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In the highly competitive world of computer science, it takes a lot to stand out and get a truly fantastic job. You may assume that your technical qualifications and hard skills are enough to show that you’re a great candidate, but sadly that’s often not the case.

Companies look for much more than raw talent from all types of computer science hires, so your resume needs to show you can do more than just code. You need to show you can think about the big picture, communicate well, be self-motivated, and more.

Fortunately, you’ve found a complete guide to every aspect of creating an excellent computer science resume. We’ll walk you through precisely what you need to do to stand above the competition and land that job.

What this guide will show you:

  • Resume template examples to get you started
  • What ATS is and how you can get past iti
  • How to get in the head of recruiters to get hired
  • The best formatting, length, and sections for a computer science resume
  • What really makes a computer science resume effective
  • How to highlight your achievements
  • How to include qualifications and certifications (and which to consider obtaining)
  • How to make your skills more impactful (and which to include)
  • Why an objective or summary should open your resume
  • How to target your resume to a specific job
  • What to do if you don’t have much experience
  • How to make your resume stand out
  • Why a resume builder is an essential tool

Computer science resume template examples

If you get assigned to write a program, chances are you start by checking out whether there’s some good open source code hanging around Github. That’s because starting with examples is the best way to get your juices flowing and create something excellent.

The same goes for resumes. These days, turning in a basic Word document for your resume makes you look like you aren’t trying. So unless you want to look like someone who’s still using Windows Vista, you’re going to need to do better.

Look through these examples and take note of how their content is written, the overall design, and how the information is structured. You can use all of this as inspiration for your own resume.

[Examples]

How to write a computer science resume that will get you through the door

The secret here is that most of the core technical skills in computer science can be taught. The industry moves so fast that many employers assume they’ll need to invest heavily in training you on an ongoing basis. That’s why the secret to a great computer science resume isn’t just knowing the right programming language, it’s showing you have the right mindset to succeed.

Ultimately, things like attention to detail, self-motivation, and the ability to communicate about your work with non-technical co-workers are all harder to train someone in than Python. Standing out from the crowd as a computer scientist involves showing you’re more than just someone who can write good code.

But getting to that begins with understanding exactly what the person reading your resume is looking for. That’s why before you begin writing, you need to understand your audience.

Why you need to be thinking about ATS

Ironically, in most cases the first hurdle your resume needs to clear will actually be an algorithm. ATS stands for Applicant Tracking System and uses natural language processing to analyze resumes and determine whether it’s worth a human’s time to review them further. In particular, they tend to look for keywords and experience.

Like with any system, working well with it requires understanding how it works. The tricky part is that there are dozens of ATS companies out there, each with a slightly different tool. Unsurprisingly, these systems are full of errors and reject a ton of resumes. That’s why there’s no perfect strategy for beating ATS, but there are some rules of thumb that will maximize your chances.

  1. Ensure your resume is submitted in the right file type. ATS are designed to work with .pdf, .doc, and .docx so only submit a resume in one of those formats.
  2. The way the data is structured in the file plays a huge role. You could look at two identical pdf resumes but if the data on one is poorly structured it can almost ensure rejection by an ATS. Ultimately the answer isn’t to delve into the file code yourself but to rely on a resume builder that’s been specifically designed to work well with ATS. After all, your time is not best spent becoming an expert in ATS because someone else has already done that for you.
  3. Use keywords cleverly. With all that said, the best way to get past an ATS is to think like an ATS and reverse engineer from there. Start by understanding what keywords and experience the ATS is likely searching for. That information will be in the job description. Then, work to ensure as many of those requirements show up in your resume. Phrase your skills and experience the exact way they appear in the job ad where possible just to be 100% even the worst ATS can make the connection.

How to appeal to recruiters

Making it past ATS is still just the first battle. After that you need to convince a recruiter or hiring manager that you’re right for the job. In an ironic twist, you can approach this in a similar way to ATS. 

Start by considering what this person wants from you as a candidate. To be clear, this is different from what the company might want from you as a candidate. The recruiter is not a perfect stand-in for the company. They will want you to meet the criteria set by the job ad, but they also want your resume to be easy to read (not something the company would likely care much about).

In other words, your job is to make it as easy as possible for that recruiter to say “yes” to your resume. Think about it like designing a program where you can’t force the user to make a specific choice, but you can point them in the right direction with the UI. Doing this means ensuring your resume is well-written, the information is structured properly (more on how to do that below), and the design is clean and modern.

It also means using keywords the same way you did for ATS. That human recruiter will be checking whether you meet specific requirements just like the ATS, so make sure it’s obvious that you do. Lastly, the importance of having a well-written resume can’t be overstated. Computer scientists aren’t exactly known for their writing ability, so having a well-written resume is an excellent way to stand out from the competition.

