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Cover image for Advice on Applying for a Job

Advice on Applying for a Job

molly_struve profile image Molly Struve (she/her) ・5 min read

Over the years I have reviewed a lot of dev job applications and resumes and done a ton of interviews with dev candidates. Looking back on all of it, here is the advice I have for those who are applying for a dev job. Please NOTE this advice is based on the fact that a human will be reading your resume. Thankfully, I have never had to interface with bots when applying for a job so I don't have any advice to offer on that front.

Don't try to know it all

I dont know everything GIF

Often a job listing will list ALL of the technologies a company works with from the frontend framework to the backend server operating system. Most of the time they are not actually looking for someone who knows ALL of that. They usually want someone who knows some of their tech stack. For this reason, don't pretend to know anything you don't.

If it's on your resume be ready to talk about it. I can't tell you how many times I have asked someone about a skill on their resume and they reply, "Well, I have only ever read a blog post on that" or "I worked with that once 5 years ago." To me, that looks deceitful. I would rather you not have it on your resume, to begin with. Furthermore, if you are asked about a technology you are not familiar with I would rather you admit you are not familiar with it than trying to pretend you are.

Make your resume stand out

Schitts Creek Dad saying everyone loves pizzazz

When you are reading a lot of resumes it doesn't take long before they all start to blend together. A couple of things that always help a resume stand out to me are:

  1. Color
  2. Two Columns
  3. Font variations (Bold, underline, italic)

Color: Almost any pop of color makes a resume easy to remember because 99% of the resumes you see are black and white. Obviously, if everyone uses color this advantage goes away but I don't see that happening anytime soon. Consider adding a pop of thoughtful color to your resume either in the font or a light tint for the background. However, when you do make sure it is still readable and not hard on the eyes. For example, maybe stay away from bright lime green. πŸ˜‰

Two Columns: For whatever reason, EVERY resume I have ever seen with two columns is extremely well organized and easy to read. I think the columns force you to up your game on organization and to keep descriptions short because you have less page width to work with. All of this leads to an easier to read and digest resume.

Font variations: Using font weights is a great way to draw attention to things on your resume. When looking at a resume the first thing I do is always skim it. This is where font-weight comes in handy. If you bold your skills or maybe a big project those are going to jump out at me first. Sometimes, people may not even have time for a thorough read so this is going to ensure you get your key points across quickly

Convey that you want it

When I look at applicants applying for a job one of the top things I look for is How much do they want it? I know this is going to get some debate because some people just want a job that earns a paycheck and that is totally fine! However, for me personally, I want to work with happy enthusiastic people who enjoy their work. I find that those people make great coworkers and boost the morale of the team.

Answer the questionsΒ 

This may seem obvious, but you wouldn't believe how many times I have asked a question and the candidate skirts around it or answers in a very noncommital way. If someone asks you a question in an application or interview make sure you are directly answering it. We honestly want to know your thoughts and opinions on the matter!

For example, let's say you are asked: "What kind of testing strategies do you use and which ones do you think are the most important?"

GOOD: "I use X and Y testing strategies this way and that when I code. In my opinion, testing strategy Y is the most important because of all these important things."

BAD: "There are a couple of different ways to test code. One way is X and it does this. Another way is Y and it does that."

The problem with the second response is that it doesn't give me any insight into what YOU use or what YOUR approaches or opinions are when it comes to testing. The biggest thing I look for when I ask an opinion question is, does the candidate have a reason to back their opinion up? Most of the time I don't actually care about the opinion, I'm more interested in your justification and reasoning behind your opinion.

Nothing is a bigger turn off to me than an opinion without a reason. "X is the best testing strategy and everyone should use it!" Ok great, tell me why otherwise, I don't believe you. Yes, I was THAT kid always asking "But why?!" growing upΒ πŸ˜…

Now some people will argue that at least the second response proves the person knows about testing. Knowing about testing is great BUT that is not what I am trying to determine with the question. I'm expecting the person will know something about testing, but what I want to see is have they thought critically enough about it to form an opinion. This is how you can separate out those going through the motions vs those who are taking the time to really understand what they are doing.

Explain links

If you put a link in your resume or application, explain what the link is, don't expect the reviewer to do all the work! You have to at least give some context. One example might be:

Here is a link to my blog: dev.to/person_1. I tend to blog about accessibility and frontend frameworks.

If I have time, I can click the link and explore. But if I don't, then I still get the gist of what you like to blog about. Also consider that sometimes people will get printed versions of your resume and might not be able to click the link. For these cases, the explanation helps provide context about what the link is. Also, make sure the link is short and easy to type. Then, if the person reading your resume wants to type it by hand into a browser they can. In short, make sure your resume as accessible as possible for everyone and every medium.

That's All Folks!

This is far from a complete list of all the things you should keep in mind when you are applying for a job but hopefully, you found these few tips useful. Good luck finding your next dev gig!

Posted on by:

molly_struve profile

Molly Struve (she/her)

@molly_struve

International Speaker πŸ—£ Runner πŸƒβ€β™€οΈ Always Ambitious. Never Satisfied. I ride πŸ¦„'s IRL

Discussion

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How do you know what to put in a resume & what to leave out?

Most job descriptions I have read recently are either extremely vague (develop high quality software complying with industry best practices) or ask for experience in every technology the company uses.

Trying to create a single resume to get past the electronic submission system and be pleasing to the human it may reach has been extremely difficult. Especially since current HR policies provide no feedback on why you were rejected or by whom (person or computer).

Any ideas on how to beat keyword scanning but still be concise?

 

I don't have any advice on that front because as I said in the post, I always go straight to a human. Even if it means looking someone up from the company on LinkedIn and emailing them my resume.

