A Complete Guide to Writing Your First Technical Resume

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Motivation

Annyeong! I’m Nayeon. In this post, I’m going to talk about how to write a resume. I’m a second-year undergraduate student studying Computer Science at a college in the US. So I’m an inexperienced college student but I have edited and even rewritten my resume quite a lot of times based on advice from many people. Before scrolling down, please be informed that I’m not professional at all. I’m just here to share my experience. Also, since I’m a CS student, I do not know well about how a resume for a different field should be structured. This is for people in Computer Science.

I vividly remember my very first time writing a resume — I was so frustrated. I didn’t even know things such as what would be the appropriate font size and whether I needed to use third person, imperative, or something else for ongoing stuff. For my first actual blog post, I decided to write about how to write a resume.

One useful thing to note is that there is no one right way to write a resume; this post is just for a reference.

Guide

Resume format

This is the standard resume format, which I believe is used by most people (Please correct me if I’m wrong!) Before diving into it, I want to tell you that you don’t have to be so concerned about how beautiful your resume should look like. Keep it simple and neat. Now, let’s break it down into several parts.

A Resume Should Be Only One Page Long.

As someone who speaks Korean, I have seen a few resumes in Korean. What I thought was interesting is that all of them exceeded 1 page. Maybe things are different in Korea, I think! But if you’re a student in the United States or want to get a job there, you should fit everything into a single page resume. I read this from somewhere and it’s said that even a professional Software Engineer at Google would be able to write the highlights of their experience within one page. So if they can do it, you can and should do it as well.

Contents

“Resume English”

Disclaimer: This “Resume English” part wasn’t written by me. It’s from What is “resume English,” and why should I use it?

To save space for quantitative data (#, $, %) and qualitative details (first, youngest, only, best), I encourage you to use “résumé English.” What is “résumé English” and how do I use it?

  1. Remove articles ‘a’, ‘an’, and ‘the’
  2. Delete all subjects ‘I’ and personal pronouns (we, they, etc.)
  3. Cut helping verbs (‘is,’ ‘was,’ ‘were’)
  4. Use verb tenses in the past, except for your present job. Example: Conducted routine inspections of on-site equipment
  5. Remove periods (.) from the ends of each achievement since you are not writing proper English sentences
  6. Remember to use power verbs

Numbers

  • Change all number words (five) to numerals (5)
  • In essays, write numbers as words if below 10 (except $ or %)
  • In resumes and application data forms, however, you can ignore this “rule” in order to save space that is better used for impressive details that show quantifiable results ($, %) and qualitative impact (first, youngest, only, best)

Monetary abbrevations

How to use abbreviated numbers in resumes for international MBA programs and companies

PREFERRED BY INSEAD (and understood/acceptable at any top MBA program) (from the CV self-review style guide INSEAD gives to incoming students)

Suggested numerical abbreviations:

  • k for 1,000 (thousands)
  • mn for 1,000,000 (millions)
  • bn for 1,000,000,000 (billions)
  • tn for 1,000,000,000,000 (trillions)

Font & Margin

The standard font is 12 point Times New Roman. I think you can use other fonts if you don’t like Times New Roman, but make sure you use an ATS-friendly one. If you’re running out of space, you can reduce it until 11 point. However, no smaller than that. 10 point is too small and quite hard to read. My current resume’s overall font size is 12 point and only my name is in 24 point. Plus, keep the margin at a 0.5 inch on every side.

  • Itacalize your titles. My personal preference is to italize durations (dates) as well, as it makes my resume look more consistent in terms of style.

  • Use bold for names, like your name and the names of your school, companies, and projects.

Structure

  1. Your name
  2. Contact Info
  3. Education
  4. Experience
  5. Projects

Write your name first, then your contact info, then education, experience, and projects. You need to put education first, but you can probably change the orders of the items 4 and 5. The titles for each section should be in all caps: EDUCATION, EXPERIENCE, PROJECTS. And it’d be great if you also include underlines beneath them to visually divide each section.

Some people put their permanent (home) address right below the name. But I think it is not very necessary, especially if you’re not from the US. And never ever include your picture. It’s not even needed. To my understanding, companies in the US must not ask applicants for their pictures on the resume.

For your contact info, include:

  • Email
  • Link to your website (if you have one)
  • GitHub
  • LinkedIn (If you don’t know what LinkedIn is, it is a job searching platform in easy words. It is strongly recommended to have a LinkedIn account.)
  • Phone Number

Again, the order can be changed depending on your preference. But this is what I prefer most.

Education

Let’s move onto the education section. If you don’t have college education, you don’t need this part. But if you do, you need it. Make sure you only have your college in the education part. It is recommended to only have post-secondary education information on a resume.

Wait a sec… Should I write my GPA? It’s not even good. :(

Unfortunately, yes. It’s recommended. If you’re a CS student, you probably know that GPAs are not the only important thing. As long as your GPA is 3.5+ (out of 4.0), you shouldn’t have trouble getting a job just because of your GPA. In my opinion, having a 4.0 GPA is very impressive (for sure), but it’s not very different from a 3.5 GPA. GPA just shows you can do the minimum required work.

But do you really need to show your GPA even if it’s bad? YES. Some people recommend not including a GPA on the resume if it’s below 3.5. I used to think so, and I have seen some folks doing that. But after I have talked to a senior software engineer at a big tech company, I learned this: Hiding your GPA can be thought you are not being honest. If you have a good GPA, proudly show it off. If you don’t, still write it but make sure you have some back-ups, such as some good side projects. The Senior SWE told me that they would choose someone with a 3.0 who has voluntarily taken a lot of difficult courses over one with a perfect GPA who only took easy courses.

