Your next Software Engineer job depends on how well your resume mirrors the job description.

From the instant you start your job hunt, you know your Software Engineer resume must stand out from the crowd. It may come as a surprise that you're writing your resume for two audiences:

  • The applicant tracking system, or ATS

  • The human hiring manager

Some people find it challenging to write a resume that speaks to both a computer and a human. They're both looking for different things, right?! If you employ a bit of strategy in writing your resume, though, you'll do just fine. 

It all starts with tailoring it to each Software Engineer job description. 

Why is the Software Engineer job description so important?

Some people think that job descriptions exist only to let job seekers know there's an opening. Yes, the Software Engineer job description will lay out all the skills, responsibilities, and qualifications you need to have, but they're all built the same – aren't they?

The short answer is “No.” While you will find some skills and experiences that all Software Engineer job descriptions have in common, there are also things that Company A needs but Company B doesn't. This is why tailoring your resume to the job description is so important. 

As you read through different Software Engineer job descriptions, make a note of keywords that are mentioned so you can incorporate the right language into your resume. Let's take a look at a job description and then dive into how to dissect it to write your resume.

Software Engineer job description

We are looking for a passionate Software Engineer to design, develop, and install software solutions. The successful candidate will be able to build high-quality, innovative, and fully performing software in compliance with coding standards and technical design. Design, modify, develop, write, and implement software programming applications. Support and/or install software applications/operating systems. Participate in the testing process through test review and analysis, test witnessing, and certification of software.

Requires a bachelor's degree in a related area and 0-2 years of experience in the field or in a related area. Has knowledge of commonly-used concepts, practices, and procedures within a particular field. Relies on instructions and pre-established guidelines to perform the functions of the job. Works under immediate supervision. Primary job functions do not typically require exercising independent judgment. Typically reports to a manager.

Software Engineer roles and responsibilities:

  • Full lifecycle application development

  • Design, code, and debug applications in various software languages

  • Software analysis, code analysis, requirements analysis, software review, identification of code metrics, system risk analysis, software reliability analysis

  • Object-oriented Design and Analysis (OOA and OOD)

  • Software modeling and simulation

  • Front end graphical user interface design

  • Software testing and quality assurance

  • Performance tuning, improvement, balancing, usability, automation

  • Support, maintain, and document software functionality

  • Integrate software with existing systems

  • Evaluate and identify new technologies for implementation

  • Project planning and Project management

  • Maintain standards compliance

  • Implement localization or globalization of software

  • Determine operational feasibility by evaluating analysis, problem definition, requirements, solution development, and proposed solutions

  • Document and demonstrate solutions by developing documentation, flowcharts, layouts, diagrams, charts, code comments, and clear code

  • Prepare and install solutions by determining and designing system specifications, standards, and programming

  • Improve operations by conducting systems analysis; recommending changes in policies and procedures

  • Obtain and license software by obtaining required information from vendors; recommending purchases; testing and approving products

  • Update job knowledge by studying state-of-the-art development tools, programming techniques, and computing equipment; participating in educational opportunities; reading professional publications; maintaining personal networks; participating in professional organizations

  • Protect operations by keeping information confidential

  • Provide information by collecting, analyzing, and summarizing development and service issues

  • Accomplish engineering and organization mission by completing related results as needed

  • Develop software solutions by studying information needs; conferring with users; studying systems flow, data usage, and work processes; investigating problem areas; following the software development lifecycle.

  • Write well-designed, testable, efficient code

  • Produce specifications and determine operational feasibility

  • Integrate software components into a fully functional software system

  • Develop software verification plans and quality assurance procedures

  • Document and maintain software functionality

  • Tailor and deploy software tools, processes, and metrics

  • Serve as a subject matter expert

  • Comply with project plans and industry standards

Software Engineer requirements

  • Proven work experience in software engineering

  • Hands-on experience in designing interactive applications

  • Ability to develop software in C, C++, C#, Java, or other selected languages

  • Excellent knowledge of Relational Databases, SQL, and ORM technologies (JPA2, Hibernate)

  • Experience in developing web applications using at least one popular web framework (JSF, Wicket, GWT, Spring MVC)

  • Experience with test-driven development

  • Mastery in software engineering tools

  • Ability to document requirements and specifications

  • Familiarity with software development methodology and release processes

  • BS degree in Computer Science or Engineering

Software Engineer technical skills:

C, C++, Java, .NET, Python, BEA WebLogic, WebSphere, J2EE, JBoss, ADO, Perl, HTML, JSP, JavaScript, Web services, SOAP, XML, ASP, JSP, PHP, MySQL, SQL Server, Oracle, UNIX, Linux, Redhat Linux, STL, XSLT, OWL, AJAX, J2EE, J2ME, J2SE, Sun Solaris

Dissect the Software Engineer job description

It's critical to align your resume with the job description so that it gets past the ATS and wows a hiring manager. This means using the same language and terminology found in the Software Engineer job description. 

