Are you a junior developer, who struggles to get job interviews? Are you sending your resume left and right, but getting no responses?
Or maybe you already have a few years of experience, but you feel like an underachiever? Maybe you want to shoot for the best jobs, but for some reason, you can never get them?
I have good news for you! Recently I've landed an incredible job at 11Sigma, where we cooperate with US company Stoplight to build awesome API tools for developers. I am finally working fully remotely, getting great pay and I work on very interesting projects, including open source stuff.
And yet I don't believe I am the smartest or the best developer out there. So how did I get the job? Obviously I managed to do quite well during the interviews, but I also believe that a big factor in my success was my resume.
Before the last job hunt, I've put quite a bit of effort to polish my resume as best as I can. In this article, we will go through some things I've put there. This way you will be able to replicate my success - no matter who you are and what are your career goals.
Let's get started!
Before we jump into details, let's talk a bit about your resume in general.
Of course, in resumes the content is king, but I do believe that presentation matters as well. For the longest time, I struggled to create nice looking resumes.
I even tried to use HTML & CSS to create them, which gave good results, but was very inneficient. I also looked at some SAAS solutions that supposedly generated nice-looking resumes.
And yet I believe that the best (and the cheapest) solution is to simply use Google Docs. If you try to develop a resume in Google Docs from scratch, it will take you a lot of effort to make it look good. But Google shares some resume-specific templates, which will give you a great starting point.
Simply choose a template that looks good to you and fits your personality or job. You can then play around a little bit with changing colors and fonts to make the resume seem more unique.
This will produce a solid result very fast and for free.
And of course, remember about keeping your resume without grammatical errors. In the remote work era you should probably have your resume written in English, so if you are not a native speaker and you don't feel confident in your language skills, simply show your resume to others and ask them to double-check if everything seems right. Tools like Grammarly might also help.
With those basics out of the way, we are ready to jump into the meat and potatoes of the article.
Most of the recruiters I've talked to advised me against putting a photo in my resume. This however changes based on the country. For example, in France, it's a common practice to put a professional photo of your face, while in Poland it's usually discouraged.
But in my case, I didn't just add a boring, "professional", passport-like photography of my face. This would be obviously pointless because a face doesn't tell anything about a person.
Instead of posting a typical resume photo, I included this one:
On top of that, it is simply a good quality photo that stands out, drawing an eye to my resume from the pile of others.
Perhaps you have a photo of you at some tech conference, even if just as an attendant. Or maybe you've spoken at a local meetup in front of a small crowd. Maybe at one of your previous jobs, somebody took a nice photo of you working or just having a good time with your team.
And even if not, you still can easily get a photo that will show your love for programming, which will make your resume stand out. Find some nice spot, like a cool cafe or co-working space, dress nicely (but casually!), fix your hair, and simply take a photo of you working on your laptop.
On the other hand, you can go in a completely different direction. Perhaps you have an awesome travel photo? Or a photo of you doing some interesting sport? Or even a photo showcasing some cool, unusual hobby.
This might not be appropriate for bigger companies, but it would definitely score you points in some startups or remote-first companies hiring digital nomads. Remember that those companies often build their brand around lifestyle. So literally anything that evokes a sense of excitement and adventure can improve your chances of getting an interview.
The photo should be telling some story about you, even before the recruiter reads the first paragraph of the resume.
You can be as creative as you want, just remember that the photo has to be of good quality. If you have a photo that looks like something taken with a cheap smartphone camera, it's not good enough.
Getting a nice photo doesn't have to be expensive though. It's very likely some of your friends have DSLR cameras collecting dust. Just borrow one, or ask them to take a picture of you! Or even find someone with a solid phone camera. Indeed, newer iPhone cameras often give better results than professional DSLRs, especially without editing.
Put some effort into it and you will end up with a photo that will make your resume truly one of a kind.
Blogging is hard. I am recently spending a lot of time writing tech articles and it takes significantly more effort than I expected.
But in order to put some articles on your resume, you don't have to be a professional blogger with thousands of followers! Perhaps you've never even written any articles, so you have nothing to post. That's totally fine!
Literally writing two or three solid articles and sharing them on social media can do wonders for your resume. You can share anything - tech tips, "today I've learned" articles, your opinions, reviews. Literally anything related to tech, productivity, career - you know, all that stuff the tech bloggers usually write about.
When I was looking for a job, I didn't have a lot of articles written yet. I think it wasn't more than three or four. And yet at one of the interviews, an interviewer complimented me on my writings and said that they rarely have an opportunity to interview a person who actually does tech blogging. This gave me more confidence during the interview, so you can see that it was absolutely worth it.
