This is an guide for resume formatting tips aimed at computer science students.
I graduate(d?) Northeastern University (NEU) in 2021. NEU has a co-op program where students take semesters off and work for 4-8 months. I have gone through three of these recruiting cycles. This guide will have some NEU-specific information but should be generally applicable.
I also have been a teaching assistant for NEUs CS co-op prep class, and have reviewed 50+ student resumes. Much of this guide is based on observations from these reviews.
Personally, I am a 5th year CS student who has gone through several recruiting cycles at various types of companies, you can see more at home page of this site. All of this advice is only my opinion. You can see my personal resume on the site.
- This guide will go into detail on a lot of different areas - don’t be concerned if you don’t have content for every single area.
- Resumes are read at different speeds. For example, an initial resume screen could be as short as thirty seconds, and just look at a few pieces of information like: school, GPA, last two organizations you worked at. However, if you pass this screen your resume might be looked at in depth by an interviewer, and could go into detail about what you worked on with different organizations or personal projects. You want to make clear visually what is primary and what is secondary information.
- Using Word for a resume saves you time upfront but it harder to iterate and tweak your formatting to exactly what you want. Making your resume in Latex is the opposite - lots of upfront investment but far easier to iterate on.
- Layout: I prefer having everything centered, but any easily scannable layout is fine. Make sure your name is big (20pt+).
- Info: Include email (student if you are in / just graduated college), address (I prefer just “City, State”, I think including your entire street address isn’t neccessary and takes up a lot of spaces), and phone number.
- Optional info: Personal website, linkedin (make a custom linkedin url so its not super long), Github (if you have any projects/contributions, and make sure to pin relevant items)
Interjection - standard section formatting
- Most of the sections in your resume (education, experience, projects [optional)] are going to contain multiple subsections (schools, experiences, projects). I’d recommend keeping the formatting as similar as possible for all subsections, across all sections. This makes your resume extremely scannable.
- Make sure everything is consistently lined up and in reverse chronological order.
- Include the institution name and date for each institution. For Northeastern students, I’d recommend including Khoury College of Computer Sciences as a subheading, as some of our co-op employers might be looking for it.
- Sections for each institution
- Honors/awards: GPA, honor roll, scholarships. I’d include GPA if its >= 3.0
- Courses: Can include in progress courses, list in order of relevance. Relevance will depend on where you are applying, but I’d say Object Oriented Design and Algorithms are high up for most SWE roles.
- Activities: This can be a nice compact way to include your campus involvement without taking up a ton of space later, but activities can also fit into experience
- Feel free to include your high school, which can have similar subsections.
- The paradox of experience — where you need a job to get experience, and need experience to get a job — is for sure frustrating. In terms of what to put on your resume, I’d prioritize based on these factors
- Technical level - in this experience, were you writing/testing software/hardware or the relevant area for the jobs you targetting?
- Leadership/ownership level - were you self-directing tasks and adding value to the organization?
- Any experience is good experience - if all you have is a retail job, definitely include that.
- Sections for each experience:
- Company name, start-end month and year
- Job title, technologies/languages used (optional but recommended)
- Bullet points summarizing the IMPACT you had at the organization
- The most important piece of advice, and the most difficult part of a resume, are your experience bullet points. Focus on the IMPACT you had on the organization (qualitive or ideally quantitative). Don’t just summarize your responsibilities - you can feel free to skip the boring parts of your job and talk about the IMPACT of some of your projects. The dream bullet point is something like “Built x which improved process y by z%”.
- Use past tense, action verbs for each bullet points. Just google action verbs or look at sample resumes to get a sense of this.
- I’d try to list out all the languages / technologies you are familiar with and split them into logical categories.
- For SWE jobs, I really don’t like including Microsoft Office. Not sure what more “businessy” jobs might want, but as a SWE it’s not super relevant and I think it should go unsaid that a SWE can operate Microsoft Office.
- This section is optional, and serves to show technical ability. If you have a lot of hard technical experience, you really don’t need to worry about this section.
- This can be difficult, but try to find projects you are genuinely interested in. Trying to force projects for a resume won’t be nearly as effective (or enjoyable) as finding areas that interest you.
- Try to get these projects into at least a somewhat completed state. Having a bunch of planned features isn’t nearly as interesting as having a few solid, complete features.
- List the technologies you used, and try to get some version of impact or metrics.