For many professions, the ideal resume is relatively straightforward: qualifications, education, relevant experience, and accomplishments. Some also tout volunteer work, awards and special certifications to make the candidate stand out. But the resume for computer science students can look different. Many of the jobs they apply for involve specific coding languages, unique technical abilities or niche certifications that may not be easy to come by. If you’re entering a career in CS, or looking to accelerate your path to success, where do you start and how do you get noticed? This guide college students and seasoned professionals alike create a resume not only to get noticed by employers, but to get hired.
Computer science resumes may not include a typical list of accomplishments, but just how different are they? Let’s take a look at five areas in which they veer from the norm.
Most resumes offer a wide range of skills and experiences that show how well-rounded an applicant is. When it comes to computer science careers, however, drilling down into very specific areas is often seen as a huge plus. Things like programming, network architecture and research are seen as separate subcategories; specializing even deeper is quite common.
Some resumes focus strongly on soft skills, such as customer service, excellent communication, and working closely in a team atmosphere. While important for computer science grads, they don’t hold nearly as much weight as clear, specific and demonstrable skills with software, hardware, coding, programming and more. Therefore, soft skills in the resume can take a back seat to the more cut-and-dried points.
Look at the resume of any seasoned professional and you’re likely to see a variety of certifications. For the computer science expert, those certifications can turn into a very long list. The certifications prove that someone has spent quite a bit of time educating themselves long after their formal education is over. And on all resumes, regardless of profession, continuous learning is important.
Serious employers want to see that their applicants don’t just work in computer science – they enjoy it when they’re not working, too. That’s why outside projects, especially those that produced excellent results (even if you considered them hobbies!), are perfect for beefing up a resume.
To illustrate the important differences in resumes for computer science experts, we’ve created examples for three different educational and experience levels: The undergrad, the graduate and the professional. Here’s how they look.
Keep in mind that if you don’t have much to include on a resume, make sure what you do have looks attractive on the page.
A research position that provides ample opportunity to develop problem-solving skills and advance my abilities in the computer science field.
Murray State University, Murray, KY. Class of 2020.
Marshall County High School, Benton, KY. Graduated with Honors, June 2016.
Calculus I and II; Programming Basics; Principles of Artificial Intelligence; Gaming and Computer Theory.
Created “The Adventure Begins” game with graphic interface in Python; Completed 2017.
-Coding tutor for South Marshall Middle School, 2014-2016
-Internship with Computer Resources, Inc. of Paducah, KY (June 2016-August 2017)
Proficient in Python and C++
National Merit Scholar, 2016
Governor’s Scholar, 2016
Technology Today Scholarship, 2016-Present
As you can see, things have shifted over these last several years. Now your experience, projects and skills hold much more weight.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, B.S. in Computer Science and Engineering, 2018
Your work speaks for itself, so showcase it without reservation!
Looking to create the best possible computer science resume? These 10 tips can be key to getting noticed.
Throughout college, test the waters in a variety of concentrations until you find the one that really lights your fire; then drill down hard to specialize in that particular area. Employers who are looking for a database administrator want just that; they aren’t looking for a systems analyst. Make sure your resume reflects your specializations and apply to jobs accordingly.
On the other hand, also make sure that potential employers see your ability to branch out. For instance, seeing a nice chunk of experience with software development on the resume of someone specializing in network architecture can be a very nice touch. Versatility is great, but not at the expense of expertise in a specific area.
When writing the objective for your resume, be as precise as possible. Saying you’re looking for a “programming position with the room to grow” isn’t enough. Saying you’re “a backend engineer seeking to leverage analytical, coding and leadership skills as a project manager” is far better.
Human resources expert Steve Wang points out that computer science jobs are quite unique.“Front office jobs, like receptionists and nurses, interact with clients face-to-face. Excelling in these roles requires someone with soft skills such as having a likable personality and being an effective communicator,” Wang said. “However, most computer science jobs are strictly back office jobs, meaning more emphasis is placed on one’s technical prowess as opposed to anything else. Matching the nature of the job, computer science resumes should be written with a robotic tone and devoid of any personal anecdotes or pronouns.”
Employers love to see quantifiable results; if you mention an achievement on your resume, make those results clear. Did you revamp a website that saw a huge burst of growth immediately afterward – and is still going strong? Don’t just mention it. Get serious with metrics, such as “Six months after completion, website scaled from 500 views/day to over 10,000 views/day.”
Just because the tone is straightforward doesn’t mean there isn’t wiggle room for original thinking.“Similar to marketing resumes, it’s not uncommon for computer science resumes to be formatted using more modern templates or infographic designs as long as the resume is compatible with resume scanners (applicant tracking systems),” Wang said. “Other industries like accounting, finance, human resources, and managerial positions do not have this luxury of using a more unique resume design.”
