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How to Structure Your Software Engineering Resume

Posted on 
January 24, 2022
|
by 
Team Interview Kickstart

While practicing problems and preparing for behavioral questions may seem daunting, there’s something much more tedious than these when it comes to interview preparation — creating a software engineer resume!

Before you start haphazardly jotting down your experience and projects, it’s a good idea to first come up with a basic structure of what you want to include in your software engineering resume. It’s also important to understand what format and style you must use. 

In this article, we’ll help you take this first step towards creating a great resume — one that is both ATS- and recruiter-friendly. Here’s what we’ll cover:

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • How Long Should a Software Engineer’s Resume Be?
  • Tips for Formatting Your Software Engineer Resume
  • How to Create the Right Sections for a Software Engineer Resume

One Page or Two? How Long Should a Software Engineer’s Resume Be?

This is one of the most common questions asked by all software engineers looking for a tech job, especially at a FAANG+ company. Software engineers work on multiple projects with multiple teams, dealing with different programming languages, and changing technologies. That’s a lot of information!

One-Page Software Engineer Resume

A one-page resume gives an overview of your entire profile at a glance. It's easy to read and tells the recruiter right away if you’re a good fit for the role or not. A mid-level engineer or junior developer with limited experience should aim to keep their resume short.

Two-Page Software Engineer Resume

Although one-page resumes are touted as the ideal length, a two-page resume is perfectly acceptable. It is the norm if you’re an experienced software engineer or senior software engineer. You may have many years of experience and a lot of information that cannot be left out. However, in a two-page resume, place the most crucial information on the first page. 

You may opt for a hybrid layout if you have a lot of experience to list. This layout can accommodate skills and other important information alongside experience on the first page. In a traditional resume, skills, projects, and other information are usually placed below experience, which would be lost to the recruiter in a two-page resume.

Three or Five-Page Software Engineer Resume

It’s not recommended to create a resume longer than two pages. Job recruiters only want to see if you’re a match for the job. Once shortlisted, you can elaborate on your profile at your tech interview instead of detailing information in the resume.

The key to writing the perfect software engineer resume is relevance. Tailoring your resume to the prospective role is the best way to create a concise resume. This shows recruiters that you have understood the job requirements well. 

Including only those details that closely match the job description increases your chances of being shortlisted for an interview. 

Tips for Formatting Your Software Engineer Resume

Your resume should be properly structured such that it is ATS-optimized and readable by recruiters. Failing these two criteria will result in a definite rejection. Here’s how having a well-structured resume helps:

  • Enhances readability.
  • Increases clarity, creating a professional impression.
  • Allows a company’s ATS to easily scan a resume and match it to the job description. This lowers the chances of rejection. 
  • Helps critical information stand out to recruiters at a glance. The longer it takes a recruiter to find information, the higher the chances of a resume being rejected.

For more details on ATS, read our detailed article on how to create an ATS-friendly resume.

Following are some tips that will help you structure and format your resume:

Organize Information and Use White Space

  • Allocate specific areas for each section.
  • Use margins: The standard margin size for a resume is one-inch or half-an-inch on all sides. Narrow margins make your resume look crowded, and broad margins take up valuable space you could use to write content.  
  • Demarcate sections and paragraphs by leaving lines and spaces. This makes it visually easier to register information.
  • Use a border to provide balance: Use a minimalistic, single-line border. Avoid colorful borders, borders with designs, or thick borders, which are distracting to recruiters and are ATS-unfriendly.

Use Standard and Basic Formatting

  • Use bullets: Listing information increases readability compared to writing it as paragraphs or blocks of text. Bullets provide visual direction, highlighting key information that can be scanned quickly.
    They are handy when writing about work experience. Use standard bullet styles. Avoid fancy bullets like arrows, checkmarks, diamonds, etc.
  • Font Type: Use professional fonts like Helvetica, Arial, Calibri, Times New Roman, Futura, Garamond, and Verdana. Avoid script fonts. 
  • Font Size: Use standard font sizes of 10-12 points, depending on the font type and the amount of information on your resume. Using a smaller font will allow you to accommodate more information and improve readability. Distinguish headings with a larger font size.
  • Bold, Underline, and Italics: Use bold words to highlight important information, headings, and titles. Avoid underlining and italicizing words as this may not be ATS-friendly.
  • Spacing: Check for extra spaces between words as an ATS may not be able to parse keywords or phrases if there are extra spaces between them.
  • Links: Provide links to online profiles and portfolios, cover letters, and any additional information. However, don’t hyperlink important words or headings and titles as this may not be ATS-compliant.

Use a Traditional Layout

  • A classic or traditional resume layout places prominence on work experience in a reverse-chronological format. ATSs and recruiters are used to this layout. It allows keywords and information to be easily scanned and reduces rejection chances. It’s most suited to those with experience.
  • A functional resume layout places prominence on skills. Work experience is not elaborated upon and is placed at the bottom of the resume. Functional resumes are not usually ATS-optimized and are generally not recruiter-friendly. Creative or functional resumes are best avoided to minimize chances of rejection.
  • A hybrid or combination resume layout combines traditional and functional resume features. This can be read by an ATS and can be easily scanned by a recruiter. It is most useful for a candidate with less experience and more skills or for longer, two-page resumes. 

How to Create the Right Sections for a Software Engineer Resume

Every software engineering resume should be clearly organized into sections with definite and self-clarifying titles. Here’s how you can do it:

1. Group similar pieces of information to form a section

2. Label each section using a commonly-used title: Don’t use quirky or over-the-top titles in a bid to grab a recruiter’s attention. A recruiter only looks at your resume once it passes the ATS screening. An ATS is not designed to parse uncommon words, titles, or phrases.

3. Place sections in logical order; display high impact sections first and prominently: This will help you determine how much content to include in each section. If you can’t accommodate all the information you want to include in your resume, you can provide links to an external online source that has more detailed information.

4. Maintain consistency: Don’t create chunks of information. An ATS will not be able to decipher between different pieces of information placed under a common heading. Also, a recruiter won’t take the time to sift through blocks of information to find what they need.

5. Don’t create too many sections: Group common information as subsections under a broad heading. E.g., “Technical Skills” and “Soft Skills” can be grouped under a single heading, “Skills.” This will create a leaner structure and increase readability.


6. Include relevant sections only: It’s not necessary to provide information for all sections commonly found on a resume. Include only those sections that are necessary, relevant, and can create the most impact, detailing the most important sections to match the job description and accommodate keywords.

Recruiters primarily focus on your work experience and skills. Ensure these sections are well-structured and placed prominently on your resume. For tips on how to do this right, read:

Ready for Your Dream Software Engineer Job?

If you’re looking to uplevel and land your dream job at a FAANG+ company, your preparation must cover all ground. Not only should you have a stellar resume, but you also need to have an application strategy, interview prep plan, and salary negotiation strategy. 

Sounds like a lot? Join Interview Kickstart to get access to the most structured, researched, and proven tech interview prep program. We’ve trained over 9,000 software engineers to crack the most challenging coding interviews and land jobs at their dream companies, including Google, Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Amazon, and more.

Our programs are designed and taught by recruiters and tech leads from FAANG+ companies, who will guide you through every phase of the interview process — application, interview, and offer negotiation.

Want to learn more? Sign up for our free webinar. 


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