A software engineer resume is like the user interface for your connection with potential employers or clients. By design, it can be your next ticket to success from a career launchpad aimed at infinitely higher and wider targets all the time.
Whether it was astute planning or lucky breaks that landed you on this trajectory in the first place, software engineers can afford to be choosy. Their talents are in high demand and the prospects exceptionally lucrative as explosive IT growth appears unstoppable across all sectors. Still, there is no shortage of worthy peer competition for the best jobs.
This guide, along with a software engineer resume example, will take you step-by-step through the details and insights as follows:
- What software engineers do and earn, and how their future looks
- Which resume format is the best for software engineers
- How to write a software engineer resume (tips and tricks)
- Section-by-section advice for software engineer resume writing, with resume samples
- Professionally engineered resume design and formatting hints.
Let’s get started.
What do software engineers do?
Software engineers are highly specialized experts whose analytical and practical abilities equip them for client-directed, solution-focused project management roles. Their knowledge of mathematics, engineering and computer science is applied to the testing, design, development and maintenance of computer software for business and personal use.
Essentially, software engineers are responsible for creating the systems that make computers operate properly in specific circumstances. From operating systems, computer games and middleware to business applications and network control systems, the types of software they engineer are numerous and diverse. Rapidly evolving breakthroughs in technology and specialty niches are what make the profession so dynamic, with the ongoing onus on software engineers to keep refreshing their knowledge and skills.
Software engineers can pursue job opportunities as company employees or independent contractors. They may be courted relentlessly by head-hunters and business leaders in a multitude of burgeoning industries. Beyond the more obvious technology sectors, opportunities are endless in areas from healthcare, automotive manufacturing and green energy to remote sensing, aeronautics and finance. Lucrative positions are available in all manner of government, private and non-profit organizations.
How much do software engineers earn?
In February 2021, according to surveys from Indeed.com these average annual earnings for software engineers based on experience:
- Less than 1 year $103,269
- 1 to 2 years $106,098
- 6 to 9 years $121,355
- More than 10 years $139,031
Despite the devastating economic downturn and hiring declines globally due to COVID-19 In 2020, hired.com reported average salaries rose as follows for top software engineering positions in these technology hub cities:
- San Francisco Bay area 5%
- New York 3%
- Toronto 7%
- London 6%
Not sure how to put your Software Engineer cv together? Have a look at these related IT resume samples below:
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- Network Engineer resume sample
- IT Director resume sample
- Software Engineer resume sample
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- 3D Animator resume sample
- Web Developer resume sample
- Programmer resume sample
- Data Scientist resume sample
- IT manager resume sample
- Data Analyst resume sample
- IT Project manager resume sample
Choosing the best resume format for a software engineer
Resume formats for software engineers are chosen from the same options as most other professions. The choice is defined by how you outline your past job experience and how much emphasis you place on your skills:
- (reverse) chronological format - favors the job experience section
- functional - favors the skills section
- combination (hybrid) - a middle of the road option.
From an engineer’s analytical and strategic perspective, consider which of these three resume formats is the best fit for your job experience.
The most widely used (reverse) chronological resume format is failsafe if you’ve worked mostly as an employee for one organization at a time. Your progressive job experience, skills and accomplishments are traced in reverse chronological order, from most recent to earliest.
But if your job history is more project-based, perhaps in mostly contract positions, then the functional resume format might work well. A functional or hybrid structure can also be useful for highlighting specialized skills or accomplishments, especially if relevant to where your sights are set now.
There is no right or wrong choice, but possibly a better one to bridge your past and future. Again, always think about what each prospective employer expects or should know about your employment history. It’s yet another custom-tailoring strategy.
How to write a software engineer CV
The foundation of your software engineer CV are the resume sections that you should not only include but also custom-tailor to each job application. Your CV should have the following sections (as outlined in all our resume examples):
- The resume summary (aka profile or personal statement)
- The employment history section
- The resume skills section
- The education section.
Since we’ll go into more detail on each resume part below, first a key piece of advice that is reflected in all resume example guides: customize the tone and content of your resume to the specific employer you’re targeting. There are few things that turn off recruiters more than an obviously copy-pasted and mass-emailed resume. And trust us, you can always spot one of those documents after having seen several dozen. This is why it’s important to take the resume examples we provide as an inspiration (or to consistently edit and personalize them). They are recruiter-approved, but no document benefits from a “copypasta approach”.
