Competition for coding and programming jobs is fierce. Your networking and your resume will be two of the most important factors on the job market. You want to make it as easy as possible for employers to see your skills and qualifications – after all, you’ve worked hard to earn them. Below, we break down what you should include on your coding resume and some myths about resume writing you can ignore.
How to format your resume
When it comes to resume formatting, simpler is better. Use large headings to differentiate between sections. Make it easy for a hiring committee to glance through and identify dates – using multiple columns can help with this. Make sure that you’re consistent across your resume, from where you set your margins, to what kind of bullet points you use. You want a streamlined, easy-to-read document. When you submit it, submit it as a PDF or a Google Doc. A PDF works best to preserve your formatting, or a Google Doc works well if you have lots of interactive elements (such as hyperlinks). Always default to any stated preferences in the company job ad.
What to include in the contact section
The contact section goes at the top of your resume and is pretty straightforward – it’s where you can provide all the information an employer needs to get in touch with you. Include your:
- Name – in a larger font so it’s easy to see who your resume belongs to with a quick glance
- Phone number
- Website - if you have one
What to include in the skills section
A potential employer for a programming job needs to know if you have the necessary skills, so put these up front, rather than making them skim through your employment history to figure it out. You’ll also want any AI program skimming your resume to catch these as keywords. Your skills section should include:
- Programming languages, in order of proficiency
- Platforms you can work with
- Any other specialized skills
What to include in the employment section
Your employment history is the most important section of your resume. As with all parts of a resume, it should be tailored to the job you’re applying to. You don’t need to include every summer job or campus position you’ve ever held, but DO include every job that shows experience relevant to the one you’re applying to. You should list your experiences in reverse chronological order, with the most recent at the top. For each position, include:
- Dates employed
- Responsibilities and accomplishments
How to make your employment section pop
A resume first draft often includes bland descriptions of your general job responsibilities. These are boring and – worse – unclear. You want to give a committee a clear sense of what you did and, more importantly, what you accomplished. Follow these guidelines to create descriptions with impact:
- Be specific. Provide details about which programming languages you used, what the project was, who the client was, and what outcome you produced.
- Be active. Use verbs instead of nouns to describe what you did. For example, instead of stating, “Responsible for maintaining client website,” you could write “Developed an e-commerce website to sell 400 unique products.”
- Quantify. Numbers make your accomplishments real. Whenever possible, include statistics that show the outcomes of your work. Examples include the number of clients you worked with, the amount of money your project made, or a percentage increase or decrease in key analytics.
What to include in the education section
In your education section, list all of your post-secondary education – meaning college and graduate school. Include your:
If you are still a student while applying, you should also include your:
- Expected graduation date
- GPA – only if it’s very good (a 3.7 or above), otherwise leave it out
Your education section can also be a good place to include any specialized training or certificates you’ve completed, such as a coding bootcamp. If you’ve done a number of these, we recommend creating a separate section instead.
What to include in honors and achievements
This is an optional section that you should include only if you’ve won awards and honors that give you credibility for this specific position. Use your best judgment about whether an award will impress a potential employer. Examples include:
- Placement in computer science competitions
- University awards or scholarships
- Published papers or patents
- Conference presentations (if you’re in graduate school, remember that a resume is very different from a CV. It does not need to contain every presentation you’ve ever done).
What to include in projects
This is another optional section that you might include if you’ve spent significant time working on personal projects or were independently hired to do freelance work that isn’t otherwise represented in your employment history. Employers want to see that you can apply the programming skills you’ve listed, so tell them about personal projects you’ve worked on, such as:
- Open source projects
- Websites you’ve coded
- Freelance work
Where possible, include a hyperlink.
What NOT to include in your resume
- A headshot. A picture eats up valuable space and doesn’t convey any useful information. Wait until the interview to dazzle the employer with your fantastic smile.
- An objectives or summary section. Instead, let your experience speak for itself. Hiring committees have seen endless variations of “Expert programmer with 5 years of experience,” and they’re likely to skim right over it.
- Hobbies. Apart from relevant independent projects, don’t include hobbies or volunteer work on your resume. You can let your coworkers get to know you as a well-rounded person after you get hired.
Myth #1: Your resume can’t be longer than 1 page
Fact: Keep it within 2-4 pages
A 1-page resume may be great for some positions and can be the right fit if you’re early in your career. But if you have 5+ years of experience, you’re typically going to need more space to adequately show your skills and experience. Typically 2-4 pages are a good fit for an experienced coder. This doesn’t mean, however, that you should include EVERYTHING on your resume. Be hyper-selective about choosing only the jobs and experiences that are relevant to the position you’re applying to. And revise to express things as concisely as possible. But then give your resume a little breathing room, with an 11-12 point font, reasonable margins, and breaks between sections. Most hiring committees would rather read a well-spaced 3-page resume than a 1-page resume that’s so jam packed it hurts their eyes.
Myth #2: You must list references on your resume
Fact: Give references only when asked
Why take up valuable resume real estate with a list of references? You can provide these only if asked. Trust us – no one is calling your references before you’ve made it to the interview round. It is a good idea, however, to identify a couple of people familiar with your work to serve as references, and ask them in advance of starting your job search.
Myth #3: You should always send a cover letter
Fact: Write a cover letter if required
Most hiring managers are going to skip right over that cover letter and go to your resume. Especially if you’re cold emailing people, it’s a waste of your time to write a cover letter for every position. Instead, just write one if it’s required in the job application. You might also write one if you have a strong connection to an employer – for example, if you know who will be reading your resume. If you’ve already established a networking connection, they’re more likely to actually read your letter.
Check out our sample resume below!