4+ Tips for Software Development Applications

Author name
Dave McDonald, Ph.D., Associate Director Graduate Student Career Services, Duke Career Center
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woman with laptop

Resumes for software and tech positions are more than just a list of projects and coding languages. Recently we spoke with a long-time IBM employee about what he looks for when he’s reading resumes, and these are his tips.

1 Emphasize the entire Engineering Process in resumes and interviews

  • Gather requirements from clients/stakeholders
  • Design/architecture
  • Development (including programming)
  • Test/QA
  • Maintenance and documentation

2 Go beyond a programming skill set

  • Companies can pay for programmers in other countries for much cheaper than what they’re hiring for in the US, so additional skills need to be demonstrated
  • What was the purpose of the project or system?
  • What was your role?
  • What results did you personally achieve? What results did the project achieve?
  • What innovations did you bring to projects?
  • Don’t start accomplishment statements with “used”
    • Start with big picture/purpose info then moving into technical
    • Ex. “Improved…performance and scalability by implementing…”
  • C++ and Shell skills are almost a given if you have a computer science or electrical and computer engineering degree
  • Bigger companies like to see leadership skills

3 When describing projects on a resume

  • Specify where a project was done (course project, internship, et al.) and with whom
  • Go beyond basic, common projects such as a Tic-Tac-Toe game
  • Emphasize the quality of a project and experience by providing lots of detail. Don’t try to fit more projects onto your resume at the cost of details. In this way, quality is better than quantity.
  • Title projects to convey more about the purpose than about the technical details
  • Statements at the end of projects can summarize that “the system resulted in…”

4+ Other resume tips

  • Results are more important than activities
  • Engineers are detail-oriented, and so should be their resumes
  • Passion needs to come through, mostly through the details and skills beyond programming
  • They’re looking for people who want to contribute to the success of the company, not just looking to learn
  • Remove basic coursework and feature only specialty courses
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