Pros Expose What Makes a Standout Computer Science Resume
By Ashley Brooks on 03/11/2019
You have a knack for solving problems, especially when it comes to technology. You’re always on call for friends and relatives who are stumped by computer issues. Now you’re thinking about taking your talents beyond fixing your grandma’s email and turning them into a career in computer science.
Computer science jobs are on the rise. Software developers, for example, are projected to see employment growth of 24 percent through 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).1 But this growing job market doesn’t mean employers will settle for anything less than the best candidates. “Relevant experience is key, and a resume should make this evident,” says Patricia Bryner, managing director at Reyna ITS.
Your family and friends might know you have what it takes to succeed in this tech field, but you need a strong computer science resume that shows employers you’re the real deal. Find out how to make your resume top-notch with these insights from tech hiring managers who know how to spot a stellar resume a mile away.
The elements of a standout computer science resume
Writing a computer science resume doesn’t have to be intimidating. The goal is to highlight the skills, education and experience employers are looking for. These elements of a standout computer science resume, along with tips from hiring managers, will help you tackle resume-writing with ease.
Many computer science pros get their start teaching themselves the basics of coding, but the experts agree that a quality education is what will take your programming skills from hobby to career. Data from more than 700,000 computer science job postings reveals that 91 percent of employers are seeking candidates with a bachelor’s degree or higher.2
A bachelor’s degree is one of the first things employers look for on a resume. Having the right education is a good way to make sure your resume doesn’t get tossed out early in the review process.
“We’re looking for at least a bachelor’s degree in math or a technical field, which gives some assurance that the candidate has acquired some learning discipline and systemic thinking,” says Igor Sereda, CEO at ALM Works.
Technical skills are what you’ll be using day in and day out to accomplish work for your employer, so hiring managers pay close attention to what a candidate has to offer in this area. Employers are particularly interested in candidates who know the programming languages they use on a daily basis in the workplace.
“Knowing at least two different programming languages well is a good thing to have—for example, a mainstream language like Java and a functional language like Clojure,” Sereda says. Your resume will be more impressive if you choose to learn programming languages that are related to what you want to focus on in the computer science field.
Bryner agrees, and adds that the candidate should emphasize technical skills that are relevant to the job they’re applying for, saying, “If someone is applying for an application development position, then I would hope to see experience in application development and programming languages.”
Don’t make the mistake of thinking technical skills are all that matter. All of the technical know-how in the world won’t be enough if a candidate is a nightmare to work with. Employers want candidates with the soft skills needed to work effectively in an organization. Soft skills are qualities that are difficult to teach but are valuable to employers. These are some of the soft skills necessary for software developers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor:3
- Judgment and decision-making
- Complex problem solving
- Critical thinking
- Active listening
- Reading comprehension
- Active learning
Your technical abilities will shine even brighter when they’re paired with soft skills like these, so make sure to highlight them on your computer science resume.
While it might not be feasible to include individual line items for each of these skills, it can help to have these on the top of your mind as you elaborate on your experiences. Did you work on a collaborative team to build a hobby app? That has the potential to highlight several useful soft skills. Even if you’re struggling to highlight these skills within your resume, having them on your mind can help when the time comes to interview and then you can elaborate further.
Hands-on experience is vital in the technology field. Internships and other work experiences can show employers that you have the ability to take your learning beyond a textbook and into the workplace.
“Tangible computer science-related work experience will give you a fantastic boost,” says Kraig Martin, commercial director at Storage Vault. “Internships within the industry, voluntary or paid, show employers that you are serious and passionate about the subject and that you’re actively trying to get your foot in the door with hands-on experience.”
Some hiring managers consider experience to be just as important as education. “Someone who has the necessary technical language and can demonstrate their experiences will stand out to us,” Bryner says.
You might think your hobbies have no place on a resume, but side projects related to computer science can go a long way toward capturing a manager’s attention. “If you’ve done any extra computer science projects in your spare time, detached from your studies or internships, then you must include these to make your resume pop out,” Martin says.
Relevant projects could include participating in hackathons, working on open source projects or developing an app just for fun. “It doesn’t matter if the project resulted in a groundbreaking piece of code,” Martin adds. “It shows you are genuinely fascinated by the topic and you’re constantly striving to improve yourself, key traits they’ll be looking for in potential employees.”
Don’t underestimate the importance of side projects like these. They’re an easy way to show your passion to an employer and set yourself apart from the crowd.
Basic resume etiquette
Even the best candidates need to follow established procedures for writing a professional resume. That means carefully proofreading to avoid typos, tailoring your resume to the specific job you’re applying for and adhering to any formatting instructions listed in the job posting.
Common resume mistakes are easy to avoid with a little extra time. Taking care of these details gives your computer science resume an even better chance of being noticed.
A standout resume to kick off your career
Creating your standout computer science resume is easier than ever now that you have these expert tips to guide you. If you’re curious about which technology skills matter most in a computer science career, take a look at our article “The Crucial Computer Science Skills Employers Are Craving” to make sure you’re on the right track.
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [information accessed February 5, 2019] www.bls.gov/ooh/. Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
2Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 738,949 computer science jobs, Jan. 01, 2018 - Dec. 31, 2018).
3Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, [information accessed February 5, 2019] www.bls.gov/oes/.