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6 Common Mistakes In Software Engineer Resumes

No one can underestimate the importance of a good resume. As a software engineer, your resume gives recruiters/interviewers the first impression and it also determines whether you can get interviews or not.

Do you know that Google receives more than 20,000 resumes a week, or two every minute?

It means that your resume will compete with millions of other resumes. So one may ask how could I make my resume stand out?

After reviewing hundreds of resumes over the last several weeks, I decided to write this post to summarize 6 most common mistakes in software engineer resumes. Actually, all these 6 mistakes are so common that most resumes have at least 4 of them. Remember that a good resume requires you to keep refining and updating, you can hardly make an impressive resume without any effort.

#1 – Resume is too long

It’s said that “Ideally, your resume should be one page, because recruiters and managers have short attention spans”.

However, many people’s resumes break this rule totally. In an extreme case, the resume looks like a book to me!

Released research showing that recruiters only spend an average of 6.25 seconds looking at a candidate’s resume before deciding whether he or she is a fit for a job.

As a result, having multiple pages means most of the content won’t get a chance of being reviewed. Also too many contents will make important points more likely to be ignored. The general strategy is to have several bullet points for each of your work experience and you definitely shouldn’t be too verbose.

Having too many work experiences/projects is no excuse. I’ve seen so many concise and clean resumes for some very experienced engineers. Try to prioritize everything well.

#2 – Description is hard to understand

This is very common in software engineer resumes because many people tend to illustrate quite a lot technical details, which make it very hard to understand for people without relevant experience, let alone that most of the time it’s recruiter people who are filtering resumes.

A general example is like “Developed XYZ feature in XXX framework with technique A, B, C…”. It’ll make the resume even more mysterious when those technique are only used to that company internally.

The golden rule is that your description should be understandable to people with a little bit technical background like tech company recruiters. An easy way is to grab a friend and ask for feedback on your resume.

#3 – Description is too general

Another extreme case is that some descriptions are too general and are almost meaningless.

When I say they are meaningless, it means that I’ve no way to tell what the project is like and cannot categorize them into level ABCD.

An example is “Responsible for developing a website using AngularJS”. In fact, this description can apply for both a huge project and some trivial work. There are just so many things unknown, like was he the single contributor? How big is the website (maybe only a landing page)? Was he developing the whole website or specific features?

As is known to all that it’s not easy to build a website, however, it’s pretty hard to build a good website (like Gainlo lol). It’s highly recommended to clarify those general descriptions.

#4 – Highlight techniques instead of project impact/complexity

It’s very important to know what recruiters/interviewers are looking for in your resume. A common misunderstanding is that they care most about whether you have particular skills like Python, MySQL etc..

It’s true that people do care about skills, however, when reviewing one’s resume, recruiters/interviewers care more about their experiences. More specifically, they care about what companies you have worked for, what projects you’ve done, how complex each project is and how much impact they have etc..

Try to compare the following two statements:

  1. Migrated backend storage system from A to B, using techniques U, V, W, X, Y, Z and so on.
  2. Migrated backend storage system of 100+T data while serving millions of users.

Apparent the second one is much better. Why? The second one highlights the impact and complexity of the project. Backend migration can be easy when there’s 10k data. However, it’ll be quite challenging when there’s 100+T data, let alone the system is still serving millions of users, which also indicates the impact.

Although the first statement lists quite a few techniques, there are two reasons why it’s not that important. First, there’s no way to tell how each techniques were used. For instance, you might only write a few lines of Python in this project and listed Python in your resume.

Second, tech companies don’t always care about skills match. For example, you can still apply for Google’s front end position when you only have backend experiences in the past. This is because people believe that good engineers can always learn new techniques.

#5 – Unnecessary information

Many people are so eager to show their skills that they put a lot of unnecessary information on their resumes. Again, having too many extra information means that those important points are more likely to be overlooked.

In general, we care most about your education info, work experiences, course projects/side projects, a summary of your skills. Some people may also put their publication, awards or some other things they’d like to highlight, which is also fine. Some common unnecessary information include:

  • A huge list of skills. Even for some very good engineers I know, they usually put less than 10 skills they are proficient in. However, many people tend to put a lot. For instance, skills to specific software (e.g. Eclipse), non-technical skills (e.g. Photoshop, spreadsheet), general skills (e.g. team player) are all not necessary.
  • Hobbies. It’s ok to put one or two hobbies, especially you are really good at them. But don’t make the list too long.
  • Course works. Even relevant course works are not that necessary unless you are applying for an internship.
  • Profile photo (at least in US).

#6 – Bad format

Personally I’m kind of conservative to make the format too fancy. I would say as long as your resume looks clear, the format is good.

However, some people have definitely spent a lot of time making their resumes look different. For example, some resumes are formatted in multiple columns, some are decorated with different colors and so on.

From my personal experience, the best resumes I’ve seen are always ones that are very clean and concise instead of with fancy layouts.


The golden rule is that you should always keep refining and updating your resume. You can hardly get a perfect resume without any effort. Asking feedback from different people is also recommended. Of course, sometimes you may get conflict suggestions, which is pretty normal. You should have your own judgment on it.

The post is written by Gainlo - a platform that allows you to have mock interviews with employees from Google, Amazon etc..

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