A female software engineer sits alongside a male software engineer at computers working.
Image: Liberty IT

How to land your dream job as a software engineer

17 Apr 2019

If you want to put yourself in the best position to land a job as a software engineer, these tips from Liberty IT might help.

Being able to write lines of code is a great starting point to being able to land your dream software engineer job, but your future leaders and teammates will want to find out a little more about you during a recruitment process.

A well-written CV will speak for itself, highlighting your key skills and how you’ve applied them in your previous roles. But we are well aware that writing a CV is difficult – we’ve all sat in front of that blank word document with just your name at the top and wondering where to begin. Luckily, we are here to help out with this.

What structure should I use for my CV?

Before you start writing your CV, have a clear idea in your head of how you want it to look. Regardless of the exact structure you use, include the essential and most impressive information from your education and work experience first and in a prominent position so that the hiring manager can see it straight away.

If you’re an expert in scripting languages, make sure you mention that early on, or if you completed a recent training course and certification in AWS, Azure or other cloud technologies that makes you more employable, make sure that is highlighted and close to the top of the page.

Structure the CV clearly so that the person looking at it can find the key sections quickly, ie experience, skills and education. When considering what to include in your CV, don’t overthink it, and detail any experience you think your future team would like to know about and you would be comfortable speaking about in an interview.

You will have most likely heard that your CV has to be a maximum of two pages or that a recruiter will spend only six seconds looking at your CV – don’t believe everything you hear. If your CV showcases your technical ability relevant to the job you are applying for, you can expect a recruiter email to land in your inbox within a few days of applying regardless of whether your CV is two or five pages long. Once your CV is full of valuable information, your recruiter will be glad to read it!

In terms of format, it’s good practice to keep a word format saved so you can amend and update your CV as required. Whether you want to submit your CV in word or PDF form is totally up to you.

Should I have a different CV and cover letter for every job?

Yes! Human resources professionals will be able to spot a generic CV and cover letter from a considerable distance. Your CV should be mostly the same but consider tweaking it to ensure that the hard and soft skills you have acquired that are most relevant for the specific role are highlighted.

For cover letters, there is no need to write your CV again. This is a very common mistake for job applicants. A cover letter should be a brief introduction to your experience and why you would be a good fit for this role, so now is the time to really tailor your application to the job description.

Explain why you would love to work for the company, as well as why the company would be making a great decision to hire you. Try to do it in a few short paragraphs instead of boring your hiring manager with an essay on Ruby on Rails!

What skills should I highlight when applying for a software engineer job?

While it is OK to highlight the soft skills that make you stand out on a personal level, you need to get specific on what software skills you have acquired to date. Flaunt your tech stack. Whether you’re a guru on Ruby or have advanced Java experience, lay it out in a clear way to showcase your talent.

Even if you don’t have extensive experience in a particular area but have completed a course or even worked alongside a developer who was a master on big data or infrastructure development, don’t be afraid to showcase your knowledge.

Software engineer positions are usually located within a larger team, so be sure to highlight any experience you have of working alongside a team and how you engaged with the other developers and engineers across a range of programmes.

The tech sector is constantly evolving, so if you have knowledge of any new or innovative programmes or ways of working that can show you keep up to date on the latest tools, that would be a major bonus.

Any key achievements you have garnered in your time working as a software engineer should also be highlighted as part of your employment experience section. That amazing app you helped to build or the time you helped to debug the code that was holding back an entire website? Flaunt it!

My application has been shortlisted – what next?

The most common first step will be an initial contact with your recruiter to let you know you were shortlisted for the role – use this as an opportunity to find out what the recruitment process is so you can be prepared.

The recruitment process can include steps such as a technical assessment or take-home test, a ‘screen call’ with your recruiter, a technical phone interview with a tech lead, or formal face-to-face interviews.

In phone screens and technical interviews, make sure you talk in detail about what you’ve been doing so far in your work and studies, and build on the detail you have given in your CV. Be sure to highlight any initiatives you ran in your team or innovations you suggested to a project. When completing the technical assessment, make sure to focus on the quality of the code you are delivering. Teams and tech leads like to see high-quality, tested code in these submissions over something that ‘just works’.

Finally, for an interview, preparation is key. Work with your recruiter to find out as much information about the format of the interview and prepare accordingly. A good rule of thumb is that your preparation for an interview should take three times as long as the interview time (eg you should spend at least three dedicated hours preparing for a one-hour interview).

And don’t forget …

Leave your contact details on your CV! It’s surprising how many people craft a really on-point CV and tick all the right boxes, yet when the recruiter goes to get in touch there is no number or email. We can still track you down – but it will take a little extra time!

By Stephen Killilea and Birgitta Swanberg

Stephen Killilea and Birgitta Swanberg are both part of the talent acquisition team at Liberty IT.

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