How to format a computer science resume

As mentioned above, structuring the information so you can communicate the most important things first is critical. Most people writing a resume usually just start writing the basic information they need to include without considering the format. Formulating a plan for the format from the start puts you ahead of them.

The basic rule for deciding what should go where is to put the most important information towards the top. If it’s absolutely essential that you have a specific certification, programming language, etc. that information shouldn’t be buried on the second page or you risk annoying a recruiter by making them think “ugh, why couldn’t they have put this information where I can find it!”

Going along with that rule, your work experience should be in reverse-chronological order. So start with your most recent experience because it’s the most relevant.

How long should a computer science resume be?

The short answer is: as short as possible. You probably hate meetings that could have been emails, so imagine that’s how recruiters feel when they have to read a 3 page resume that could have been 1 page. There's a lot of wisdom out there about how your resume should be one page if you have fewer than 5 years experience or something similar, but there’s a better way to choose the ideal length.

Go through your resume, look at each sentence or section, and ask yourself whether it makes your resume better. If it’s not making your resume better, it’s making your resume worse. This is an effective way to cut non-essential information and get your resume down to a manageable size. The reason this is better than an arbitrary number is that you might have 2 pages of extremely relevant information to include, so use this rule as your guide.

Which sections should a computer science resume include?

You won’t necessarily want to include all of these, but these are the main sections you should consider.

  • Resume objective or summary
  • Work experience
  • Licenses and Certifications
  • Achievements
  • Projects
  • Education
  • Hard skills
  • Soft Skills

How to highlight your most important achievements

If you were looking for a collaborator on a software development project and someone said “I’m a good software developer” you wouldn’t just say “okay” and hire them. Despite how obvious that example seems, many computer science resumes are full of vague information like this. That’s why the key to effectively highlighting your achievements is being specific.

Whether you’re describing an achievement that was a part of a formal job or something connected to a freelance project, specificity is key to leaving an impact on the reader. Let’s look at some examples to see this in action.

Worked on a variety of software development projects for a mid-sized firm.

Just about the only concrete takeaway here is that you once worked for a company and did some kind of software development work. This is the kind of achievement that’s never going to impress anyone because it’s simply too vague. Let’s see a better version.

Lead developer on the GetItDone productivity app for Insico Systems: downloaded 800k times and generated 25% of 2018 sales.

This example gets specific and is more effective for it. But you might have noticed it doesn’t go into much detail about the software development side. That was done here to illustrate how sometimes a recruiter will want to get into the weeds about those kinds of details, while other times they will simply want to know how your work impacted the business. Knowing the difference and appealing to the right criteria will make a huge difference on whether you get the job.

How to include qualifications and certifications

Considering how quickly technology changes in the broader IT sector, certifications and qualifications can be a more effective way to show your skills than a degree. They are also an excellent way to compensate for a lack of practical work experience in a specific area and to show that you’re self-motivated enough to develop your skills outside the workplace.

All that is to say, a certification or qualification is one of the most effective things to have on a computer science resume. To list your certifications, simply include the name, the institution which granted it, and the year you obtained it like this:

Project Management Professional (PMP), The Project Management Institute, 2017.

If a specific certification is important enough, you should include it next to your name at the top of your resume. For example:

Francisco Gomez, PMP, MCTS

This ensures that from the moment a recruiter sees your name, it’s clear to them that you’re experienced and certified. The result will be a strong first impression.

The best qualifications and certifications to include

While there are dozens and dozens of different certifications within the broader IT sector, these are some of the most in-demand according to TechRepublic:

  • Microsoft Certified IT Professional credential (MCITP)
  • Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS)
  • CompTIA's Security+ accreditation
  • Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD)
  • Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE)
  • CompTIA's A+ certification
  • Project Management Professional (PMP) certification
  • Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE)
  • Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA)
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) 
  • CompTIA's Linux+ certification

How to list skills for maximum impact

As detailed above, it’s extremely important to list as many skills from the job description as possible. But how you list those skills is also important. Just like with your achievements, being specific about those skills and, if possible, including examples which demonstrate them is crucial.

Strong leadership skills

While listing your skills like this isn’t inherently bad, it doesn’t give any indication that you really possess them. While hard skills can be shown through certifications or work experience, backing up your soft skills is harder. This is where including examples really makes the difference.

Strong leadership skills, hired and led a team of fellow developers to create a successful online platform for booking fishing vessels that is still running at bookfishing.com

In this case, the job description asked for “strong leadership skills” so it was important to make sure that phrase was in there. But an example was included which shows that you’re not simply stating that you have a skill, but possess the experience to back it up.

