This post won't be short. I appreciate your patience.

About me: I have a BE(honours) degree majoring in computer&electronic engineering. I've worked as a software engineer for a small dev team of a globally successful company for a year. Skills learned on job: C#, setting up linux based server as part of a cloud infrastructure + problem solving when doing those.

For some personal reason I'm starting to look for a new job.

To my surprise, not a single interview invitation. Apart from a bad CV - this is from my part, I have some questions about job hunting:

  • Some recruitment agents don't seem to agree that my degree matches a developer role. but I've successfully worked as one for a year. Do people here think that my degree actually provides a strong foundation to apply for a developer role?
  • How do I show that I'm a fast learner on my CV?
  • I found that advertisements for a junior role list MANY MANY preferred skills? Why do employers expect a junior to have THAT MANY skills?
  • I know C# but my work doesn't use the popular MVC framework. A majority of the C# developer ads requires working knowledge of MVC. Is it sufficient to promise that I can learn fast on the job? What would be a better approach?

A couple things...

1 - Fresh out of college, having worked for a year, your resume can be summed up as the school you've graduated from and the 1 year of experience you had. If you're leaving your very first job in 1 year, be ready to explain, very strongly and clearly why. No one will fault you for a meaningful, life-related transition, but stuff like "because I'm not challenged/don't like it/want a better opportunity" is not going to look great this early in your career. I'm sure that industry expectations (even in a single field) will vary remarkably. If you're not in a hurry, I'd advise waiting a year and retrying - you'll have more on the job experience.

2 - In all honesty, 1 year is too short for many people to put a lot of stock in "I'm doing really well in my current role" - 1 year is generally about half a year of investment on the part of your company, particularly so in a new college grad. That said, the way to describe "I do a great job!" on a resume is not in opinion based judgements (my coworkers value me), but in evidence based information - what did you develop? What features did you play a role in developing? What technologies did you learn to do it. What parts of the process where you involved in? This also addresses the "I learn really fast" - if you picked up new technologies to do the work, mention it in the work summary - you don't need to say you learned them for this job... just what you used in doing the job.

3 - Laundry list of preferred skills - yes, that's really annoying, but it's the nature of the game. Companies do this for a variety of reasons:

  • there's a fascinating process in the US relating to citizenship applications that can be assisted by super-specific job descriptions
  • companies may not want to re-write jobs for each specific position of the moment, so they have a big bucket list
  • why not try for the absolutely most perfect candidate? getting absolutely exactly what you want as a hiring manager is a rare but awesome win. If you don't ask for it, you certainly stand a poorer chance of getting it.
  • descriptions and screening happens at many levels.. technology is somewhat testable (yet not perfect, ever) compare to things like "I want someone who can be trusted to have good judgement in asking questions, strong opinions, good negotiation skills and a sense of humor as wonky as the rest of my team" - which have to be managed by the hiring manager. If they can offload some of the work to recruiters who will grill candidates on technology questions and keep useless resumes off their desks - then that is valuable time saved.

I wouldn't let this dissuade you - I've applied (and gotten accepted!) many times when my resume was not a direct match to the technologies. The trick is getting the first interview.

Most of the time, I often advise that years of experience are not a perfect match - for example if it says "5-10" and someone has 11 or 4, I say go for it, you never know. That said, if you are applying to "3-5" year positions - you may be falling short here - 1 vs. 3 isn't all that many years, but it's literally 3X the current experience you have.

4 - C# & MVC - please don't assume that you can easily learn something you don't know and haven't used. MVC is actually a pretty classic model for object oriented web development. It's not a weird esoteric thing, although most hiring managers will understand that not every candidate with only 1 year in the field has been exposed to every "common" thing. In my experience, MVC is a very simple concept, but in many ways it's like playing chess - the rules are easy to understand, the way you execute them and use them to the system's advantage can take a lifetime to master. Instead of assuming that you will learn, take some personal time, prototype a personal project, and get into attempting your first MVC design and implementation. If you can, get a review from someone who's done it (in almost any similar language...) and try 1-2 serious revisions of your functionality. At that point, you can absolutely claim in on a resume, and you'll be able to speak to in an interview in terms of what was actually easy or hard to learn.

  • 1, I like the company I'm working for, the people I work with and the interesting projects. But I have genuine reason to leave, too. And yes I can wait for a year and retry. (And probably use this year to do point 4.) 2, advise taken. 3, Thank you for sharing. 4, advise taken. personal project starts from today. Your answer is truly helpful. Thank you very much. – user15891 Feb 15 '14 at 1:00

The reason your CV isn't giving people the impression you're doing great in your current job is that you don't tell them that! Your list of duties is very terse and tells me nothing about what you have achieved.

In fact the word "Duties" implies that you were just doing your job, nothing to see here. Make it "Achievements" or something like that instead. Instead of things like "Configure MySQL database for the SIP infrastructure.", you need to focus on great projects you've done and why you were so effective, what was the end result? Here's a line from the graduate role in my CV:

"Developed tools and systems to deploy software packages, resulting in overnight development builds of the VLE and reduced deployment times to live servers from 3 days to 6 hours"

Your CV should make people think "wow, he's good" not just "yeah, he's a developer". You come across as an enthusisastic person in your question so inject some of that into your CV.