Admittedly, most Software Engineer job descriptions won't be as detailed as the sample in this article. No matter how big or small the job description is, though, it's very important to highlight your experience and skills in a way that matches the listed responsibilities and requirements to prove you understand the job role and have the relevant expertise.

Here are a few of the relevant keywords you should've found in our Software Engineer job description:


  • Design

  • Develop

  • Install software solutions

  • Code analysis

  • Requirements analysis

  • Object-oriented Design and Analysis (OOA and OOD)

  • Software modeling and simulation

Programming Languages:

  • C

  • C++

  • C#

  • Java

  • SQL

  • HTML

  • JavaScript

  • Perl

Technologies and frameworks:

  • Relational Databases

  • ORM technologies (JPA2, Hibernate)

  • Web frameworks (JSF, Wicket, GWT, Spring MVC)

  • Test-driven development

  • .NET

  • BEA WebLogic

  • WebSphere


  • Full lifecycle application development

  • Agile development processes and principles

  • Software development methodology

  • Software development lifecycle

  • Systems analysis

Soft skills:

  • Analytical skills

  • Problem-solving skills

  • Team player

  • Customer-oriented

  • Communication skills (written and verbal)

What are the skills needed to be a Software Engineer?

To be a successful Software Engineer, you need a balanced mix of hard and soft skills

Hard skills are required for you to perform the duties of a Software Engineer. These types of skills are things you've learned during your education and experience and are often measurable. 

Soft skills are characteristics you possess that help you perform your duties and include things like problem-solving, effective communication, and teamwork. 

Make a list of your skills and match them to the Software Engineer job description

The best thing you can do to make sure your experience matches what the company needs is to make a list of skills you possess. Then, when you're done dissecting skills and keywords out of the Software Engineer job description, cross-check and match. This process will help you emphasize the right skills on your resume.

To get your brain juices flowing, here's a list of skills and proficiencies that are often found in Software Engineer job descriptions. Which ones match what you know how to do?

  • Software Development

  • Analytical & Problem-Solving Skills

  • Ability to Learn Quickly

  • Team Player

  • Agile Development Processes and Principles

  • Written and Verbal Communication

  • Customer-Oriented

  • Analysis

  • General Programming Skills

  • Software Debugging

  • Software Documentation

  • Software Testing

  • Software Development Fundamentals & Processes

Customize your Software Engineer resume

Now that you have a list of things you know how to do as a Software Engineer and you've compared that to the job description, it's time to start tailoring your resume. Be sure to incorporate keywords throughout your resume, as doing so is a crucial step in getting past the ATS. 

Beat the bots

When you hit SUBMIT on a job application, your resume isn't emailed to the hiring manager. It makes a stop along the way – the ATS.

As online job applications started to replace in-person and on-paper applications, companies started to become inundated with responses to open positions. It got to the point where it would be virtually impossible for a human being to go through all of the submissions. 

Enter the ATS. These resume scanning systems are designed with one purpose – to weed through resumes and reject the ones that don't match what the company seeks in a new employee. They scan all incoming resumes for relevant experience, education, and whether keywords from the job description show up – indicating the job seeker's fit for the role. 

What exactly does the ATS do?

  1. Keyword Matching: The system scans for specific keywords and phrases from the job description, including job titles, skills, qualifications, and other pertinent criteria.

  2. Ranking and Scoring: Based on the presence and frequency of keywords, the ATS assigns a score or ranking – usually a star rating – to your resume. Higher scores indicate a better match for the job.

  3. Filtering and Sorting: Resumes with lower scores are often filtered out – read: rejected – while those with higher scores move forward in the hiring process, potentially being reviewed by a human recruiter.

  4. Boolean Searches: Recruiters can use search strings within the ATS to find candidates who meet specific criteria. For example, the hiring manager might search for resumes that include "Java AND Python" to find candidates with experience in both programming languages.

