You’re a computer programmer ready to move forward in your IT career. Fabulous! When you are crafting a programmer resume, you definitely don’t want to overlook any ability that could give you an edge.
That’s where Resume.io comes in with this writing guide and resume sample designed for programmers. It’s one of more than 350 occupation-specific writing guides and corresponding resume examples in our collection of job search resources and tools.
The guide you are reading now, along with a programmer resume example, will show you how to:
- Consider future career opportunities, particularly if your sights are set on becoming a software developer
- Understand applicant tracking systems (ATS) and how to use their algorithms to your advantage
- Create a resume that incorporates these key elements and optimizes the impact of each section: summary, employment history, education and skills
- Give the best first impression with a clean, legible resume layout and design
Your first task is to get a grasp of your options by getting an overview of the programmer job market. Read on for just that.
What does a programmer do?
Computer programmers, also known as coders, provide an important function in the software field. Coding is also a stepping stone to becoming a software developer . Programmers take the designs that software developers, then create and write and test the code that makes their applications work. They may have to troubleshoot and debug programs that aren’t running properly. The biggest employer of programmers is, unsurprisingly, the computer systems design and services industry. That's the sector employing 36% of working programmers, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The other major employer industries are:
- Finance and insurance 8%
- Software publishers 6%
- Manufacturing 6%
Another 2% of programmers choose to work for themselves. If you work for yourself, you still need a stellar resume to attract new clients! Jobs for programmers in the United States are expected to decline by 10% from 2020 to 2030, because of outsourcing. But if you think of this job as your entry into software development, you will be positioning yourself well for the future. That's not to mention the fact that if competition were to rise — due to a decline of job openings — a stellar resume becomes even more vital!
Programmers are computer-savvy individuals that have great knowledge. For more inspiration, see some of our other resume examples and writing guides in the related IT category, as listed below.
You are in a profession that requires you to be focused. Because your job can be done anywhere in the world, your competition is global. On the plus side, your skills are required across many industries since almost every business uses some type of computer program. So those great jobs are out there — if you know how to get the attention of hiring personnel. Computer programmers are, in general, detail-oriented workers. As a programmer, you have to be since coding is precision work. But, creating “beautiful” code that does the job well also requires creativity. Be sure not to overlook that aspect of your skills when you are crafting a programmer resume.
How to write a programmer resume
What virtually all resumes have in common, regardless of occupation, is uniformity of content and structure. These are the resume sections you need to include.
- Summary (sometimes called profile or personal statement)
- Employment history or projects
We'll be looking at each of these sections in more detail later on. For more general advice on creating a resume, check out our comprehensive guide covering all aspects of writing and design.
Breaking the code: getting past applicant tracking systems
Your goal is to get your resume into the hands of a person. To do that, you have to understand applicant tracking systems (ATS) software. It's designed to screen out resumes that don’t meet employers’ requirements and make the jobs of overworked human resources personnel a little easier. As a computer-savvy professional, you understand algorithms. ATS software uses algorithms to scan and rank your programmer resume and either put you in the hands of a recruiter or send you to the garbage pile.
There are more than a 100 systems on the market, so there is no one way to ensure your success passing through any one of these digital filters. However, there are some tips and tricks you can use to improve your ranking. ATS is designed to make parsing information easier; therefore, you should make your information easily scanned. The top two pieces of advice to remember are:
- Individualize your resume to include the exact keywords and phrases mentioned in the posted job description, but do not “stuff” your resume with these keywords. Increasingly sophisticated software can reject resumes for repetitive keyword usage. More importantly, even if you get past the ATS, recruiters will not be fooled.
- Don’t use formatting such as tables or put data in headers or footers that some ATS software may not be able to read.
How do you find the most important keywords and phrases? Most likely, they are repeated more than once, are within the first few requirements in the posted job listing, or are emphasized with strong wording/ technical terms. However, if you are having a hard time and don’t want to miss a word, try using a word cloud application to help you. If you plug the job listing into wordle.net or wordart.com, you will get a word cloud. The largest words are the ones most often repeated and most likely to be important to your potential employer.
Pay close attention to the exact wording and terminology used in the job requirements. People and companies may use different abbreviations and professional lingo to describe the same things. Due to the ATS scanning for keywords, it’s better to err on the safe side and use the exact wording used by the employer (within reason of course, repeating a typo in the job listing won’t do you much good).
Choosing the best resume format for a programmer
If your job experience has been acquired in employee positions, the chronological resume format is best for structuring your programmer resume. It’s the most common resume format, preferred by recruiters. Work history highlights are listed under employer / workplace headings in reverse order from most recent to earliest dates. Later on, we’ll talk about the option to substitute a projects section for the conventional employment history, depending on your programmer background.
In other occupations, there may be resume formats that work better for job seekers who are new to the workforce, changing careers, or have a diverse occupational background. Self-employed contract work might lend itself to a functional resume structure, centered on your specialized skills, training, projects, processes or projects. The most flexible resume for format is the hybrid (combination), with both chronological and functional elements.
