How to Write Your First Tech Resume


Why Does My Resume Matter

Your resume is the first thing potential employers see and it forms the basis for their impression of you. In the two years I spent at my most recent engineering job, we did a lot of hiring. Lots of resumes came across my desk because my manager would share the resumes of potential candidates and allow the team to weigh on on whether or not to bring the candidate in for an interview.

So, your resume will definitely be viewed by hiring managers and your potential future boss, and it may even be viewed by your potential future teammates. These people will use your resume to get a quick idea of who you are and what kind of experience you have.

When I say "quick", I really mean it. Most of the people viewing your resume will spend 1-3 minutes reviewing it. Your resume should put your qualifications front and center so that you can impress people right away.

How can you craft a strong and concise resume to get you in the door? Keep reading!

Do these 4 Things

  1. Introduce yourself
  2. List your technical skills
  3. List releveant work epxerience
  4. List relevant dducational experience
  5. List side projects

Introduce Yourself

Include a very breif introduction at the top of your resume, beneath or next to your contact info. Give your reader a quick sense of who you are what you're looking for.

For example:

I'm a full-stack web developer based in Brooklyn looking for a collaborative team to contribute to. In my free time I mess around with new technologies by building side projects, or you can find me with my dog in the park.

List Your Technical Skills

The most important thing you need to display on your resume is your list of technical skills. This will vary depending on the kind of training you have and the kind of jobs you're applying for, but you should always lead with your strongest, most relevant skills.

If you're applying for a full-stack developer job, you need to demonstrate facility with back-end frameworks, familiarity with databases and experience with front-end frameworks. Lead with these skills, and leave the mention that you (obivously) know HTML and CSS for the end of the list.

For example:

Ruby, Rails, MySQL, Postgresql, JavaScript, React, Redux, HTML, CSS.

On the other hand, if you're applying for a front-end developer position, lead with those skills. If you happen to have some back-end experience, list it at the end.

For example:

JavaScript, React, Redux, HTML, CSS (CSS Grid, Flexbox and other responsive design modules), Ruby

Work Experience

The next thing you need include on your resume is your relevant work experience.

What If I Don't Have Programming Work Experience?

If you're applying for your first ever engineering job, you probably don't! So, what should you do for this section on your resume?

You do want to list your most recent job. Employers need to see what you've been doing up until you made the switch to coding. It's also important to be clear that the job you're applying for will be your first developer job, and listing your most recent non-coding position will do that.

The tricky part is deciding what to say about your previous non-developer job. A good rule of thumb is to keep it brief. You're no longer applying for jobs as a paralegal (or dentist or accountant or teacher or whatever), so don't go into a lot of uneccessary detail. Breifly explain what your role was at your previous position and highlight any skills you feel your interviewer should know. For example, if you managed a team of three people or helped coordinate projects or tutored students 1-on-1, feel free to say so. These are experiences that help potential employers get a sense of who you are and what non-technical skills you bring to the table.

For example:

LSAT Tutor, Excellent Prep, 2012-2015

  • Lectured and led classes of 20-25 students through course material
  • Conducted one-on-one tutoring sessions
  • Developed lesson plans and course materials

How Do I Talk About the Programming Work Experience I Have?

If you do have programming work experience, list it out! For any programming jobs you should share some info on what you worked on more broadly, include anything relevant to non-technical development practices (did you meet with a mentor, participate in daily standup meetings, etc) and share at least one specific technical experience or challenge.

For example:

Apprentice Developer, Creative Labs, June 2017-Present

  • Paired with senior team members to deliver features built in Rails and React applications
  • Participated in daily stand up meetings and weekly team retrospectivs to evaluate development work
  • Leveraged OmniAuth to build a new API integration with Twitter

Educational Experience

This is another area where you want to highlight programming experience and be super breif when it comes to your non-technical history. If you graduated from a programming bootcamp, online program or vocational school, say so.

For example:

Stratosphere Development Academy, June 2016-September 2016

  • Completed the full-stack development bootcamp course where I learned Ruby, Rails, JavaScript, React and SQL.
  • Completed a final project with a team of 3 other classmates.

Indicate any non-coding education that you have and share any honors or accolades you were awarded. You're probably pretty impressive--show it off! But keep it brief--no need to talk about the sociology thesis you wrote when you're applying for a coding job.

For example:

Barnard College, NY, NY, 2007-2011 B.A. in History, graduated Suma Cum Laude

Side Projects

If you're new to programming and looking for your first engineering job, you probably don't have a lot of work experience to include on your resume. If that's the case, you should have a handful of strong side projects that display your coding skills. These belong on your resume!

List the name of the project, provide a link to the GitHub and the link to the live site, if applicable. Then, breifly describe what the app does and what technologies you used to build it.

For example:

Dinnerly: A Ruby on Rails app with a React + Redux front-end that allows users to plan dinner parties. Leverages JWT and React Router 4 for log in and uses a custom-build Recipe API client to offer users recipes to choose from.

Go Get A Job!

Using these four steps as a guide, you should be able to put together a strong, stand-out resume for any junior developer position. Good luck!