Tips to optimize your resume for the ATS

  1. Use Relevant Keywords: Incorporate keywords from the job description naturally into your resume. Focus on skills, technologies, and job-specific terms.

  2. Simple Formatting: Avoid complex formatting, images, and graphics. Use a clean, straightforward layout with standard fonts.

  3. Use Standard Headings: Use conventional headings like "Work Experience," "Education," and "Skills" to help the ATS parse your resume correctly.

  4. Avoid Headers and Footers: Important information in headers or footers might be missed by the ATS, so keep key details in the main body of your resume.

  5. Tailor Each Resume: Customize your resume for each job application. Match your qualifications to the specific job description to increase your ATS score.

Impress the hiring manager

Once you get past the ATS, the next step is to impress the hiring manager. While they won't be scanning your resume for exact language from the Software Engineer job description, they do know what they need from a new employee. Hopefully, you've got a good balance of keywords from the job description mixed with a compelling narrative chock-full of career achievements. 

The best way to create a story that will get their attention is to use a recognizable format and structure, remembering that your resume isn't a dumping ground for everything you've ever done. To help you craft a career story that lines up with the needs of employers, use this layout:

  • Contact information: After all, you want them to be able to get in touch with you for an interview.

  • Professional summary: The first bit of information on the page that tells the hiring manager what you want to do next in your career and how your experience supports that. For example, "Experienced Software Engineer with 5+ years in full lifecycle application development, specializing in Java and Python. Proven track record in improving system performance by 20% and leading teams to successful project completions."

  • Skills: A literal list of 9-12 keywords and phrases that mirror the Software Engineer job description. 

  • Professional experience: An outline of the last 10-15 years of your work life that provides details of things you accomplished at each job – HINT: Use numbers every chance you get. For example, "Developed a new feature that increased user engagement by 30%."

  • Education: All Software Engineer job descriptions will indicate the level of education they want you to have – often a Bachelor's degree. Make sure that's represented on your resume.

  • Extras: You can include special projects you've worked on to show progression, learning, and additional career achievements. 

Highlight skills and competencies

To impress the hiring manager, clearly showcase the skills and competencies that make you the best fit for the role. Here's how to do it:

  • Technical Skills: List your technical skills prominently. Make sure to include any programming languages, frameworks, and tools mentioned in the job description. For a Software Engineer role, this might include languages like Java, C++, or Python, and frameworks like Spring MVC or Hibernate.

  • Soft Skills: Don't neglect soft skills. Highlight your ability to work in a team, solve problems, and communicate effectively. These skills are often just as important as technical abilities. In fact, if a hiring manager has 2 like candidates, soft skills can win the day!

Format for readability

Your resume should be easy to read and visually appealing. Be sure to use bullet points to help the hiring manager quickly skim through your resume. There isn't a human being alive who will read your resume. They're going to skim through it – usually spending only about six seconds – hoping to find something that jumps out at them. Bullet points help break up the text and add white space, making scanning easier on human eyes. 

Speaking of making it easy for human eyes to pick up on things, it's critical that you use consistent formatting. One thing that will quickly land your Software Engineer resume in the NO pile is to have misaligned bullet points or wonky font size transitions. 

Demonstrate cultural fit

You also need to prove to the hiring manager that you can fit in with existing teams and company culture. They are looking for someone to do a specific type of work, but they also need someone who gets along with people and can work within the mission and values of the company. 

Here's how to show that you're a good cultural fit:

  • Research the company: Understand the company's values, mission, and culture. Tailor your resume to reflect how your personal values align with those of the company.

  • Professional associations: Mention any memberships in professional organizations or participation in industry events. This shows that you're engaged in your field and continually seeking to grow.

  • Volunteer work: If applicable, include volunteer work or extracurricular activities. These can highlight your soft skills and show that you're a well-rounded individual.

First step toward dream job

There is a saying that anything worth doing is worth doing right. Creating a resume that helps you stand out in a sea of applications is one of those things. 

When you take the time to tailor your resume using relevant keywords from the Software Engineer job description and weave those into a compelling career story, you set yourself up for success. Software Engineering is – as you no doubt know – very competitive. You have to give yourself every advantage you can to land your dream job!

Given the critical nature of tailoring your resume to the Software Engineer job description, getting a second opinion can be invaluable. TopResume offers a free resume review – send us what you end up with, and we'll let you know what, if anything, needs to be updated.

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