Now let's take a closer look at each resume section and how to optimize the impact.
The header of your programmer resume is where recruiters can form their first, and potentially lasting, positive impression. Off the top, the document will seem more inviting to read, not only if your header design is eye-pleasing but because of the breathing space it allows in relation to the text-dense resume sections.
The header’s key purpose is to distinguish you visually from other job candidates. Your prominently displayed name and contact information make it easy for duly impressed hiring managers to get in touch when they are ready for the next step.
Ideally, your programmer resume and cover letter should incorporate the same design elements — notably in their respective headers — to look like a matching pair. This demonstrates professionalism and attention and attention to detail that could very well earn you extra points.
Programmer resume summary example: the big picture
With only seconds to impress, you need to communicate quickly what makes you a great candidate for your dream programming job! Here’s where you start, with a synopsis of your biggest and most relevant achievements. It helps to brainstorm them as an initial summary preparation step.
For your resume summary (also known as the profile or personal statement ), you get to say a little about those achievements while also doing a little bragging. Don’t go so far as to exaggerate, but do show your pride in your professional achievements. You also have a little leeway for creativity here — the only resume section where that’s possible. Because creativity is a valued skill in programmers, make sure it's noticeable in this resume section.
While the profile / summary definitely is designed for a bit of free-form writing, remember that brevity and page space are vitally important factors. Each word you use in the summary should be an action verb (describing a specific task or achievement), a powerful noun or an adverb or adjective. For the sake of power and briefness, you can shorten your sentences, for example omitting intros like “In my previous projects I…” and going straight for the facts “Wrote complex code in 4 different programming languages as part of large development teams in cybersecurity.”
Your goal for the summary should be to reveal your professional personality by describing yourself, alongside while career success highlights or successes that will compel recruiters to grant you an interview. This needs to be accomplished within two to four sentences. And, don’t forget those keywords and phrases!
Below is a programmer resume example summary you can customize.
Innovative programmer and internet entrepreneur striving to make the world a more unified and connected place. A creative thinker, adept in software development and working with various data structures.
Employment history sample
Your first decision here is whether your career achievements are better suited to a conventional employment history or projects section. Answer the following questions to help you decide:
- Are you self-employed or beginning your career? Do you contribute to open-source software or other crowdsourced code? If so, lean toward a projects section where you can expand on the work you have done outside 40-hour workweek employment.
- Has most of your career experience come from working as a company employee? If so, even if outside projects need to be factored in, you should create an employment history section.
- Does your career encompass both contract work and full-time employment? Then you may want to include both employment history and projects sections, if space allows. Or, perhaps incorporate your projects within the employment section, if they are fewer in number but still important and complex.
It might be useful to revisit the previous guide section entitled “Choosing the best resume format for a programmer.”
In either case, whether you opt for an employment history or projects section, it should show recruiters how you have learned and grown while taking on increasingly complex coding projects.
An employment history section provides bullet-point listings of work experience under dated employer headings. They should appear in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent job.
As you describe each position, stay away from a simple listing of responsibilities. Explain projects you have worked on and how you solved difficult challenges.
Google recruiters recommend this format, according to an Inc. interview: “Accomplished [X] as measure by [Y] by doing [Z].” Another similar approach is to consider what you achieved, how you achieved it, and what data or metric you can provide to show the benefit to your employer or client.
Use strong action verbs and adjectives that express your best professional traits. Try to organically place keywords and phrases to take advantage of the ATS algorithm. Remember, this is about proving to recruiters that you will bring talent, dedication and proven results to the team.
Do your best to not leave gaps in your employment history. If you worked as a freelancer or went to school during those gaps, make sure you explain or list classes by the appropriate dates.
If this part of your programmer resume is better suited to a project-based structure, list your proudest achievements first. Be aware that recruiters will still want to see when you worked on these programs, so you should list a current or recently completed project first. Under each project heading, explain your role — including whether you worked as part of a team or independently — and otherwise follow the same guidelines described above for an employment history section.
Below is a programmer employment history resume sample you can modify.
Programmer at Johannes Initiative, Palo Alto
December 2015 - Present
- Work to enhance software systems to help educators, scientists and policy experts already working on some of humanity’s greatest challenges.
- Develop and enhance programs to increase accuracy and lower costs.
- Develop strategies to ensure compliance with new standards.
- Handledebugging and troubleshooting with a high success rate.
Programmer at Kindlinks, Inc., Menlo Park, CA
February 2004 - September 2015
- After founding Kindlinks, Inc. in 2004, I continued to work to build and improve its infrastructure, offerings, product strategy and design.
- Continuously lead developments helping people to create, share and discover in new ways, including through mentor and scholarship programs I created for high school and college students.
- Remained up to date with current events around the globe, notably social media breakthroughs that saw universal adoption in business, and aimed to serve the people of the world with better ways to connect.
Programmer resume education example: schooling plus training
Most computer programmers have bachelor’s degrees, but it is possible to get hired with an associate’s degree. In rare cases, this is possible with no formal education at all, but with a super impressive programmer resume and portfolio.