Though much of the resume might seem to be filled with rote information, such as degrees, certifications and specializations, experience matters a great deal as well – and if you can show innovative thinking during a project, unique work-arounds and significant problem-solving skills, you’re ahead of the pack.
Every computer science grad has strong math skills; showcasing them is a must. How you do it is the key to success. Don’t just list math prowess in certain areas; instead, present them in context, such as “well-versed in algorithm development.”
Interviewing with a company that is well-versed in computer science requires a straightforward, clear-cut resume; however, many employers simply know that they need “an IT person” to handle a variety of tasks for the company, but they don’t really know what those tasks are. In a situation like this, tweaking the resume language to explain things a bit more clearly is essential. A good example is acronyms; most in the computer science field will know exactly what a particular acronym means, but those who aren’t computer science gurus might be completely confused, so spelling it out can help.
“A common misconception is that resumes need to be one page,” Wang said. “If you’re a seasoned professional with an enormous list of qualifications, it’s best to simply list it all on your resume, even if that means having a two page resume. In terms of getting past applicant tracking systems, it’s actually better to have a longer resume because there’s always a higher chance of matching the applicant trackers’ keywords. Simply listing out all your qualifications shouldn’t take too much space anyway.”
If your resume isn’t delivered on paper, send it only via PDF. Any other formats have the potential for strange rendering, which doesn’t bode well for a computer science guru looking for a good job. PDF is the only way to go!
So you’ve already got a great resume, but no employers are biting. As with anything else in life, there’s probably some room for improvement. Here are a few secrets to improving a resume to get the attention you deserve.
The world of computer science is rapidly changing and advancing. To stay relevant, even seasoned professionals must be continuously learning about new aspects of the industry. Tweak the resume with every new certification, pertinent class or upgraded skill.
Though this is true for all resumes, it’s especially important for the very technical computer science resume. Why? Because when writing code, for instance, a single incorrect keystroke can cause problems. Attention to detail is crucial in any computer science position, so apply that attention to the resume.
Showcase your GitHub contribution, time in Hackathons, in-depth discussions on Stackoverflow and more. Note your participation in special computing projects and your membership in professional organizations related to anything computer-oriented. Real, hands-on contributions will hold a great deal of weight.
Employers want to know that you’re all about computer science and technology, even when you’re not at work. You might call them “hobbies” but when it comes to a resume, those equal some serious experience. Note special projects, either in the past or ongoing, and detail your contributions.
Always write in an active voice, taking care to use words that enhance your accomplishments. Words like “implemented”, “planned”, “created”, “published” or “executed” make your hands-on work very clear.
Using too many “buzz words” can lead to a resume that doesn’t really reflect what you can do. For instance, don’t throw in “batch streaming” or “big-data” or “machine learning” unless you actually have experience with them. You could get asked a question during the interview that makes you seem clueless, and that’s never a good look.
Students and professionals alike have questions when building a resume. Here are four of the most common.
A. “The most valuable internships are the ones that directly relate to the line of work students will be trying to get into once they graduate,” Wang said. “If they’re looking to become software engineers, then an internship that involves computer programming will be ideal.”
A. This is a fine line to walk. You want to provide a list of all your accomplishments, but you don’t want to include things that everyone should know, such as how to use Word, Excel, etc. You also don’t want to simply provide a laundry list of what you know; employers care more about what you can do. Therefore, staying specific to the job you are applying for is usually the best bet. If you want to work with coding or programming for artificial intelligence, for instance, those related skills are the ones you need to punch up.
A. “For students without much to put on their resumes, I always recommend listing out the names of their college classes that are applicable to the jobs they’re applying for,” Wang said. “They can also mention any major college projects they’ve worked on or programs they’ve written.”
A. Quite a bit! “Companies with frequent computer science job openings are far more likely to screen candidates using applicant tracking systems,” Wang said. “This means it’s important to optimize your resume for resume trackers in order to do well during the preliminary screening stage where weak applications are immediately weeded out.”
Want to get something down fast and then tweak it later? This CollegeGrad page allows you to do just that.
This in-depth guide looks at the things most people do wrong – and what they get right – in crafting the perfect resume to catch the eye of recruiters.
This website and blog looks at a variety of issues within the computer science world, as well as offers extensive advice on crafting resumes and getting jobs.
This website offers a wealth of resume samples; search through the options until you find the one that suits your experience, education and personal style.
In addition to a nice resume example, you can choose to have your resume screened by a professional service (for a fee).
Find a few great examples and in-depth tips on how to create the best resume for computer science students or professionals.
This article on GlassDoor presents the “perfect” resume and explains how important details really are.