Hard skills to consider including

  • Web development
  • Programming languages like Python, SQL, Ruby/Rails, C++, ReactJS, Java, Javascript, HTML5/CSS3, Angular, etc.
  • Experience with AWS
  • Experience with Git
  • Project management
  • Agile development methods like Kanban or Scrum
  • .NET framework

Soft skills to consider including

  • Communication
  • Leadership
  • Self-motivation
  • Patience
  • Time-management
  • Teamwork
  • Creative problem solving

Why your resume should start with an objective or summary

We mentioned above that you want to convey the most important information about you as a candidate right away. One of the most effective ways to do that is starting your resume with an objective or summary. A resume objective is a short sentence stating who you are and what the goal of your application and resume is. A resume summary is a longer piece of text which can go into more detail about your qualifications or explain something like a gap in your work history.

In either of these cases, you have the chance to begin your resume by providing the reader with context which will affect how they read everything else on the page. Done well and you can form a powerfully positive first impression.

How to write a resume objective

A computer science resume objective should be concise and to the point. You want to get as much information as possible into a few words, so choose them carefully.

I am a talented app developer with the experience necessary to make your project succeed!

This example makes several critical mistakes. First, it’s written in the third person (resumes should be written in the third person). But more than that simple error, the vague language and boasting creates a sense of unprofessionalism. It risks creating the impression that this person is all talk.

iOS app developer with 5 years experience looking to use my Swift experience to build successful apps for iGo Development Inc.

In a single sentence, this objective tells you how much experience they have, what programming language they specialize in, and that they took the time to tailor this resume for a specific role. But more than that, this creates the impression that this person knows what they want and how to get it.

How to write a resume summary

Just because a resume summary can be longer doesn’t mean you should be wordy. Keep your summary concise and to the point. Focus on using it to provide information that doesn’t fit easily in other sections of your resume.

Because I’m a recent graduate from Northwestern with a degree in computer science I don’t have very much direct work experience, but I think some of the projects I worked on in university will help me succeed in this job. I know my work ethic can make up for my lack of experience.

This example is too informal and while it tries to sound confident, it sounds too much like a student who’s desperate instead of someone who’s competent and gets the job done.

Recent CS graduate from Northwestern looking to leverage existing skills in Python and SQL and gain experience in building AI tools for optimizing global supply chains at JR Logistics.

Despite being shorter, this version of the summary gives a lot more information. You come away from it knowing exactly who this applicant is and how they wish to grow in this role. Despite being a recent graduate, they already sound like a seasoned professional.

How to target your resume for each application

This has been mentioned briefly elsewhere, but it’s critical to tailor a resume for each job you wish to apply to. It means extra work, but skipping it and sending an identical resume to dozens or more companies will substantially decrease the likelihood of you getting hired.

The reason is not just that you can more effectively tailor your keywords and experience to the specific job description (though that’s tremendously important). Doing this also sends a message to the recruiter that you’re someone who takes the time to do something right. Companies do not want to hire IT workers who take shortcuts that end up creating more technical debt and problems in the long run. Taking the easy way and sending a cookie-cutter resume will make you look like exactly that kind of worker.

How to apply for a computer science role with little experience

The good news is that people in the IT field have tons of chances to develop their skills outside of a formal job. If you don’t have much experience, try participating in open source projects, find something to collaborate on using Github, or obtain a certification. All of these can go a long way to showing that despite your lack of formal experience, you have the drive and skills to succeed.

Also remember that succeeding in IT is about more than just technical skills. Your employer can teach you C++, but teaching you not to cut corners or to work well in a team is far more difficult. So, even with less technical experience, by showing these critical soft skills, you can make yourself an appealing hire.

How to make your resume stand out

All of the tips mentioned throughout this guide will help make your resume stand out to a recruiter. But beyond the content itself, a more immediate way to make your resume stand out from the competition is by using a great resume builder. Utilizing a computer science resume template that has clean and modern design will clearly differentiate you from the sea of nearly identical .doc resumes out there. This will go a long way to showing that you take the time to do things right instead of going the easy route.

Why a resume builder is an essential tool

Today, you need something beyond a basic .doc resume to look like a modern IT professional. Sure, you could create a custom resume yourself, but chances are that resume will never make it past ATS. Your efforts should focus on the content of the resume, so it makes sense to leave the design and ATS-optimization to a resume builder that’s been created from the ground up just for that purpose.

Resumebuild.com offers exactly that. It’s powerful builder tool has all of the computer science resume templates, examples, sections, and more than you need to create a resume that will get you hired. There’s good reasons resume builders are becoming the new normal, they optimize the entire process so you can spend your time applying to more jobs and increasing the chances of getting hired at each one. You wouldn’t code like it’s still the 2000s, so why apply for a computer science job like it is?

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