Many coders today have attended bootcamps that focus solely on learning to code. Coding is also a skill that requires frequent updating as languages and other tools of the trade change. Include in this section any training seminars, coding classes, or other professional development you have completed.
If you’re looking to move up to a more comprehensive and well-paid role on the career ladder, check out our guide and resume example for web developers, which also has goodies like extra stats, the most in-demand programming languages and skills and other great tips!
If you are changing c areers or just beginning your career, consider breaking out the classes most relevant to the job in this resume section. Also list any accolades, honors or certificates you earned. You may also want to move the education section above your projects section if you have a stellar academic career and are looking for your first job. If you are a mid-career professional, a simple listing of your degrees is sufficient, since your work history illustrates your programming abilities.
Below is the education section from a programmer resume example.
Master of Computer Science, Boston College, Boston
August 2001 - June 2004
CV skills example: give employers what they want
Your list of skills, highlighted in a variety of ways, is the meat of your CV. Starting by thinking about your skills gives you a foundation to write your resume. First, without limiting yourself at all, come up with as long a list as you can of all your skills — not just the ones you consider relevant to the job. Also list your projects, challenges, and triumphs. Keep this master list handy as a reference and add to it as your experience grows.
The skills section is an overview of the talents you have that match each job description. Use your word cloud or listing analysis to decide which five to ten skills to add here. This section is easily customized, so don’t neglect to do so every time you apply for a new job. Many employers are looking for soft skills, those interpersonal and organizational skills that workers in all careers need to thrive. GeeksforGeeks lists four must-have soft skills for programmers:
- Attention to detail
- Desire to learn
Soft skills also include communication, organization, motivation and other habits and qualities that enhance your contributions to the team and your employer. While many think of computer programmers and software engineers as lacking in people skills, emotional intelligence (the ability to understand yourself and have empathy for others) can set you apart from the crowd. These skills are especially important because you want recruiters to understand the benefit of in-house or local talent; your competition could be outsourced talent, possibly in far-flung time zones and, therefore, difficult to communicate with quickly.
As you create your skills list, also consider adding resume examples of how you used these abilities during your past jobs. That will come in handy when you begin your employment history section. Of course, you should not neglect the hard skills that are required to write elegant code. Dev, a community of software developers, lists these as technical skills every programmer needs:
- Programming language and frameworks
- Data structures and algorithms
- Source control
Higher-level skills are likely to increase your ranking with the ATS, so focus on those as you customize your list.
Be specific by listing the exact names of programs, frameworks, and any other system you have used. Spell out full names and use acronyms if space permits. That way you are covered in case the ATS is scanning for only one of them.
These are the five metropolitan areas where programmers were making the most money in 2020, according to U.S. News and World Report:
- San Francisco, California $125,420
- Midland, Texas $119,390
- San Jose, California $113,530
- Dallas, Texas $112,050
- Mobile, Alabama $109,380
Check out a programmer CV sample for the skills section below.
- Performance Optimization
- Troubleshooting and Solutions Deployment
- Analytical Thinking Skills
- Software Design and Development
- Coding and Scripting
Resume layout and design: the first visual impression
What you say in your programmer resume is vitally important, but if you want to get the attention of recruiters, you have to be equally aware of how you present yourself visually. Using some basic guidelines and an expert-designed and recruiter-tested resume template from Resume.io, you can find just the right mix of legibility and clean style. Choose from four categories of layouts to get you started: Professional , Modern , Classic , and Creative .
Programmers, coders, mathematicians, and others in STEM fields use the words beautiful or elegant to describe equations and code that gets the job done simply and with thought. Use that ideal to design your resume as well. You want it to be streamlined, contain as much information as possible, and be admired by those with the power to grant you an interview. How do you accomplish that?
First, remember that human resources personnel see hundreds of resumes, especially in career sectors that are contracting. They want to be able to quickly scan to find key data. Here is what they are looking for:
- Contact information
- Current job title and company
- Previous job title and company
- Profile or summary
To make this hunt as easy as possible for recruiters, make sure your section headings stand out. Vary your line lengths to avoid big blocks of type and stick to legible fonts . Make sure your margins are wide enough to ensure ample white space.
As a programmer, you are aware of the subtle differences in word processing software both between programs and within different versions of programs that can cause misalignments. Avoid that mistake by saving your resume as a PDF.
The most common eye movements people use to scan for content on the web are in an F-shaped pattern, according to UX researchers Nielsen Norman Group. This pattern is also used to scan paper documents. Do your own scan of your resume to see if your most important data falls within the F shape.
- The market for programmers is competitive because of the prevalence of outsourcing.
- You need to make a great first impression, so keep your resume layout legible and clean.
- Focus on high-level abilities and customize your resume skills section.
- Brag a little and show off your professional attributes in your summary.
- Choose an employment history or projects section, or include both.
- Pump up your education section if you are looking for your first job or changing careers.
Use the resources of Resume.io: the builder-tool , layout resume templates , and this guide to land your next great job!