Q & A: What Should I Put on My Programming Resume?

I received the following email a few weeks ago:

I graduated with an MIS degree while serving in the Military. I took some programming classes like JAVA, C++ etc… I am now back in Boston, MA and find it difficult to find employment where I can learn to become a better programmer. I don’t have the experience but I am willing to learn. Can you please provide me with some direction on what to say on my resume, to gain the experience in the civilian workforce so I can become a better programmer?

My response:

To begin, read the following posts on my blog and think seriously about following the steps I outline in each. It will take time, but I’ve been doing this for almost 10 years and can tell you from experience that they work:

Advice on How to Become a Programmer
Nailing Your Technical Interview
Self-Marketing for Software Developers

Second, check out this article on programmer resumes.

Third, there are no magic words that you can put on your resume. The key is to have a good-looking resume that’s clean, free of typos, and that highlights your strong points (your education and military experience) at the top.

The tech economy, especially in the bay area and Boston, is healthy right now, so you should have no trouble finding an entry level position as a developer, especially if you are open to learning PHP or .NET. Also, start learning PHP or .NET in your spare time – build some sample web projects to show off (put them online so you can easily forward a link). This is the most impressive thing I’ve seen from young programmers, is when they’ve built something in their spare time and taken the time to put it online. Bonus points if you build something that people are actually using.

Lastly, read software blogs. Read Joel, Eric, Paul, Jeff and Scott, and now and again you can slum it on my blog. These sites will lead you to other good blogs. The closer you are to the community the more you’ll understand what people are talking about and looking for in their hiring.

Good luck,


[tags]programming, resumes, hiring[/tags]

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#1 JohnE on 03.27.08 at 11:31 pm

I have been in development for 20 years now and work for http://www.jobbank.com at the moment which has given me some insight into what to look for.

More importantly, I have been a primary interviewer for companies in the past.

The resume is important. If done with thought, it gets you in the door. Try to show experience more then just having the ability to do basic web. EVERYBODy does basic web development, even those just coming out of college. You need to differentiate yourself.

If you do get in through the front door to the interview, a next thing I look for is: “Why have you chosen to interview with this company.” You would be surprised at how many people go to an interview with no concept of why. They have nothing to offer or no particular interest. They just want a job.

If a person comes through the door and says they are excited to work for this company because of these reasons…. I listen harder. If they look like they can socially interact, I listen harder. Note that the technical aspect is only one piece, but if the other parts are not there, they do not matter.

I hope this helps!

#2 Jim Bonnie on 03.28.08 at 5:15 am

I agree that you need to research the company that you are interviewing with. First to understand their line of business and second to assess the type of technical shop it is. I am currently looking for a place that has better practices to learn from. Unit Testing, TDD, code Coverage, etc. are foreign concepts to many, and I am finding it difficult to introduce these as a newbie myself.I geuss that is where the apprecenticeships and home projects can help. Cool to see that you are in New Haven. I am in Trumbell right now.

#3 links for 2008-03-29 « D e j a m e S e r on 03.29.08 at 10:32 am

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