  • Thank you for your suggestion. I like this: Your CV should make people think "wow, he's good" not just "yeah, he's a developer". – user15891 Feb 15 '14 at 1:05
  • Just red your answer again. Your answer is short but straight to the point with example of how to actually do it. I wish I have enough reputation to vote your answer up. – user15891 Feb 15 '14 at 1:38
  • @user15891 No worries, glad to help :) – Fiona - myaccessible.website Feb 15 '14 at 9:30

I'm a software engineer and still remember applying for jobs at your level-- it was difficult, and the number of years experience makes it harder to prove your skills. The other answers have hit most of the points well, but some minor additions:

  • Your degree sounds reasonable if you have aptitude for programming. Generally a comp sci, computer engineer, electrical engineering, math or science major (ie, physics), or general engineering major is sufficient, assuming you can actually program.
  • Learn all of the skills you see that you don't have! Ok, start with just a couple. If you can learn it on the job, why wait, learn it now. Do some medium size personal projects where you can learn the new skill, such as MVC. It shows enthusiasm beyond your job, and that you're more than just your current role.
  • Have a moderately challenging project you can talk about the difficulties of learning, such as the MVC project you do. It should be in addition. No one wants to hear what you could do, they want to hear what you've done.
  • Look at startup companies, instead of big corporate companies. Startups are filled with young people, where lack of experience is a non-issue, and enthusiasm is rewarded.
  • Your existing role: hold onto it and learn from it. Don't leave it without a new role. May sound obvious but for new grads it can be good just to get a good 2-3 years of experience at a first solid role just to get up to a non-entry level place. A worse situation would be 1 year of experience with no current job, looking for a new job desperately. Think win-win paths forward only.
  • Also: if applying yourself isn't working, try to find a good headhunter/recruiter to work with. Alot are salesy morons that will hound you, so talk with a few until you find one you're comfortable with. I found they will get you the interviews you couldn't, for companies you weren't aware of-- but then it's your responsibility to get the job.
  • 1
    If I can select more than one answer. I would definitely select yours as well! Thank you very much! – user15891 Feb 14 '14 at 21:21

Unfortunately IT, particularly programming isn't very forgiving when it comes to missing skills, experience or technologies on your resume. Enthusiasm to learn or cross train is often ignored in favour of hiring someone that can hit the ground running with prior experience. In IT a candidates skill is often put into boxes rather than evaluating the individual and their enthusiasm for the job, company and to learn.

I know exactly how you feel. I have eight years professional programming experience and I still struggle to get interviews, especially at more prestigious or larger companies. Firms can often expect you to be proficient in many complicated skills even for a mid-level or junior role. I guess it comes down to supply and demand. I have seen junior programming roles in finance asking for masters or Phd's.

My advice would be to gain as much experience and exposure to technologies as possible in your current role. Make sure your CV reads well and lists all technologies you have used (Important as recruiters do database keyword searches). Be keen to learn from books, forums and contribute to open source projects if possible. Sign up for all the major jobsites and get a LinkedIn profile setup and you should get recruiters contacting you.

Target smaller firms, they are often more willing to give someone that chance. Either that or try and entice a firm by coming in at a lower salary rate. Good luck.

  • Thank you for the understanding and suggestions. I'll polish my CV and then sign up with jobsites. – user15891 Feb 15 '14 at 1:12

As for the degree not matching a developer role, you could pick 2 or 3 courses and put a highlights section under it that may be useful though this is for specific points rather than general things which is likely one of the bigger issues with your resume. What were the best parts that you did? What are the key points to know? That you "Obtain and complete tasks" is about as good as saying, "I breathe and ingest food." Did you do any planning of the tasks? Did you do particularly well with particular kind of tasks? Did you tasks include specific components that may be a highlight?

Are you sure people would tell others that you are doing really well? Some people may be polite to you but tell others another story. Something else to consider is how well do your colleagues know how good you are compared to other companies and cultures. The best at Microsoft or Google may be quite different than where you work at the moment if you want another idea here.

If you really want to show the fast learning, do a pet project on your own where you learn something relatively quick that you can discuss in a cover letter or interview. Keep in mind what kind of expectations you are communicating here. Are you implying that you could learn how to reverse engineer Visual Studio in 2 days or less? How deeply do you know your current languages? Do you know all the different versions of the .Net framework and its history,e.g. 1.0, 1.1, 2.0, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0 and so forth?

Some people may dabble in various areas and thus could have a wide range of experiences before being professionally employed. In entering university, I had programmed on my Commodore 64, Watcom BASIC, Watcom Pascal, assembler on a Commodore Pet, and done some programming with gates on a bread board either on my own or in high school courses. In university I had exposure to more versions of Pascal, Modula-3, Scheme, C/C++, Matlab, and Maple in addition to learning about HTML on my own. In addition there is something to be said for how much experience can one have and still be seen as junior which can be a few years.

The C# you know do you know all the different ways it can be used: Winforms, Webforms, ASP.Net MVC, console applications, WCF services, WPF, Windows Services, and Workflow Foundation? How certain are you of the complexity of ASP.Net MVC framework if you've never used it? Would you be able to build your own version over a weekend? This is something to consider that you say fast and a company may think, "Ah, get it done in 2 hours," which isn't quite what you meant by fast.

You communicate what you mean by "learn fast" in giving examples of where you've done this. What evidence do you have for that claim? Do you have proof of this or do you just believe this without any proof that would convince someone?

Be careful how you handle critics as that may cause more issues since if someone is a little hostile to you that you offer childish antics? What you state here is what will be used here. You aren't the administrator of this site so be careful of how mighty you think you are.

  • Thanks for your input. I'm not trying to compare myself to anyone, neither am trying to define 'learn fast'. The question was 'how do I communicate this'. – user15891 Feb 15 '14 at 1:10

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