How do you make your resume or CV stand out? Because for computer programmers, a long list of fluent programming languages will no doubt, be common.

How to make yours unique and stand out?

14 accepted

I would suggest at least three things are important (at least to me).

  1. Show me what you've done to keep up with technology.
    • education, training, conferences, etc.
  2. Show me you understand how your work affects your company
    • describe projects in terms of their effect rather than their operation
  3. Show me that you understand how to develop good software
    • describe your philosophy/favored development methodology
    • talk about your experience on a programming team

Not all of these things need to be part of your resume. In fact, I'd probably put most of it into a cover letter and let your resume fill in details about work history and activities.


You should describe your most significant projects briefly. Tell what you accomplished, how you did it, and what was the benefit for the organization (if you are applying for a position at a non-software company, like a bank, tell how it affected the bottom line). Brevity, but conveying important information is key. 5 page resumes, although they can look impressive, in most places will be glossed over.

Also, make it look like you spent some time on it. Don't use a MS Word template. That can be a immediate disqualification, because it makes it look like the application doesn't care about getting the job.

Response to comment below -- *"Don't use a MS Word template" - I don't quite understand, aren't the formats for resume/cv pretty much standard all around? could you expand on this? ? koldfyre

Most resumes/cvs will display the same type of information: name, phone number, education, experience etc. How they display them can be wildly different. They may all look about the same at a glance, but one can always tell a common template from a custom built document. The style of the resume often reflects the owner. Graphic designer's resumes will tend to be slightly (notice I said slightly) more artistic than programmers or engineers. It's because of the nature of the business they are in. Employers expect them to have a creative spin. Would you hire a graphic designer with an ugly resume? No, because it's supposed to be their passion to make things look nice.

The point is that they took the time to make it look nice. It reflects who they are. The same goes for any other profession. On the blog http://randsinrepose.com/, there is an excellent article about how you get about 30 seconds to make in impression with a resume. Do you have to spend hours creating a custom template (for the record, I do), no you don't, but don't pick the default template, because it was there. It shows no passion for who you are. If you really suck at doing layout (not everyone is a designers and people don't expect programmers to be one), at least go on the web, and try and find a nice one. Not having design skills is not an excuse to be lazy and take the easy route. Really that is where I am trying trying to go.

I will fully admit, I am totally anal retentive when it comes to my resume. I will spend two hours rewriting a single paragraph (this is why I am sure to have multiple copies). It shows who I am and what I like doing. Most employers will want to hire the person who really wants to do the job over the person is mildly interested and smarter or has more experience. Using a template in Word doesn't convey that.


Make clear what you role was on the projects you participated. If you were a team member, say so, if you were the team leader, say so as well. It is important no only what you know and did but also what your role was so it make it easier for any prospective employer to situate you in his organization.


Having a publically-available "portfolio" of code you've written can be invaluable. Whether this means working on an existing open source project, starting your own side project, or begging your previous employer to let you sanitize and take with you something you wrote for them, your code says a lot about not only your technical ability, but also your personality. The ability to "show them the code" is a nice addition to a list of projects.


Cover letters can also be a way to make your experiences stand out as this can be customized for each position. For example, if you did a lot of ASP.Net development then this may be worth highlighting in some positions as well as what version and language were used within this.

Resumes can be customized to some extent as one can skew how their experiences are summarized. For example, in my first out-of-college job I did some database administration, network administration, server administration in setting up Proxy server or IIS, as well as developing within Visual Studio various C/C++ functionality for server functions. There are lots of ways that this could be tailored if I want to do more database work, web work or network work as I could choose to highlight the many things I did in those few years there.

Getting input from recruiters may also help in improving a resume since sometimes they can provide help if there are some special things you could do for your situation that may be different from the rest of us, wherever we are.


You kinda answered your own question within your question.

Find the things that are unique and focus on them.

What I feel works is to show the would be employer that I have passion for what I do, that I just don't do it for a paycheck but that I take personal pride in the code I produce. And that needs to show within your CV and the projects you showcase there.


Also check this related questions:


Get some seed money and begin your own startup. Hire a couple of engineers presumably smarter than you. Hang tough at least for a year.

If you're lucky, don't hesitate to call yourself Kevin Rose of Digg.

If you're not so lucky like me, put your resume titled "senior software engineer" along with "Founder and CTO of JustBust.com (Went under)" on monster.com. That way, at least phone screen interviews are a sure thing. Want proof? ;)


When you are able to, provide a URL link to a project you have worked on or a description of said project.

Nothing like being able to point to concrete examples that are 'out in the wild'.

Also a one line link saves a long explanation and an overlong resume / application is a mistake.

(Not always possible, of course.)


Answer to My Own Question (AMOQ)

I think projects are the answer - list projects you worked on and your specific role in the project. Just a guess though, since I don't have any experience with this stuff (thus my motive for asking this question).


Your resume or CV is generally designed to get you an interview. That is, you must keep it very brief (one page is best, two maximum), highlighting the most important accomplishments and touching on all relevant skills - especially if you suspect that the potential employer might be using a "skills matrix" (or keyword detection) as a pre-screen.

However, it is the COVER LETTER that can land you the job. The cover letter must always be written specifically for the job you are seeking. It cover the critical points pertaining to the job, but also must display insight into the employer. Basically you are selling them on the notion that you are PERFECT for their company and for that job.




A little late on answering this...but I created a site exactly for this purpose: for developers to better represent themselves. It's called coderscv. Sorry for the self-promotion...but it seemed relevant!


I think this cartoon was written in jest, but it's very, very true: