How to Apply for an iOS Developer Job

Pracftical tips about how to craft a great resume and cover letter for an iOS developer job. By .

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Note from Ray: This series is on a very subjective topic, where there are thousands of different opinions. This article reflects Kyle’s views, and not necessarily mine or those from this site. We’d love to hear your own thoughts after you check it out too! :]

When I was interviewed about my company Empirical Development a few months ago, I touched very briefly on our hiring process. Since then I have been bombarded with questions asking for more details about how to successfully apply and interview for an iOS developer job.

You want it, you got it! This is the first part of a three part series on applying and interviewing for an iOS developer job.

  • In this first part of the series, you will focus on the applying part of the equation – i.e. preparing your resume and cover letter.
  • In this second part of the series, Ray will show you a few examples of some iOS resumes and cover letters he likes that might be useful for reference or models.
  • In the third part of the series, you will focus on the interviewing part of the equation – i.e. what types of questions to expect and prepare for, and how to do your best in an interview.

Note that none of these articles will focus on how to get the required iOS skills (although that might be a good follow-up article some day). Let’s assume you’re already a seasoned iOS developer. After all, if you’re reading this blog, that’s a good sign that honing your iOS skills is important to you! :]

Also, none of these articles will focus on where to find iOS jobs (although that’s another good idea for a follow-up). Let’s assume that you know of a company or companies to which you’d like to apply. Most companies have a careers page on their website that lists any openings. Some smaller shops may not, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in receiving applicants!

Over the almost 10 years I have been running an indie Mac and then an iOS shop, I have worked with hundreds of developers, interviewed or screened thousands and hired tens of dozens. Reading this article, you’re going to benefit from much of what I’ve learned. So without further ado, let’s dive in!

Preparing Your Resume

Your first task is to prepare a resume. Regardless of your skills, the importance of a good resume can’t be underestimated. Most popular midsized companies get a dozen or more resumes a week (we certainly do), so yours will need to stand out!

Around 90% of the people who apply to work at my companies get turned away based on their resume alone. After all, interviewing someone is a long and involved process and I don’t want to waste my or your time!

Always assume that, whatever the job for which you are interviewing, the person reading your resume is also reading through dozens of other resumes each day. Be respectful of their time while showcasing why you are the best fit for the job. Here are some tips for how to do just that.

What to Do in Your iOS Resume

  • Make sure to include your name, address, phone number and email address. I print out every resume I receive and if later on I can’t find contact info, I may not bother to go back through my email.
  • Use a professional email address and provider. Nothing says “don’t hire me” like Likewise, is going straight into the trash. Whether fair or not, I have a subconscious bias against anything Hotmail or Yahoo.
  • Carefully separate your personal and professional online personas. One of the first things many employers do is to google your name and/or email address. So if googling either of these returns results of you involved in a flame war over Pokemon, you might want to set up a new email address for job hunting.

    Similarly, if your Facebook, Twitter, blogs and Tumblrs contain any content you wouldn’t want your boss to see, you should do something about that. Remove that content, restrict your accounts to friends-only or make sure it’s extremely difficult to connect your social media accounts to your name and email address.

    In addition to making sure nothing you don’t want employers to see shows up, think about what you do want them to see. A history of blog posts, GitHub contributions, StackOverflow answers, and the like go a long way to establish you as someone who’s serious about your craft.

  • Make sure your objectives are at the top of your resume and that they match the position and culture of the company to which you’re applying. The objectives section is where I look to see if you want to grow as a developer. If I feel that your objective is to collect a paycheck, then it’s probably not going to work out between us. A good objective would demonstrate a good match between your goals and the company you’re applying to’s goals, and that you have a personal interest and passion for iOS development.
  • Keep your resume short. The person screening has to go through dozens of resumes a day and you don’t want to make them work harder to get to know you. It can be a good to leave them with questions because that encourages them to reach out to ask you, but remember you need to provide enough info to get them interested.

    The sweet spot for resume length is two pages. If you have an extensive job history, that might not be enough space, but try not to exceed three pages.

  • List your education, but don’t be too verbose. Include your degree, university and dates attended/graduated. Including honors like Deans List may add something special, but listing every club or society you were a member of is a turnoff. Save that for the interview, if you’re asked.
  • List any open source or community contributions, focusing on the most well-known ones if you have a lot. I want to hire people who don’t check out of the iOS community at 5pm. Going to Cocoaheads or conferences in your free time shows me that you care.
  • List your development languages and time spent working with them rather than your perceived skill level, which is too subjective. Make sure the languages are relevant – knowing Fortran probably isn’t going to be useful in an iOS job, but Ruby on Rails might.
  • Include a list of the products you have shipped, with links. This is the best way to demonstrate a track record of success. Most of the time I just look at the first couple, so make sure your best work is on top. Refrain from listing any apps with a lot of negative reviews, as that stands out at a glance. Usually I will just read the first few reviews and look at the screenshots.
  • Keep your job descriptions concise. Two to three sentences describing your duties is probably enough. The older the job, the shorter the description should be. When I’m reading your resume I’m mostly concerned with what you’ve been doing for the last five years. For work older than that, don’t be afraid to just list company name and job title.
  • Check your spelling, particularly for key terms. Its Xcode, not xCode or XCode, iOS rather than IOS and iPod touch, not iTouch. When you misspell the names of core tools relating to the job, it makes me think you don’t have the attention to detail or passion I am looking for in an employee.
  • Use a filename that identifies yourself. A folder full of files called Resume.pdf makes it hard to look you up to compare with someone else. Try Resume-YourName.pdf instead.
  • Use a simple and professional font. It is shocking how many resumes I get in Comic Sans or something equally ridiculous. Regardless of the job you’re seeking, I expect an eye for design, and your resume will show me whether or not you have it.
  • Format your resume as a PDF. You have no idea who will have Microsoft Office or Pages, but PDF is universal and will always appear just as you intended.
  • Have someone else proofread your resume. Even the best writers and editors can benefit from this. It’s amazing what our own eyes can miss.

What NOT to Do in Your iOS Resume

  • Don’t include irrelevant work experience. Your position at the Gap in high school doesn’t interest me. I am not going to ask you to fold shirts and I couldn’t care less if you know how to work a cash register.
  • Don’t include your picture on a resume for a US job opening. While this is standard practice in Europe and Asia, it doesn’t help you at all in the US. You don’t want someone to make hiring decisions based on your appearance, one way or another.
  • Don’t list your salary requirements. It’s best to save those discussions until the end. There are many hires I might have turned down if I had known their salary requirements in advance.
  • Don’t pad your resume with irrelevant skills. If I see Windows XP, Mac OS X or Ubuntu as skills on a resume, I will assume you are either wasting my time or didn’t have anything worthwhile to put down.
  • Don’t include soft skills such as communication, teamwork or leadership. You can put these in your summary or cover letter. I assume that everyone applying will have teamwork skills, so when someone chooses to list it, I suspect a problem. Why is he worried that I’ll think he doesn’t have teamwork skills?
  • Don’t include app screenshots or icons on your resume. These take up space, are distracting and will end up printed out in black and white anyway.

The Cover Letter

Once you have the resume, then next step is to craft a cover letter for the job you’re applying to.

Despite what roughly 40% of our applicants think, a cover letter is not optional. A cover letter is your chance to make a great first impression on the employer, and explain who you are and why you’d be a great match for the job.

Copied-and-pasted form letters are easy to spot. Instead of taking that route, write a basic outline and customize it for each company or position. If you mass-apply to every company you find, you probably won’t be hired by any of them, so take your time and apply to no more than a couple of companies at once. Your cover letter should show an interest in the company, an understanding of their current business and the reasons you want to work with them.

Before you write your cover letter, take half an hour and do some research:

  • Does the company make any products that you use or like? If so, write about how much you like them and why. If not, go get their product and check it out, and then write about it.
  • Have their founders or directors written any books? If so, read up on them and mention them.
  • Does the company work with any interesting clients? Talk about how much you would love to work with one of the clients from the company’s portfolio.
  • What is the company asking for in their job description? Mention how you are a good match for the skills or requirements that they are looking for – and be specific!

Simple things like this single out your application. When someone says they enjoy Trivium it perks my interest, especially because I’m passionate about that project.

If you know anyone at the company, make sure to mention that in your cover letter. First, it gives the screener someone to talk to about your application who will most likely be a champion for you. Second, it removes a perceived degree of risk when hiring you. Reading a sentence like, “I hung out with Joe at Cocoaheads and he thought I might be a good fit for this position,” can instantly establish in the screener some familiarity and comfort with you as a candidate. If you don’t know anyone at the company, see if someone you know does or if you can make a connection through any of your networks.

Your cover letter should be brief. Aim for one half to a full page, and make sure to demonstrate your specific interest in that company. A little ego stroking goes a long way.

Where To Go From Here?

Let’s sum up:

  • Make sure your resume is brief, professional and clearly identifies the talents you bring to the table.
  • A well-written cover letter is essential to landing the best jobs. Don’t mass-apply to every company you can think of as fast as possible, because the quality of your applications beats quantity. If you truly need to apply to 100 companies, do it over the course of several weeks.

Want to see some examples of iOS resumes from other developers? Stay tuned for the next article, which will focus on that!

Do you have any tips or advice about creating good resumes or cover letters? If so, please join the forum discussion below.