How to Stand Out as a Software Developer and Get That Interview

Tips for Developer Job Seekers

You’ve applied to hundreds of places and nobody’s calling. What gives? You keep hearing that the market is hot, but you’re not getting any calls. You start questioning your abilities. Maybe you’re not as good as you thought you were. The imposter syndrome starts creeping in. Don’t be so hard on yourself; it’s not your abilities, it’s your resume.

The Resume
You’re proud of your resume, and you should be. You’ve worked hard to get your skills to where they’re at and you want people to know about them. You place your entire skillset on your resume thinking that you will be the best candidate for the job. You’ve spent weeks crafting your resume. There’s no way that a company won’t call you when they see everything that you know. And yet weeks pass by without you getting a single interview.

Your all-encompassing resume is what’s hurting your chances of landing that interview. What you haven’t thought about is the recruitment process from the company’s perspective. If the company needs a ReactJS developer, they will skip over every other detail on your resume that’s not React related. When I review resumes, I make sure that the language that we use is on the resume and that it’s listed under one of your most recent positions. If I see no mention of React on there, I’ll simply move on to the next resume.

Why are resumes discarded this way? You’re a skilled programmer and a programming language is just a tool to get the job done. That’s not the way it’s perceived. We need a React developer and we need for him to start running. Training an individual takes time and resources; both of those could be scarce. The company might be in dire need of a React developer since the current developers are drowning in work. If you bring a developer that’s not experienced in React, the morale will not shift. You might actually even lose a developer or two based on that decision.

Some companies use software that scans your resume looking for the keywords that were defined. If they’re not there, or if the program can’t read your resume, it will discard it.

The absolute best approach is to have your “resume skeleton” and build it towards each company that you’re applying for. If I was applying for a company that specializes in Laravel and hosts their applications on AWS, I would make sure that my resume is loaded with those keywords. Even if I had no professional experience in Laravel, I would create a couple of applications and go through the deployment process. List them under skills at the very least. This would also be a great time to create a cover letter and list those skills there. If you don’t have professional experience, you might say something like, “I’ve always pushed my current workplace towards Laravel, especially since it can be deployed through Vapor onto AWS…”

If you’re thinking that’s too much work, you may choose a few different programming languages that you’re familiar with and create an optimized resume for each of those. It’s still okay to list your other programming languages and frameworks on the resume, but focus on the primary. You will be much higher on the list of candidates if you list out your experience that aligns with the company’s requirements.

The worst thing you can do is have a blanket resume for all of the positions that you’re applying to; this extends past the language specification. If you’re applying for a senior level position, but only list a year of experience, you’re not going to get that call. It’s time to get creative and boost your experience level. If you have 2–3 years of experience, it might be beneficial to keep the years off of your resume.

Be strategic with your applications. Only apply to jobs that match your resume, or cater your resume to the job you’re applying for. You’re going to send fewer resumes, but those resumes are actually going to attract attention.

Next up is your LinkedIn page. You’ve heard your friends tell you that they didn’t even apply for their positions, they were just contacted by recruiters. It was likely due to the LinkedIn profile that they had. Optimizing your LinkedIn page is crucial. Companies will hire recruitment agencies that seek developers based on keywords. If you profile lacks those keywords, they won’t match, and you won’t be found.

Do some research on LinkedIn. Look at what others are doing and copy their style. Include your skills and try to complete as many sections as possible. The idea is for the LinkedIn algorithm to match you with the recruiter seeking your skillset.

Recruiters are paid when they close the deal. If your LinkedIn page looks unprofessional or lazy, the recruiters will pick up on that and will move on to the next potential candidate. I’d have to argue that a recruiter will spend at most 10 seconds on your LinkedIn page before deciding whether you look presentable to the client (they may spend a couple of more minutes after they’ve made up their mind).

Your LinkedIn is your extended resume. This is the time to load all of your skills if you’re not interested in a specific programming path. If you are, you can make your LinkedIn page reflect that. For example, if you want to get calls on becoming a .NET developer, modify your LinkedIn page to focus on C# .NET. The more attention and focus you bring to your profile, the higher you’ll rank on the LinkedIn algorithm scan.

Once you’ve made it past the recruiter, the company will want to check out your profile as well; they’ll dig deeper. They’ll evaluate it in full, reviewing your work history, your skills, published works, and even your posts. The way you behave on LinkedIn is important, especially since your potential employer will see it. Stay away from non-work-related discussions. It’s also a perfect opportunity to show your potential employer how serious you are about a specific programming language. If the company looks through your profile and sees how passionate your are about C# .NET, that you’ve been creating posts on it weekly for the past year or so, it will solidify their decision to proceed with the interview process.

Your LinkedIn profile is more important than your resume.


Lastly, and this shouldn’t even have to be mentioned, have a professional photo.

You’re a developer. Developers are passionate about writing code. You should have a personal GitHub page that displays your work. I’ll emphasize this strategy again: you can cater your GitHub page towards the type of development career that you want to have.

I hope you’re seeing the trend here. It’s important for your professional online presence to reflect the type of career that you want.

GitHub is not a one-and-done type of platform. You have to commit (git it?). If your last push was over a year ago, it looks much worse than if your last commit was yesterday. The developers that you’ll be working with are going to snoop and check out your code. This is the time to be polished (use the MVP approach when you land your job).

It’s also the time to showcase your actual work, not the calculator app (unless you’re applying for junior level positions and that’s all you have). Your GitHub account is your programming resume. Optimize your files and make your account look amazing.

Other Tips
The following tips are for overachievers. They will consume your days, but will help you get that job and negotiate a higher salary.

Tip 1: Open a YouTube Channel and start doing tutorials.
This is probably the most difficult, and expensive, of the tips since you’ll need a decent setup to pull this off. While a lower production setup wont hurt you, it likely won’t benefit you.

Tip 2: Start writing articles
You’re reading this article. Why not create a few of your own? Articles can be in a form of a tutorial that leads the reader to a solution that they’ve been seeking. While it’s not likely that a company will call you based on the article that you wrote, it will increase your Google presence when the company Googles your name. You can also add your link to your resume and your LinkedIn page to make sure that the company sees your writing.

Tip 3: Write an E-Book.
This will take time, but it’s another form of personal advertisement that you can do. Show your potential employer that you know what you’re talking about. I wouldn’t list this on your resume, but I would definitely add it to your LinkedIn page.

I know that this seems like a ton of work; I agree with you. I don’t know when this type of hiring culture started, where developers have to write a book to get noticed; it’s definitely not as intense in other industries. But, you’re in the software development industry, and you want to get noticed. Focus on your LinkedIn page and your resume to begin with. Optimize constantly and add anything else that you’ve seen throughout this article when you can. The effort will pay off.


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