The following is the 4 biggest mistakes I’ve seen a software engineer make and how to fix them.

Before we get into that, its first worth taking a moment on what you're trying to do and what you want.

  • You want a job (or perhaps a better job)

What does the hiring manager want?  Quite often its:

  • someone who can do the task at the salary offered
  • someone who won't create more work for me!

What's the point of the CV?

The CV is an entree, not the main meal.  It's ONLY purpose is to stand out from the 100 - 200 other applicants to get an interview and start the conversation.

That's it!  


With that in mind, the following are my top 4 mistakes people make and how to fix them:

Not enough (specific) detail

Its lovely that you’ve worked for the biggest company in the world, congratulations for your time at that fantastic company.  But what did you do?

Take these two examples:

I worked on the order management system that processed client orders

OR

Part of the developer team that implemented new features from the business analyst.

Here’s a check list for you:

  • Was your experience front end, API or backend?

The answer doesn’t matter – but which was it?

  • Bug fixes or enhancements?
  • (If mentioning performance), be specific!

Optimized SQL queries reducing time from 5 seconds to less than 0.5 seconds.

If we take our original sentence:

I worked on the order management system that processed client orders

Using the above checklist, we could rewrite it to say:

As the backend developer for the order management system, I primarily worked on new features and support.  An example of performance was reducing the response time from 5 seconds to less than 0.5 seconds.

Which do you think sounds better?

Some sort of external proof

I understand you want to keep your privacy, but there’s a balance between privacy and social proof.  

A recruiter would see literally 100’s of resumes for a role.  You want to be in that short list of a dozen or so.  

Including a reference to something I can check independently, lets me verify exactly who you are.  Facebook or LinkedIn are great examples.  Make sure you have a (relatively) updated profile photo.  Otherwise you could be sending me a link to anyone.

Don't worry about your “weaknesses”

Time and time again, I see engineers who are self-conscious of their experience (or lack thereof).    My advice - own it!

If I am recruiting for a junior / graduate role, I don't care that you haven't put an astronaut on the moon.  What I do care, is two things - it's your attitude and can I work with you?

Your attitude is important - there are going to be times where stuff needs to get done.  I know its not in your job description and it isn't in mine.  But it still needs to get done.  If I ask you to do it, are you going to freak out?  Complain and moan?  Or just get stuck into it?

Can I work with you?  This one sounds obvious but people still forget it.  Can we have a conversation?  Can we talk about literally anything?  Or are you so BORING that I want to go to sleep?  You don't have to be the life of the party, but you should be able to hold a conversation.

What should I do if I have no experience?

Again, this one is interesting because the answer is so simple.  Let's say you're a hairdresser and you want to switch careers to become a web developer.

What have you done?

Remember, your CV is a tickle.  It doesn't have to be a "job".  You could have created your crazy aunt's website for her cats.  Maybe you did a free website for your hair salon.  It doesn't matter.  Just show me "something".  

Assuming you're applying for a junior role, I don't WANT someone with extensive experience.  You're far more valuable if you got off your backside and did something compared to the person who "just wants their foot in the door".

Bonus tip - cover letter

I know opinions will differ here, but I don't care too much on the cover letter.  A simple introduction (Hi, my name is Christian and I am applying for the...)

The cover letter isn't a 2nd resume.  It's a polite introduction to your personality.  Don't stress.

By avoiding the mistakes above, you can create a fantastic resume that provides a well-rounded picture of your skills, experience and who you are!

Go get 'em!