Research the employer
The same analytical mindset you adopt as an engineering problem-solver will work in your favor as a job-seeker. Your targeted resume should be a functionally adaptable document, at the ready to change up in a flash.
Use your research skills to investigate everything you can about the job you are applying for. Wherever your firsthand knowledge stops, fill in the blanks about the workplace and people. Especially try to put a name and a face to the hiring manager, and whoever would be your boss and colleagues. Then write your resume as if you are speaking to them in an interview.
Software engineer summary
An awesome resume summary — some call it a profile — is where you become the envy of every peer who may be vying for the same software engineer job. But that’s not the point. You’re not trying to impress your competitors. The only other IT experts you should care about are those who may have a say on the hiring side, even if it’s not the first or last word on who gets the job.
So first things first. Your resume summary must be flawlessly efficient in capturing attention for longer than the 10 seconds studies have pinpointed as the worthiness average. Start with what you know best — software engineering, right? Well, not quite. First, consider the ATS - Applicant Tracking Systems.
Beating Applicant Tracking Systems
Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are used by popular employers to screen supposedly undesirable candidates, sending only the best resumes to human recruiters. This is done based on keywords in your resume.
Seize the opportunity to outshine the savviest of other software engineers whose ATS-busting resumes will be fully loaded with all the same keywords. The more times you scrutinize the job description language the better — often even one word or abbreviation related to a desired skill can be the difference between getting to the interview or not. So, make sure you. Just don’t overstuff your resume with keywords and end up sounding like a robot.
Limited page space dictates conciseness without selling yourself short. Don’t be shy or unduly modest, but don’t boast or exaggerate either. Let your stellar track record as a software engineer speak for itself. Use clear, precise, descriptive language in a few terse statements. Omitting “I am” or “I have” helps with word economy. So do action verbs such as: equipped, executed, excelled, built … and, of course, engineered. Add modifiers that are appropriate but not overblown: proficient, robust, rapid, striking, nimble, agile, solution-focused, innovative and cutting-edge.
Here’s an adaptable resume sample for your software engineer summary:
Experienced software engineer adept in offering cutting edge engineering solutions and effectively guiding developer teams. Bringing forth expertise in managing all aspects of the software development life cycle. Skilled in problem solving and executing software tasks from start to finish.
Employment history example
Since we already covered the idea of the reverse chronological employment history section as the most common version, this is what we’ll use in the resume sample provided here.
However, the employment history section of your resume might require some structural decisions you are best qualified to make. Whether it’s your first job change or the latest in a series, adaptability and responsiveness are hallmarks of a software engineer’s career. Few occupations are as dynamic or less likely to stagnate from dried-up opportunities.
What is the market outlook for software engineers?
BLS projections for software developers (keep in mind software engineers are not classified separately) see market demand increasing by 22% between 2019 and 2029, much faster than the national average. And with an 11% growth forecast in the computer and information technology workforce during the same decade, computer software engineers will have no shortage of job options.
Technology career advice posted by indeed.com in November 2020 highlights 12 diverse opportunities for software engineers in the U.S. and the average annual salary for each.
- Video game designer $54,223
- Quality assurance engineer $81,961
- CRM project manager $89,314
- Software integration engineer $108,182
- Security engineer $109,778
- Front-end engineer $109,915
- Full-stack engineer $111,425
- 3D Graphics Developer $116,68
- Data scientist $123,060
- Mobile developer $123,264
- DevOps engineer $125,623
- Back-end engineer $128,677
Whatever structure you choose, optimize the space you have and maximize the impact through power-packed statements. Have a master list handy of incisive verbs describing what you’ve done and can do: analyzed, evaluated, created, designed, customized, built, augmented, bridged, spearheaded, streamlined, oversaw, solved, advanced, delivered, applied, debugged, persuaded, negotiated, collaborated, expedited, reconciled. Demonstrate tangible outcomes, not duties or responsibilities. Quantify your achievements whenever possible.
Below is a basic adaptable resume example of a software engineer employment history.
June 2016 - February 2021
Software Engineer at Revive Inc., Boston
- Define and develop guidelines to ensure code quality.
- Assisted developers and engineers in resolving key issues.
- Worked through the identification and resolution of technology issues.
- Collaborated with teams to deliver advancements and solutions.
- Worked to build and improve upon tools.
