, Github profile, portfolio, LinkedIn profile and any other relevant professional profiles.
If your Github profile does not have any relevant projects, then it's better not to link to it. Showing an empty or inactive profile is worse than not showing one.
Highlight your strengths, not weaknesses.
Highlight your non-coding skills.
Non-technical skills can be very important, especially as a contractor. So make sure to highlight:
- relevant personal projects
- any talks you've given
- articles or videos you've published
- community or leadership initiatives
- experience in mentoring others
- experience in hiring - screening or interviewing candidates
- open source contributions, including documentation and community management
- relevant courses and certifications you have completed
These are doubly important if you don't have enough relevant work experience.
Do you have any other tips or questions? Share them in the comments below.
This lesson is from my 6-Figure Contractor Group Coaching Program - a 4-week cohort-based course in which I help developers like you kickstart their careers as contractors. Learn more here and sign up for the next cohort.
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