5 Tips For Computer Science Freshmen

Friday, June 24, 2011 Resume Tips for Computer Science Students Here are some resume tips I've learned over the years. I've interviewed about 100 computer science candidates, mostly interns, and have been a technical recruiter at least a dozen times at university career fairs. I've seen thousands of resumes, and have hopefully learned some things you will find useful. For the most part, I've left out obvious recommendations and, instead, focused on tips you may not have heard - or heard from the same point of view. In my youth, I was heavily influenced by Joel, so I probably borrowed some of these ideas from him. 1. Backup your Buzzwords Almost every computer science resume has a section that looks like: Skills: C, C++, C#, Java, .NET, WPF, OpenGL, Direct3D, GLSL, Visual Studio, Eclipse, NUnit, JUnit, NAnt, ... I'm tempted to recommend removing this section entirely. It does have some uses though; it is good for google searches and HR/manager buzzword hunters. It can also paint a quick profile: is this person a client-side graphics developer? a server-side PHP/MySQL developer? An architect astronaut? In order to play the game with the less technical folks, I am OK with candidates including this section, but these skills need to be backed up throughout the resume. For example, if OpenCL is listed but I don't see any evidence elsewhere in the resume, I will be skeptical. If I ask about it in an interview and the candidate doesn't have any experience or even exposure to the topic, they have just lost integrity points. If you list something in the skills section, make sure it is proven elsewhere in your resume, e.g., "Implemented a GPU-accelerated cloth simulation using OpenCL, which resulted in a 30x performance improvement over a multithreaded C++ version." The buzzword hunters will give you extra points for having multiple instances of the buzzword, and technical folks are more likely to believe you. 2. List Coursework Strategically This motorcycle has nothing to do with resumes but it sure is fun to ride. For a student or recent graduate, it is a great idea to including a "Selected Courses" or, better yet, "Favorite Courses" section that highlights some unique courses you have taken. It is an even better idea to tailor this section, and your resume in general, to each employer. Applying to Google search? Include Distributed Systems and Machine Learning. Applying to Pixar? List Computer Graphics and Physically-Based Animation. Do not list a course that you cannot discuss intelligently. You should have a reasonable grasp of the subject and a story about a related project. For example, I took machine learning in grad school. I got an A and somehow even passed the PhD qualifier, but I can't do machine learning to save my life. I can pronounce fancy algorithms like boosting and principle component analysis, but I can barely tell you the difference between them - not something worth discussing in an interview. Do not list required courses! This is common with underclassmen, but I still see it done by upperclassmen who have more interesting things to list. If I know your major is computer science and you go to a reputable school, I also know you took intro to programming, calculus, and discrete math. Don't list them; they get in the way of the good stuff. 3. Include Your GPA If you are an undergraduate, masters student, or recent graduate, include your GPA in your education section. Why? Because if you don't include it, the recruiter is going to think it is low - really low - like 1.5 low. What if you don't have a 3.0 GPA? Study more and play World of Warcraft less. More seriously, if your cumulative GPA is not great, still include it but also consider listing your in-major GPA or last-semester GPA - clearly marked. Some students do not practice drinking enough in high school and party too much freshmen year, resulting in poor grades (disclaimer: underage drinking is bad.). Listing the previous semester's or year's GPA gives the student a chance to talk to their improvements - in school work, not alcohol tolerance. I recommend listing your in-major, or even in-minor, GPA only if it is higher than your cumulative GPA. If it's not higher, think twice about your field. Wait a minute. I thought GPAs only matter if you are going to grad school. No one in industry looks at those things, right? Given my extensive teaching experience (one semester), I can say that some of my brightest students had some of the worse grades. They were too busy raising money for their startups or going on job interviews to do every assignment rigorously. Students with the best grades were really organized and conscientious - absolutely fantastic characteristics to have, but not necessarily a guaranteed indication of raw brilliant. Case-in-point: I had a 3.97 in grad school and I am continuously humbled by the intelligence of people in our field. A great GPA can help you by showing your rigorousness; a poor GPA isn't necessarily going to bury you but it will mean you have some explaining to do. Many companies have a minimum GPA require, so I'd play the game to show that you can. Some people will say that your GPA is only important for getting your first job. After that, leave it off your resume. Baloney. Why not drop the name of your university too? Why should I care that you went to CMU 20 years ago? Because you got in! If your GPA was low or average, OK, drop it. If your GPA was really high, leave it. If you were an over-achiever in college, you are probably still an over-achiever unless your motivation changed. I don't have a PhD so I can't say if a PhD student should list their GPA but I will anyway. I have never seen a candidate with a PhD be evaluated on their GPA. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but I've never seen or heard of it. I have heard that if a PhD student's GPA is too high, they should be focusing more on research. If that is really the case, then why do they take classes at all? Go ask someone who is qualified. 4. Don't Ignore What You Did in High School When you are looking for an internship, don't think that high school isn't important, especially if you are a freshmen or a sophomore. Yes, freshmen can and should land internships. I had two offers from Intel for the summer after my freshmen, and I didn't know anything. Well, at the time I thought I knew everything. If your high school class rank was really high, put it. Valedictorian - put it. President of the computer club? Put it. Fail history class because you were busy coding Android games in Java? PUT IT. Sell your Android-based startup to Google on your 18th birthday? I should be working for you. It is espeically important to include self-started personal programming projects, even if you coded them when you were 14. Hell, say "Implemented a pacman clone for the Xbox 360 using C# and XNA when I was 14." If I see that on a freshmen's resume, I want to hire them even if they don't know what a skip list is. They'll never use one anyway. As you gain experience, it is OK to remove things you did in high school with more recent and stronger experiences. 5. Include Books and Conferences You're passionate. You read books, go to conferences, and argue with your smart friends to sharpen your skills. Everyday, you make yourself a better developer. Let your passion show through on your resume and include a section with a few of your favorite technical books. How about Code Complete

5 Tips for Computer Science Freshmen 5 Tips for Computer Science Freshmen 5 Tips for Computer Science Freshmen
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Commentaries "5 Tips For Computer Science Freshmen"

Study Tips for an incoming college freshman? Sort by
CHEATED IN A COMPUTER SCIENCE COURSE? ... lectures on your computer (first ask your professor if...record their lectures) 5. make sure you do the homework even if it...you do this you don't have to cram for a test. 7. enjoy yourself and good...
Tips for getting into Georgia Tech? 4 Answers · Education & Reference · 05/08/2009
Freshman in high school, Any tips? ... often use computerized tools to help catch... every year, mostly freshman and sophomores...strong case to fail a student for cheating or to get...hang themselves. Tipping our had often...
Any Tips or Advice About College? 4 Answers · Education & Reference · 25/02/2012
for people who got into harvard or applying for it(any tips)? It will look good on your transcript to have taken as many science classes as you can.
What is homeroom in Secondary Schools/ High Schools in Canada? Also, any advice for freshman? 1 Answers · Education & Reference · 18/11/2012
Good study tips for good grades in high school? ...class, a trades class, a computer class. - Don't close...take the class. Take the science thats gonna challenge you... heres the top 5 rules: Be ... stones for the rest of your life...
In very interested in technology. Need help making a career choice? 3 Answers · Education & Reference · 06/09/2011
Can I still get into a UC college? Hate to be a debbie downer BUT ur GPA isn't high enough for ivy league, and algebra 2?! I took that in 9th grade! (No offense). Tips? Stay away from alcohol, eat healthy, and use ur free time to study and do homework...
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