I’ve worked for a relatively small number of companies in my twenty-plus years of professional life. Small by the software industry’s standards, anyway. I’ve been involved in the hiring process in every job I’ve had. In most cases, I’ve been involved in the full process: assembling the job description, pruning through cover letters and resumes, interviewing, and making recommendations to hire.
In my opinion, pruning through cover letters and resumes is the hardest part. There have been times when I’ve literally received more than a thousand applications for a single job posting. In general, the first step is prune that list down to a manageable number (say a dozen or so) of people that you can talk to on the phone. From that list, you hope to narrow it down to a short list (e.g. four or five) of people that you can bring in for a face-to-face interview. You can’t really get to know somebody from a resume and cover letter; they’re used by an employer to sort out who they want to get to know. Winnowing a thousand applications into a dozen or so requires some tricks.
I tend to look for two things in an applicant: do they have the skills, and do they pay attention to detail. I don’t care if a resume is printed on cobalt blue paper. I don’t care if it uses a fancy font (though I do care if the selected font makes it difficult to read). I don’t care if it’s presented in some neat-o origami. I don’t care if you won an Olympic gold medal. Actually, I do care about the Olympic gold medal: that’s pretty cool, but it’s still not enough to get you to the next round.
The cover letter and resume must highlight relevant skills. I expect that an application for a job lists at least most of the skills required to do that job.
The cover letter and resume should be grammatically correct and all words should be spelled correctly. I can read in both correct and American English. Pick one.
On the topic of detail, let me return to the title of this post: Two Years of Experience Doesn’t make you “Senior”. Do not tell me that you graduated from college or university two years ago and have been working as a “senior” anything in the field. With two years of experience and a little luck, you may wind up as a “lead” developer; but you’re not senior. You need a few more years of real industry experience before you can call yourself senior.
If you’re a young person just starting out in this business, I give you this advice: don’t oversell yourself, represent yourself honestly, pay attention to the details, and do a little research on the companies you’re applying to. The software industry values potential.