If you google “Programmer resume template”, you’ll find a lot of resume models filled with roles and responsibilities such as:
- Server maintenance and scripting while coordinating with the server team.
- Maintenance and ongoing development of procedures and setup of dev/stage/production environments.
- Maintained backup, email and anti-spam solution for clients.
- Web site system design, configuration, admin/programming, database design, scripting.
- Advised various internal groups on technical directions.
That seems about right, no?
But there’s a problem. A huge problem, actually. Think of the programmers or software engineers that you know. How many of them have done similar things? Probably most of them. Because that’s pretty much what being a programmer is all about. There are differences here and there, but roles and responsibilities will often overlap. So if your resume is very close to a typical “programmer resume template”, how is that helping you get interviews? After all, the best resumes are distinctive. They make you stand out, not blend in!
So here’s a little something to help you make your resume stand out. It’s based on the 3 Laws of Resume Writing. And it’s not material that I made up. I found it by carefully studying good programmer resumes.
5 Programmer Accomplishments to Make your Resume Distinctive
- Responsible for managing code deployment to one of the most popular mobile communications sites in North America. (Demonstrates reliability for being responsible for something big, that impacts so many users.)
- Started a team effort to switch to a more agile process by building tools to make unit testing easier and helping to create a sized backlog. (Very good way of demonstrating leadership and team work, combined to a desire to improve the way things are done.)
- Created a system to replace a MySQL backed system, which was able to perform a better job using half the hardware of the old system at a fraction of the complexity and maintenance of the old system. (Doing things more simply and efficiently usually translates to money saved, which is always seen positively by a potential employer.)
- Improved database load times 10x by implementing incremental update process. (This very significant improvement demonstrates a desire for efficiency, and the skillset to make it happen.)
- Created two-player game over bluetooth for the iPhone. (Here, we can guess that the programmer is passionate, because that game was probably coded at home. Plus, it means carrying a project from A to Z.)
The benefit is the key component of each accomplishment: improved operations, more money, demonstrated leadership and reliability, … Accomplishments like these are the most critical pieces of your resume. Now read that last sentence again, because that’s the best resume advice you’ll get this month.
If you’re a fantastic employee but your resume is silent on many of your accomplishments, you’ll end up behind a good employee whose accomplishments are all clearly laid out.
And for that matter, an average employee with weak accomplishments better know how to network, since the resume alone won’t pull its weight. (Actually, networking skills are critical to everyone’s job hunt. But I’m more of a resume guy, so let’s stick with the topic, if you don’t mind.)
Accomplishments are where it’s at. When you solve a problem, reduce costs, make something better/simpler/faster, when you show initiative, it has to be on your resume, without being drowned out by too much roles and responsibilities (i.e. the “we’ve-all-done-it” resume template material). In my view, half of the energy and time spent on your resume should be focused on your accomplishments. To write good accomplishments, you need to think of what your potential employer is thinking about (problems solved, better results, and so on) and emphasize that. If you go through 20 resumes of your peers, you’ll certainly find great accomplishments that you could adapt on your resume. I truly believe that is time well spent.
Many More Accomplishments, Just for You
However, I’ve already done that research… The 5 ideas above are just a glimpse of the full list of accomplishments I’ve assembled. If you’d like that well-rounded, unique list of real-world programmer accomplishments, for just a few dollars, check out our e-book, Programmer Resume Hacking, on Amazon. You can read it even if you don’t have a Kindle device.