 

If it's on your resume be ready to talk about it. I can't tell you how many times I have asked someone about a skill on their resume and they reply, "Well, I have only ever read a blog post on that" or "I worked with that once 5 years ago." To me, that looks deceitful. I would rather you not have it on your resume, to begin with. Furthermore, if you are asked about a technology you are not familiar with I would rather you admit you are not familiar with it than trying to pretend you are.

While I agree it can look deceitful, I can also see how it might be necessary to get your foot in the door to get an interview. I think it is a symptom of the broken hiring processes in tech. An example might be a 10-year Java developer that is applying for a C# job. Maybe they used C# on a small project a while back or they are actively working on a personal project with it, but do not have nearly the same amount of experience as Java. Whether they "know" C# is debatable, but I think they could easily pick it up. If they only list Java and not C# on their resume, chances are they will be automatically rejected from companies, even if a human is reading the application. In-house recruiters may not know that Java and C# are similar and the recruiter was tasked with finding a C# developer. Does it make the Java developer a bad candidate? I would say no. Should that Java developer be locked into using Java for the remainder of their career? I would also say no.

There could be a coding test and they can complete it using C# without a problem. If they make it past the screening and get an interview, will C# trivia be the best approach to legitimize the candidate? They have already proven they can write C# in the code screening. I think I would be more interested in learning about how they approach problems and work with others than the specific ins-and-outs of a certain technology.

Only listing what you are an expert in could limit your opportunities or pigeonhole you into working with a particular technology that you may no longer want to use. It can make experienced developers feel like imposters all over again.

Personally, I think you should filter out "non-relevant" jobs from your resume. Anything that doesn't demonstrate your ability to do the job you are applying for, get rid of it. I always tailor my resume for the position I am applying so that it highlights what that position is looking for. By doing this it is easier to keep it to a single page.

So are you saying to use a non-chronological approach to building a resume. That means there may be gaps in the dates and jobs listed on a resume. How would you suggest explaining those to a perspective employer? Is there a difference between tailoring a resume and leaving items off?

Which brings up a different set of questions. Is it ethical to leave 10 yrs off a resume b/c it may not seem relevant to a specific job title. That's a ligit question. Is it deceptive to appear 5-10 or 15 yrs younger on paper than when you arrive? What can or should a person leave off their resume?

I like the website. But does your site supersede the need for a resume? Is that your point? I'm not sure.

 

Wondering what your thoughts are on number of pages for a resume?

I think forcing yourself to keep to one page has the same benefit as your comment on two columns - limiting space holds you accountable for only listing the important things.

 

I would 100% agree! Personally, when I get a multi-page resume my heart drops a little because usually what is important on the resume could have fit on one page and saved me a lot of time of having to figure out what is important and what is not.

 

Ok, but what about people transferring into coding who actually have two pages worth of jobs? Should these people filter out "non-relavent" older jobs to fit the imaginary one page limit? I think one page is fine if you graduated in 2018, but should it be a mold?

 

I have to admit I am a little disheartened by your statement, ...your heart drops when you see 2 pagers. Some ppl are proud of their career path no matter its diversity. I thought in this multi-cultural multi-viewpoint time diversity was beneficial.

Instead I seem to be hearing one size Should fit all. I have to say I am more than disappointed by this viewpoint. Should we not be striving for inclusivity? I wonder if you confusing resume "stuffing" versus longevity.

At some point I feel like what you're describing as longevity becomes resume stuffing.

Think of a resume as an advertisement. Would you be more likely to buy something from an ad that says "this product solves this problem" or from an ad that makes you dig through paragraphs of information to figure out what the product is supposed to do?

I believe you missed my point.

 

You should also print your resume at least once yourself, to make sure it looks good and is readable on paper as well.

I personally have got all of it on mine, colour, two-column-layout, font variation (having a design background myself, that's probably not that surprising) and I keep mine limited to one page. If it doesn't fit on a single page you don't need the information as your first impression.
You can always talk about that stuff later or you can put it on your portfolio or your profiles (as you'll be googled after anyway). 😁

 

LOVE that advice about printing your resume out once. Good call!

 

Nice reading Molly. In my experience, the color advice is quite dangerous.

I rather have a black and white resume with good typography and decent layout than one of those abominations in the name of creativity. I used to run a small design agency, and still keep a few of those, which I show to my students as an example of what you should not do, ever, in your CV to apply for a job.

But I understand what you mean about a bit of color, it really makes a difference, when used correctly.

All in all, great advices in general, thanks for writing this.

 

Do you have any examples of an excellent and very bad resume? That would be really fantastic to get insights πŸ™‚

 
[deleted]

Thanks! That was quite simple one!

 

Nowadays, when there are as many technologies as different types of workflows in organizations, it's almost guaranteed you will not be familiar with some technology 'X' particular company uses as part of their stack.

So, it's not always about knowing the 'X', but how fast you can pick up the 'X'.

 

This is really good advice. Thank you! Especially about being able to talk about any given item on the resume. I've been in a few rough interviews where the person couldn't explain something listed on their resume and it always turned out bad.

I've also noticed that once you get a few years of experience, how your resume looks matters less than how well you're able to articulate your value to the company or team that you want to join. This is why making a resume that's tailored for the position is really important.

 

Something to think about in regards to color is to use a small amount of the company's color.

For example, what color do you think of when I say "T-Mobile"? Probably Magenta. A small touch of that above the fold can go a long way to making the resume seem much more personalized for the company

 

I'm struggling with finding a remote Android job for a couple months now so I'm hoping this improves my chances, thanks a lot for the write up! ❀️❀️❀️

 

I'm agree with you when you talk about the skills, i remember my class colleagues when they wrote BI, Big Data and AI on their resume but we only saw that in classes πŸ˜…

 

Do you not want to hire people who have no opinions?