Having at least a few blog posts in your resume will show off your passion, present your skills, and even show that you are able to learn new stuff quickly. Good writing skills are actually incredibly important for companies because tech jobs involve a surprising amount of written communication - writing issues, user stories, code review comments, etc. Even day to day slack discussions require you to be able to efficiently communicate your ideas in a written form.
So write a few articles over the next few weekends. This will immediately bump the attractiveness of your resume.
I've seen junior developers "work on their portfolio" by cranking out one project after another.
Although that's cool, I believe they are misunderstanding a little bit what a portfolio project should be. Or at least what kind of project would be the most impressive for companies and recruiters.
Creating tens of toy projects is fine, but in my opinion, it's much better to just make a single project. Preferably something that you truly care about and that is at least a little bit unique.
A big part of a programming job is actually maintaining and improving the quality, rather than producing new code at a break-neck pace. Also, most jobs involve spending a lot of time on just one project. That's why having a one, high quality, polished project is in my opinion much better than a massive portfolio that just looks impressive on a surface, but is actually full of low quality, unimaginative stuff.
On top of that, the purpose of a project is not only to show off your skills but also your personality and interests. A tiny project where you extensively use some niche React library or an exotic programming pattern is much more interesting than having yet another TODO list on your Github.
Also, it is much more important and impressive for companies to actually deliver the project. You can make something tiny and simple, but actually publishing it and handling the traffic, no matter how small, would be a great showcase of you being an independent developer who can actually deliver a working product.
And it's actually small things that give off that "pro" impression. Buying an actual domain for your project or making sure that it can be nicely displayed on all kinds of screens, from mobile to desktops, will already do a lot.
And this is exactly what I did. I created Real Not Complex, which is a simple website containing links to free math textbooks available online. You can also rate the textbooks there. It's an extremely simple project, but I've put a significant effort to polish it. I also actually got some solid traffic on it, and it is of course something I mentioned in my resume as well.
In the end, it's just about showing care and love for your own project, instead of cranking out another one. This care and passion is something the companies are looking for.
As I've mentioned before, showing a passion for learning and having solid people and leadership skills is something that will make you stand out from the crowd of other programmers.
So the next interesting idea for you is to create a learning community centered around a topic that interests you.
In my case, it was creating a project called Machine Learning Study Groups, where I and a bunch of other people meet every week to study machine learning and data science together. It is in Polish, however, so if it sounds interesting to you and you aren't Polish... sorry!
The thing is, when I was creating that initiative, I barely knew anything about machine learning. But because I was proactive and eager to learn, I managed to find a group of people sharing my interests, who were willing to study together and help eachother on the way.
We were doing weekly Zoom meetings, which were also recorded and put on YouTube. Thanks to that I had proof of the work I've done, which I could then include in my resume.
And again, you don't have to copy me exactly. You can create your own study group, you can organize online meetups (or even a conference), you can create a Discord server on some specific topic, etc. You don't need to be an expert in the field to create some interesting events. In fact, you can be just a beginner and use those self-organized events to learn.
Anything that involves managing people in some capacity will be a great addition to a resume. Even if you don't plan to become a manager in the future, employers still value people who are not afraid of taking leadership roles and organizing people to achieve a common goal.
Often this skill is actually a requirement for getting more senior roles, even if they still mostly involve programming. That's why I believe it's important to put those kinds of initiatives in your resume as fast as possible.
This last piece of advice focuses again on a premise that you should try to show off your personality in your resume.
The best companies are not looking only for a solid employee, but also for a person that will fit well with their culture.
Because of that, I believe it's important to show off (or at least mention) your hobbies in your resume or cover letter.
Again, this is something that will be probably just ignored by many recruiters, but believe me, there are companies out there that are paying attention to that stuff.
Indeed, my current company, 11sigma, puts a lot of focus on adventure and digital nomad lifestyle. So it's probably safe to say that my interest in traveling and travel photography was a factor in me getting the job.
You don't want to land a job where you will not be able to connect with anyone and where your company will not support your passions and goals outside of tech.
So are you taking photos? Share your Instagram at the end of the resume! Are you making music? Drop a link to a song you made. Are you passionate about dogs? Maybe put a photo of you coding next to your pupil?
The options here are endless. It's about you expressing yourself and your passions so that you can be sure that a company that hires you, appreciates you as a person and not only as a programmer.
I hope this article inspired you to rework your resume at least a little bit. It will take some effort, but in the end everyone can create a standout resume for themselves.
Remember that all those points are supposed to inspire you. They are not a list of things that you have to include in your resume. Just do the things that make sense for you and excite you, or even come up with your own. If you do, please share them in the comment, so that others can learn from you as well.
Thanks for reading and have a great day!