Applying For A Web Development Position

January 27th, 2021

There's a lot of well-meaning but still bad advice out there regarding the best way to apply for developer positions these days - and maybe I'm the one who's out of touch (I'm well over 40 now ffs) - but most of this advice does not appear to be from those who are actively looking, and probably failing to find a good applicant. Probably due to said poor advice.

Blurred coding screen

So what's the bad advice that I should ignore?

The worst advice that seems rampant these days is to 'avoid a cover letter' - given by those in hiring positions, as well as representatives who, undoubtedly, have access to numbers that back up this advice. This is very probably true for large companies or silicon valley type of places that receive tens of thousands of applicants, where a cover letter is just noise - but for many smaller or more attentive businesses, this is still a way to either separate yourself from the rest of the pack, or at least explain why your resume is the way that it is. It also lets the business know that you are aware of them and made some effort - which goes a long way to encouraging a reciprocal in-kind communication, even if it's just a, vanishingly thin on the ground these days, thanks-but-no-thanks response.

What else can I do?

Less is definitely more for resumes. (I'm aware this is at odds with my cover letter advice. Waves hands.)

Nothing is worse on a web developers resume than a boring list of dozens if not hundreds of software, languages, frameworks and how/where you have applied them. Give me your top 5 tools/applications with examples of where you've used those. Then give me a bullet list of maybe 10 other relevant tools/technologies that you are confident in using on a day-to-day basis. That's it. Then show me your work history and very short synopsis of tasks/accomplishments related to this application. Show potential employers what facets of the vast areas of web development excite you the most, and then let them decide if those exciting technologies align with their own vision.

It's even worse when a new graduate or intern has almost every language or toolset under the sun listed because they cloned a github repo of a project that used it once at the start of a course one time.

That reminds me....


Github is the pseudo modern equivalent of a design portfolio. It shows, without malice or emotion, what you work on, how often, and how well you contribute to your own, or other peoples projects. If you don't use github, or a similar product, that's not a bad thing at all - just list your web projects so that I can see them, it's almost as good.

If you do use github, and have it linked in your resume and it's one or more of the following, you are wasting a potential employers time:

Padded Activity

If your activity chart looks like this (and trust me, some people will make interview yes/no decisions based on this alone) but all that activity is pushing updates to a readme file or doing nothing of any note, this is a huge red-flag.

Only Coursework

If it only contains your coursework from college? Don't bother linking it - nobody wants to see or contribute to your data structures 101 repository. Even better, make it private and put what you learned in that course to good use on a fun little personal project that somebody making a hiring decision might be interested in looking at.

Black Hole Of Nothingness

Yes, it's cool that you've at least heard of github and bothered to create an account - you'll probably need it if you ever get a job. However, don't include this link on your resume - it will have a detrimental affect on how you are perceived.