- Mentored and led junior developers.
Software engineer resume education example
The right combination of additional training, certifications and skills development could give you a job-winning edge over other software engineers. Every post-college stride you’ve taken to keep your knowledge and skills current have a place on your resume.
Most software engineers receive on-the-job training as newly hired company employees. Off-the-job training opportunities abound for software engineers throughout their careers, from seminars and international conferences to specialized courses that help keep a pace of new technology.
Coding bootcamps have grown exponentially since the first program launched in 2011. Schools offer nontraditional pathways into software engineering to meet the demand for quick, intensive programming education outside the traditional university environment.
According to a 2017 New York Times report, coding bootcamps numbered almost 100 and turned out 18,000 per year, a huge leap from the 2,220 graduated in 2013.
Certifications available to software engineers include: Oracle Certified Associate and Oracle Certified Professional (OCA and OCP), Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) and Certified Secure Software Lifecycle Professional (CSSLP).
Professional association memberships also send the right message about taking your software engineer career seriously. Possibilities include Sigsoft, an Association for Computing Machinery interest group for software engineers, and the Transaction Processing Performance Council.
Off the top, your college degrees should be listed in reverse chronological order, as in this adaptable resume example of an education section below.
September 2014 - May 2016
Master of Computer Science, Northeastern University, Boston\
September 2012 - May 2014
Bachelor of Software Engineering, Boston College, Boston
Resume skills example
Regardless of occupation, the resume skills section serves a vitally important purpose on all resumes. Software engineers will appreciate the elegance and simplicity of making their key strengths impossible for any hiring manager to ignore.
Zeroing in on what you most want under that person’s nose might be the easiest and fastest part of your resume-writing task. But don’t be too offhanded about this golden opportunity to convey that you are a remarkable software engineer, not just average. On each custom-targeted resume you create, reserve your skills list for the shiniest nuggets.
Pay special attention to the soft skills that may set you apart from other candidates. In fact, it’s possible the hard skills you have in common (which, ironically in this occupation, are software-specific skills ) might not give you the kind of edge your resume should strive to display. Try brainstorming a master list of skills that you possess in any and all areas. Then - cherry pick the most appropriate ones for the job opening.
Below is a basic resume sample for your software engineer skills section (expand and adapt to your own expertise).
- Complex Problem Solving
- Leadership Skills
Resume layout and design
Nothing less than a superior-caliber resume document is acceptable for software engineers. As we’ve emphasized before, put yourself in the hiring manager’s chair. Deliver on the expectation of a clean, user-friendly layout that does you justice.
The result should be eye-catching without being flashy or gimmicky. Keep it sleek, streamlined and uncomplicated — inviting at first glance and disappointing no one reading further. And it goes without saying your resume must be character-perfect and bug-free in every other sense. Subject it to multiple beta test runs under anyone scrutiny but your own. Tweak it further each time and do a proofreading reboot.
Fonts and size
Most tech-minded people (IT hiring managers included) widely favor sans-serif fonts popularized by web designers/developers and web-based companies. Fonts like Open Sans, Roboto, Arial, Calibri, Lato, Helvetica and PT Sans will feel right at home in a software engineer resume. Incidentally, most of them can be found in the Google Fonts library or as standard inclusions on PC/Mac systems.
For font size, stick to a range between 10 to 12pts (11 pt is usually the sweet spot for your one-page resume).
While your designing eye could come in handy, we’re guessing you don’t have hours to spend reinventing unbroken wheels. Consider using one of our field-tested resume templates that are used as a basis for all our resume examples.
Key takeaways for a software engineer resume
- The talents of software engineers are highly sought-after in virtually all industries globally. There are no sunsetting signs on this horizon, only continued explosive growth in IT economies.
- Rapid changes keep increasing the number and range of lucrative and fulfilling career opportunities for software engineers. It also adds pressure to continually refresh their knowledge and skills.
- It’s essential for software engineers to have a versatile and adaptable resume document for easy updates and tailoring to specific job and employer requirements. Speak the right language in each case, including carefully mined ATS-safe keywords from the job description.
- Also think strategically each time about an intuitive resume structure and format that showcases your attributes to best advantage. Emphasize soft skills that might set you apart from your peers with similar technical skills.
- The right resume design choices help ensure you come across looking as good as you sound. Our online resume builder and premade resume examples save you time and trouble while your sights stay set on that dream job.