When it comes to creating an effective software engineer resume, listing your experience correctly is crucial. Many candidates find this section of the resume particularly tricky because they do not know what to include, what to exclude, and how to present the information. Such uncertainty can cost you.
Recruiters only spend a few seconds to a minute to read a resume; your experience may be the deciding factor in landing you a FAANG tech interview. It tells the recruiter of your ability to apply software engineering knowledge to real-world, on-the-job problems.
Recruiters rely on your work experience to predict your potential to perform in the prospective role.
The “Work Experience” section of your resume:
- Describes your practical experience in the software engineering field
- Demonstrates your ability to perform on-the-job
- Indicates the value you can bring to the prospective role and company
This section is commonly termed “Work Experience,” “Work History,” or “Professional Experience” and is usually placed at the top of your resume under the header/summary/career objective section.
In this article, we share the top 5 tips to list your work experience properly:
- Tailor Your Work Experience to Match Job Requirements
- List Only Relevant Experience
- Use the Reverse-chronological Order
- Create Consistent Job Headers
- Write Effective Job Descriptions
1. Tailor Your Work Experience to Match Job Requirements
Tweak your resume to use keywords mentioned in the job description.
Highlight aspects of your past and present jobs that closely match the prospective job requirements. For example, if you’re applying for a senior-level software engineering position, highlight experiences where you provided direction or leadership.
2. List Only Relevant Experience
If you’re wondering how much experience you should list on your resume or how far back you should go, here are some guidelines.
Experienced, Senior, and Mid-Level Software Engineers
Pick and list only relevant job experiences; describe only the most impactful ones. Leave out early-career, junior-level jobs and only mention low-impact jobs to avoid gaps in your timeline.
If you have a lot of experience (20+ years), it may not be feasible to list all your past jobs. Going back about 10 or 15 years, covering up to 3-5 recent positions is the current norm.
At higher software engineering levels, your experience should showcase diverse and deep abilities. It should indicate your ability to perform, learn, contribute, manage, lead, and influence teams and projects.
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Junior or Entry-Level Software Engineer
If you have limited experience, you can elaborate on your past jobs and even mention internships. At lower software engineering levels, your experience should showcase your ability to perform and learn.
Pro Resume Tip: If you don’t have relevant professional experience for the prospective role, take on independent or freelance projects or assignments to gain the required experience.
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3. Use the Reverse-chronological Order
Start with your current or most recent job posting and work your way back through each preceding job. This lets recruiters get a fair idea of your career progression and professional growth.
4. Create Consistent Job Headers
For each job posting, mention the following employment details under each job header. Follow a single format for all job postings listed.
- Employer’s/Company’s name
- Position or title or role in the company
- Period of employment with each employer mentioning start and end dates
- Company location
Pro Resume Tip: Use official or professional names and titles when listing past employers and positions. Terms like “Software Ninja” or “Keeper of the Code” are entertaining but unprofessional and could lead to a resume rejection.
If you’ve held multiple positions within a company and wish to showcase this, mention the duration of employment for each position.
5. Write Effective Job Descriptions
How you describe your role at your previous companies can make a considerable difference in how recruiters perceive you. Here are some tips to make your job description easy-to-read and impactful:
Avoid paragraphs or wordy sentences. Use short, crisp, simple, and complete bulleted sentences.
Keep It Result-oriented
Don’t just list your tasks and responsibilities of your past jobs. A task-oriented resume doesn’t provide recruiters any information about your value or capabilities.
Instead, use a result-oriented resume. List your achievements as “Task performed + Result.” Quantify results, if possible. Tasks indicate what was expected of you at your past job. Results indicate how much value you added. This is a competitive advantage showing how much value you can bring to the new position.
Examples of quantified results:
- Reduction in costs
- Increase in revenue or sales
- Increase in productivity
- Increase in quality scores
- Reduction in errors
- Improved efficiencies
- Increase in speed
- Increase in features completed
- Decrease in open requests
Use Active Voice and Power Verbs
Writing in the passive voice will lengthen sentences and make information less impactful. Use the active voice to create short sentences and hold a recruiter’s attention. This will encourage them to read more information on your resume.
You can incorporate the active voice by using action words or power verbs at the start of your sentences. For example, “Managed,” “Coordinated,” “Planned” to show leadership skills or “Designed,” “Developed,” “Devised,” “Engineered” to show creative abilities.
A simple online search will yield a number of resources to help you find the right vocabulary to describe your role to create the right impact.
Pro Resume Tip: Avoid using too many buzzwords. Jargon and buzzwords that don’t sound natural will make your resume appear inauthentic.
Explain Your Role
Job titles aren’t self-explanatory, especially among software companies with no standard titles for different roles. Explain your role at each of your past jobs. Were you an individual contributor, or did you manage a team? What type of software engineer were you? What kind of work did you do?
For example, the title “Senior Software Engineer” indicates neither job level in the company nor whether you led a team or were an individual contributor. This ambiguity can lead to a recruiter assuming you’re not the right fit for the role.
Resumes are scanned by tech and non-tech recruiters. Don’t assume your resume will be read by a recruiter who is familiar with technology. Keep your resume simple and jargon-free.
Use the Right Tenses
Use the past tense when describing past jobs.
Pro Resume Tip: Your resume forms the basis of your tech interviews and coding interviews. Only include demonstrable experience that you can speak about confidently. FAANG interviewers are highly adept at spotting an inauthentic applicant during screening or technical interviews. Remember to study the resume you submitted for a particular job during your tech interview prep.
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