What To Look For On a Developer’s Resume

When hiring new developers, use these tips to make your decision easier.
December 21, 2021
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So you’re looking to hire new developers and you have a stack of resumes in front of you. That pile may number in the hundreds or even thousands, so the task can get a bit overwhelming. You may be hiring developers for multiple languages (such as JavaScript, Java, C++, Python, PHP, or .NET), engineers for web/mobile applications, cloud-native developers, or staff to help add DevOps into the mix. All of that can turn the selection into a daunting task. 

It doesn’t have to be. 

When you have that many resumes on your desk, you can easily weed out certain candidates by knowing exactly what you want to see on successful candidates. But what makes for a good developer’s resume? Below you’ll find 8 things to look for. Any resume that doesn’t include these items or adhere to these ideas can be moved to your “no” pile. 

It can be that simple.

So what are the things you should be on the lookout for? Let’s break it down.

Career Trajectory

Beyond the requisite programming skills, one of the first things you should look for in a serious developer resume is a clear-cut career trajectory. Prospective developers should clearly show a compelling career progression, from the early days to the present. One very important thing to look for is gaps. You want every year filled with employment, be it freelance or full-time. So long as a developer can account for their time and efforts, they’re showing progress.

At the same time, you want to see a trajectory that improves with time. With each new step in the progression, the applicant should show they’re moving upward, from intern to senior developer. If you see backward moves, that could be a red flag, albeit not necessarily, so don’t be quick to dismiss a candidate based on this item alone. 

Personalization

One thing you want to look for is an applicant who has taken the time to personalize their resume. If they’re just dumping content into a template, that shows a lack of effort. This is also not just about the layout of the resume (which should very much be carefully planned), but the idea that they’ve included personal projects in their career trajectory. 

When you find developers who’ve not only worked on projects for businesses, but their own projects (or, say, open-source projects), it shows initiative and ability beyond just doing what they’re told.

Passion

When you hire applicants who are passionate about what they do, you are more likely to onboard employees who will produce quality code and go the distance. How do you tell if a developer has a passion for what they do in a resume? 

Look for numerous languages listed in the skills section, personal projects, certifications, and mentorships. Search for particularly impressive projects they’ve worked on for an extended period or projects they’ve not only developed for but maintained. 

If they include any GitHub repositories they manage, even better.

Keywords

Before you scan that first resume, build a list of keywords that should be found in every entry. These keywords can, directly and indirectly, relate to the project you’re hiring for. If you’ve asked for digital resumes, you could easily filter those through a keyword search and only accept those resumes that generate a certain percentage hit level. 

It’s important, however, that you know exactly which keywords you’re looking for and that you account for potential variations or synonyms. 

Content over Aesthetics

It’s great if an applicant creates a beautiful resume with lovely fonts, a great layout, and even a photo. But if aesthetics overshadows the content, it’s a red flag. Some people will polish up their resume to such an extreme shine to hide the fact that they don’t have much experience. 

Finding resumes with a perfect balance of content and aesthetics is the sweet spot. Such resumes show the applicant has the experience to brag about and cares enough about it to lay it out nicely.

Typo Free

This should be a no-brainer. If you find resumes with typos, they should immediately go in the “no” pile. Typos indicate an application doesn’t show enough attention to detail. You certainly don’t want to hire developers who’ll leave typos in their code, so why would you want to hire one who leaves a typo in their resume?

A Unique Filename

This might seem trivial, but if everyone hands you a resume with a filename resume.pdf, you’re going to have a hard time knowing which resume belongs to which developers.

Anyone that’s applied to enough jobs knows that a resume file should either be position-specific and include a name, such as bob_java_dev.pdf or even bob_companyX.pdf. The latter clearly indicates the application has generated a resume specifically for your company. That’ll save you some time when trudging through that massive pile of resumes.

Organization

A resume should be organized incredibly well. After all, you’re hiring developers who should be very well organized by nature. If you receive a resume that seems to be haphazardly pieced together, such that it doesn’t flow easily, that’s a red flag.

You should be looking for resumes that tell a very specific story, from top to bottom, that makes it seem as if you know that person before you’ve ever spoken to them. Highly organized resumes indicate highly organized work and that’s what you’re looking for in a developer.

Conclusion

When you have a mountain (or digital folder) of resumes to look through, you need to have clear indicators that can help you quickly spot quality candidates. Evolve your process to include these listed here and you’ll find the hiring process far more efficient.

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