Besides, you can also have some honors & awards and relevant coursework in the education part.

Experience

The things you need to show are:

  • Company name
  • Its location
  • Your title
  • Duration
  • What you have achieved

I like writing company names first. I think that realistically, the companies you have worked at are considered more important than the titles you had. I write the company names first, followed by a right-aligned location. For locations, you write this: City Name, State Abbreviation. But if that’s what’s outside of the US, write City Name, Country Name.

Examples:

  • Palo Alto, CA
  • San Francisco, CA
  • Seongnam, South Korea

Then I write my title, followed by the duration of my job. The duration should follow this format: Start Date–End Date. The symbol in the middle is not a hyphen. It’s an en dash (–). The months should be shortened into 3 letters like this: Jan for January, Feb for February, Mar for March, and so on. If it’s an ongoing job, you put “Present” in replacement of the end date.

Examples:

  • Jan 2020–Aug 2020
  • Sep 2020–Jan 2021
  • Jan 2021–Present

After all of that, you put bullet points (dots proceeding text) and there you enumerate what you have achieved. It’s important you always mark the location of every place and how long you worked on each thing.

How should I list out my experience?

1) Start with a capitalized letter, use imperative for present experience and past tense for previous one.

Examples:

(1)

Company XYZ / Some place on Earth

Software Engineering Intern / Jan 2021–Present

  • Do X
  • Do Y
  • Do Z

(2)

Company ABC / Some place on Earth

Front-End Engineering Intern / Aug 2020–Dec 2020

  • Did X
  • Did Y
  • Did Z

2) Do not write general responsibilities. I’m referring to the expected tasks in the job post of your position. For example, a job post would say:

  • Work closely with designers on website features
  • Maintain and improve the website by using XYZ

Be specific. Do not write what you’re expected to do; write what you have done.

Example:

  • Added XYZ features to the website using XYZ technologies

3) Keep it short and sweet.

In the resume format I provided, try not to exceed 3 lines within one bullet point. Brief explanations with enough details win. Examples:

❌ Work closely with the company’s leadership to add XYZ features using XYZ technologies

✅ Add XYZ features using XYZ technologies (The fact that you have worked closely with the leaders is already implied.)

This means that you really do not need to include what’s already implied in your tasks (such as your soft skills). Please, do not write your soft skills. In my opinion, your soft skills aren’t meant to be described with words; they are demonstrated through your work and projects.

4) Make it sound interesting

Lastly, don’t overstate but try to make things as interesting as possible. Say, you got into a Computer Science society as a member. Don’t just write you are a “member.” Write you are a “mentor,” “organizer,” etc.

One more thing: Explain how you have implemented something specifically. What data structures and algorithms did you use? With what languages?

Example:

  • Made a responsive website using (list out the technologies used)

5) Show what you have done and what impact it had, instead of writing generic things.

In summary, don’t just write the general responsibilities. Adding to this, what’s critical is that your achievements should reflect what outcomes you have brought, rather than how the experience benefited you. Let me bring up an example:

Do

  • Implemented something that has an impact on something
  • Developed something that contributed to something, which increased something from ~10% to nearly 100%

Don’t

  • Learned how to use something (Remember: the focus is not on you)
  • Developed something for the company (so what impact did it have?)

6) Quantify the impact

If you look at the second item in do’s, that’s an example. Mention things like how many people have used what you created. Example: Created an app from scratch using some technologies, which has been used by 30 people.

Some little tips here:

  • Write numbers explicitly. For instance, write 30 instead of “thirty.”
  • The tilda symbol “~” means “about” or “approximately.” You use it like this: ~30.
  • Utilize other symbols like > or + (more than) and < (less than).

Everything should be in a chronological order.

What does this mean? For example, let’s say you worked at a Company ABC and then a Company DEF and then a Company GHI. Then, you write:

  • Company GHI
  • Company DEF
  • Company ABC

In short, the higher it is placed, the more recent it should be.

Decoration?

It’s not recommended to decorate your resume. I’m not sure if that’ll still be the case if you’re like a designer or something, but generally, do not decorate your resume. Do not use more than 2 text colors.

If you think your resume looks boring, you can color the section titles (EDUCATION, EXPERIENCE, PROJECTS, etc) with your school’s official color. That’s what I also did on my resume.

Other tips that are good to know

  1. If you are to list out your skills, please, please do NOT write “GitHub.” GitHub is not a skill. Git, maybe. But even Git is not a skill that’s essential for a project. In other words, if you want to write that you know how to use “Git,” only write “Git,” not “GitHub.”
  2. HTML and CSS are not programming languages. If you want to enumerate what languages you’re familiar with, do not classify HTML and CSS as programming languages. Just write something like, “Languages: HTML/CSS/JavaScript, Java, …”
  3. Save your resume in a pdf format, and it should be named LastName_FirstName_Resume. (without the period at the end)
  4. I prefer Google Docs to some other document editing software because you can make a link to your resume on Google Docs.
  5. Include some links! Maybe on the contact info, you can insert a hyperlink to your LinkedIn profile.
  6. I personally don’t recommend two-column resumes. Apparently, a recruiter usually spends 15 seconds to read one resume. I’d like them to read my resume from top to bottom at once, instead of distracting their attention with a two-column resume. This is up to you.

Conclusion

As long as your resume is neat and easy-to-read, that’s when you can start not caring about the format. The importance of the resume format actually varies by recruiters and interviewers. But I think you shoud focus more on how to showcase your experience. An analogy I’d like to use here is a gift. Sure; a gift with a pretty decoration would look beautiful. But what’s important is what IS inside the gift box.

If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks for reading, and I’ll come back with another post soon!

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