Programming is a demanding position. You’re required to be skilled in a variety of computer languages as well as to identify the cause of technical issues before creating an effective solution.
The challenges begin before you even start your job – in fact, it starts with your resume. Hiring managers are squeezed for time. With a stack of resumes to sort through, your resume might only get a 15-second glance before the reader is either interested or wants to move on to the next candidate. With that in mind, your resume must have the right mix of relevant information plus the ability to stand out.
Yes, you may be highly skilled, but unless you can demonstrate it effectively on your resume, getting the job you want will be difficult. Here are six must-know tips to help you write your stand-out programming resume.
1. Put Your Skills at the Top
In a programming position, your technical skills are of utmost importance. That’s why when you craft your resume, create a concise, relevant key skills section, and put it at the top of your resume under the heading. The purpose is to highlight your programming languages and related skills first so a hiring manager can quickly see that you meet the minimum requirements for the job.
You also want to always tailor your resume to your potential employer’s needs. To do this, read the job ad and look for skill-related keywords such as programming languages, software skills, and soft skills such as teamwork, organization, and project management. If you have a skill your employer needs, put it in this section. This way, you show the employer that you’re aligned with their needs.
As a programmer, you know lots of languages. Don’t just list them all or else the signal will get lost in the noise. Only list ones that are relevant to the position. In addition, list related frameworks and technologies alongside your programming languages. This adds credibility. Lastly, don’t list basic skills like Microsoft Word or Windows OS. As a proficient computer user, it’s assumed you know them.
Don’t forget that the skills you list in your key skills section should be backed up by experiences in your experience section. Unless you prove your skills, your hiring manager may assume you actually know little about your listed skills.
2. Prove You’re the Best Candidate
Hiring managers hire the candidate who’s the best fit for the position. That’s why every time you write or tweak your resume for a position, you need to think about it from the perspective of the specific value you provide. Your experience section proves this value by backing it up with specific results.
Just like in the skills section, this starts with reading the job description and pulling out key skills and requirements. In your experience section, you should demonstrate how you used those key skills to create results in previous jobs. Tailor each resume to the requirements of each specific job and only list experiences that apply to the job. There’s no need to include prior experience at a restaurant, for example, unless you did technical work there.
Have concrete examples for each accomplishment you list. Under each job, provide 3-4 bullet points with concise and specific descriptions of what you did, how you did it, and the resulting successes. Also, whenever you can, quantify your achievements. Using numbers demonstrates the tangible impact of your work and expertise, adding credibility to your listed accomplishments.
3. Show Them What You Can Do
Your job as a programmer often revolves around projects, both in office and on your own time. When you include a portfolio of projects on your resume, you demonstrate to potential employers what you’re really capable of.
Whether your work is on GitHub, your blog, or portfolio site, include a link either in your header or alongside each project in a projects section beneath your experience section. If you create a standalone projects section, put in details and explanations about each project the same way you did in your experience section.
Only include links to relevant projects. They should demonstrate that you have the skills the job is asking for. Even programming projects created in school classes are worth including in an entry-level programmer resume. Before the interview, be prepared to answer questions about your projects. “What skills did you use in this project?” “What was your biggest challenge” “What did you learn?”
4. Use Your Geekiness to Your Advantage
The programming field is filled with geeks: people who love creatively using their brains just for the fun of it. When you find ways to show off your geekiness in your resume, your hiring manager will feel that you’re like them and be more excited to talk with you during the interview.
Hiring managers love geeks because they simply make better programmers. Geeks often have better than industry average intelligence, adding to their base knowledge. Geeks use logic in creative ways to solve puzzles, showing that they can give better insights on tough problems. Geeks learn outside their jobs, showing that they don’t just shut their brains off when they get off work. All of those characteristics make hiring managers excited about hiring geeks, like you!
Make sure the geeky projects and experiences you mention in your resume are relevant. It’s nice that you like your local sports team. But if you used an obscure language to write a piece of software that did something fun with their statistics this season, that’s impressive. If you contributed to open source projects, that’s impressive. If you created a YouTube video showing off your homemade potato launcher that shoots further than any others people have made, that’s impressive!
5. Educate Them on Your Credentials
For any programming job, education is important – not just your schooling but also your continuing education. If you have a Computer Science degree from MIT or Berkeley, you’ll definitely want to highlight that. But even if your college degree has little to do with computer science, you can make up for it with online learning programs, boot camps, and other courses.
Listing your education is simple. It goes at the bottom of your resume. List your degrees, schools, majors, graduation dates, and your GPA if it’s above 3.5 and you’re a recent graduate. If you have multiple degrees, list them in descending chronological order.
If you have any IT certifications, such as MCSEs or CCNAs, or you’ve completed any training programs, include them in your education section or in a separate certifications section of your resume. You can even include training programs that you haven’t yet finished. Just be sure to include the expected date of completion.
If you’re a recent graduates looking for an entry level position, you should make your education section shine. Include advance coursework and any relevant projects you completed. If you received any honors, definitely mention those too. Lastly, position your education section at the top, not the bottom of your resume.
6. Format and Edit to Make Your Resume Stand Out
In programming, UX is the name of the game. It’s the same with resume writing. If it looks hard to read, recruiters and hiring managers won’t want to read it. So, save your recruiter time and energy by making your resume concise, error-free, and visually appealing.
Usually, the reverse chronological format is the best one for a programming resume. List your skills first, then your experience. Arrange your jobs in the order you held them, starting with your most recent. For each job, include the name of your employer, start and end dates, and your most important accomplishments in bullet points. Put your education at the end, unless you’re a recent graduate.
Always edit your resume after you’re done writing it. Get rid of all grammatical and spelling errors, make sure your resume has enough white space to break up the text, and make your resume succinct. Stick to a larger sized font such as 10-12 point, and use an easily readable font like Calibri, Verdana, Arial, or Helvetica.
When it comes down to it, your resume is an advertisement for you. Like any good advertisement, it needs to sell you. It needs to capture your reader’s attention, highlight your biggest strengths, and convince your reader that you will solve their problem.
Hiring is a challenging problem for hiring managers. They want to hire best candidates for each position. With an effective resume, you can help them solve their problem. You can stand out and prove that you’re the best candidate.
Whether you want to work in the IT field for an exciting billion-dollar Silicon Valley company, or you want to provide programming and IT support for a local business, having a great resume will help you get there. With the six tips you’ve learned, you’re well-positioned for success!