Frequently Asked Questions for Comp Sci Resumes

Jul 27, 2021

6 Min Read

General Resume Advice

  • Objectives are not necessary unless you don’t know what you need. Well, it’s obvious (you’re in the industry, and you need a job). If it’s not (because you’re changing careers, industries, or anything) then, you can write a short description like what inspired you to switch into software engineering.
  • Summaries are not always necessary. Those that want to reduce a long career description to a more concise snippet are the only ones that need to include summaries. You don’t need to include a summary if you have a one-page resume.
  • Include “[X] Citizen” on your resume if you’re a citizen of the country you’re job searching. The tech industry has allowed a lot of people to work internationally or overseas away from their home country. If you have the advantage of having the right to work, help the recruiter identify that.
  • If you’ve got less than ten years of experience, always target a one-page resume. It will look strange and awkward for a fresh graduate to have a three-page resume. The recruiter will likely smell something fishy or think your resume is a lot of fluff. Tweak the content of your resume and focus on your relevant achievements instead of listing out everything you’ve done.
  • Arrange sections by importance and strength of your information. A typical resume will include your name and contact info at the top, followed by a skills section and an experience section. Many people with excellent projects or publications often include a projects section or a publications section. If you’re a current student or a fresh graduate, an education section should be at the top of your resume. If not, the education section should be at the bottom of your resume.
  • Make your resume simple. Don’t apply some crazy graphic design or include fancy charts and fonts in your resume. Just present the information in a simple form.
  • Emphasize the details and achievements of your works and achievements. Describing your works with just “Fixed bugs for team’s primary application” doesn’t make any sense. You should be able to explain: how your works helped your team or company, the impressive technical problems you’ve solved, the technologies or frameworks you used, and more. Including specific numbers (“Wrote application that saved 12 hours per week in manual QA time”) is good and recommended.
  • Remove the fluff. Information like school activities, hobbies, and the likes, are not needed. But you can include something relevant like winning a CS-related competition, or volunteer work in CS, as the first thing on the chopping block. Remove non-relevant details.
  • Send your resume in a text parsable format (for example, a .doc file). Many large companies often use ATS (Applicant Tracking Software) to manage and filter resumes. Your resume is unlikely to appear in searches if it’s in an image or rasterized PDF format.
  • Your resume should be legible in grayscale print on 8.5” by 11” paper. Companies would like to print your resume for a secondary interview or screening, so it’s embarrassing to submit a resume with narrow margins or faded graphics because of the black-and-white toner of the printer. Don’t use formats that can resize your resume for the paper. It will make your fonts smaller and not visible to read.

Name, Contact Info, and Links

  • Let your name be clearly shown in large bold font at the top of your resume. Including “Resume” is not needed.
  • Many people prefer putting down just their name, phone number, and email address without including their physical address. Some prefer using their phone number and email address they often use when job searching. Whichever way you choose to present your details, make sure your name and contact info are prominently shown at the top of your resume.
  • Include your GitHub or LinkedIn link near your contact info at the top.

Skills

  • If you have any languages, tools, or software that you’re comfortable with, outline them in order of their proficiency. (For example, beginner, intermediate, and expert).
  • If you have many languages, tools, or software, break down your skills list.
  • Note that all the things you include in your resume are fair game during an interview. Be sincere with anything you put in your resume because you may need to prove them.

Experience and Projects

  • Give a good description of what you’ve created or worked on, things you did specifically or technically contributed to, and the languages you used to create the program, app, or software.
  • Add the start and end dates for each job (Oct 2020 — May 2021).
  • Outline in bullet points. It will help the hiring managers to spend a little time (20secs) to read your resume and decide if you’re needed or not. Don’t write in paragraphs. They are often harder to skim.
  • Don’t add just a list of languages, find a way to apply them in your description.
  • Writing in a generic and vague sentence (like “created an app”) is meaningless. Make your sentence personal and technically fascinating.
  • Emphasize the company name more than the position when making a job or internship listing. It is a stronger signal to potential employers. The company name should speak more to your skills than the position when comparing applicants (“Acme Corporation, San Francisco, CA — Software Engineering Intern” is preferable to Software Engineering Intern — Acme Corporation, San Francisco, CA”).

Education

  • If you’re a current student or a fresh graduate, your education section should be foremost on your resume.
  • Add the name and location of your university. Include your degree and graduation date. To avoid misrepresenting your qualification, use the official degree name and graduation date in your transcript or diploma. If additional information is needed, include them incidentally to clarify your specialization (“B.S. in Computer Science, specializing in Cybersecurity” is better than “Bachelor of Computing in Cybersecurity”). It is also helpful if you want to add the start date (like “Oct 2020 — May 2021” or just “May 2021”).
  • If you’re yet to graduate, use the supposed graduation date or leave it open (“May 2021 (expected)” or “Oct 2020 – Present”).
  • Outline all bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees – not just the highest or most recent one.
  • Include your GPA for a bachelor’s or master’s degree, unless it’s low like below 3.0. If you’ve earned any honors or distinctions, include them in your resume (for example, “summa cum laude, Dean’s List for X out of Y semesters”). Since some courses taken would be similar across applicants, including them isn’t necessary.
  • For your doctoral degree, include your advisor’s name, thesis title or research topic, and areas of focus to serve as a list of keywords. If you’ve also earned any honors here, include them (for example, “XYZ Dissertation Prize”).
  • Your university name should be emphasized more than your degree name. It also serves as a stronger signal to prospective employers. The university name should speak more to your capabilities than the degree name when comparing applicants – which is some variation of “B.S. in Computer Science” (New York College, Albany, NY — B.S. in Computer Science is preferable to B.S. in Computer Science — New York College, Albany, NY”).

Publications

  • If you have any publications like conference papers, list them in a standard citation format (for example, ACM, IEEE, and more).

Overall Formatting Tips

Fonts

  • Use a professional typeface appropriate for prose – Boring is better. If you’re not trying to make a statement, don’t use Comic Sans, Papyrus, and Courier. Use nothing less than two typefaces.

Layout and Alignment

  • In your layout, use vertical and horizontal spacing. Align the text uniformly at the same indentation level.
  • Do not use crammed walls of texts. Use white space in your layout to strengthen your resume structure. It will help you make out key sections and headings even from afar.

Bullet Points

  • Decide whether you’re going to end each bullet point with a period or not.
  • In each indentation level, use the same bullet point symbol of the same size all through (don’t switch between different bullet icons within the same level). Stick with the one you select.

Dates

  • Decide whether you’re going to write all months in full (October, March) or use their usual 3-letter abbreviations (Oct, Mar). But the abbreviations will help you save space.
  • Use calendar months (Feb, Dec) and not the school semester or term names (Fall, Winter).
  • Use an en dash (–) in place of a hyphen (-) or em dash (—) for all date ranges. Let there be space before and after the en dash (Oct 2020 — May 2021).
  • If the activity is ongoing, use “Present” as the end date (Oct 2020 — Present).

Spelling and Grammar

  • Check and correct for wrong spellings, capitalizations, and punctuation where necessary. For best results, check more than twice within a few days’ interval. Read aloud backward, starting from the last line in your resume.
  • If you’ve used unclear abbreviations, spell them out in full. Do not capitalize the first letter of each word (use “automated teller machine (ATM)” instead of “Automated Teller Machine (ATM)”).

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