Writing a crisp and concise resume is an important part of placement preparation. It should be a one page document highlighting your professional experiences, achievements and interests. It should neither be too long ( beyond a page ) nor too short ( a page with empty space ). For students hailing from tech backgrounds an important part of the resume is the projects section, especially for those trying to secure a job or internship in a computer science based role. Having been on both sides of the interview table, I want to share a few insights to keep in mind while working on projects and adding them to your resume.
In this article we will discuss the following aspects about projects -
- Importance in placement process
- Importance in jobs
- Types of project to choose
- Presenting a project on your resume
Importance in placement process
While the primary criteria for filtering applications are usually factors like your college reputation, stream pursued, GPA etc., the importance of projects becomes apparent after this screening process. They help you in two ways.
Firstly, a project helps to densify your résume and conceal gaps in your experience. Points of interest for an interviewer are usually previous work experience, achievements and projects. In 3rd year and sometimes even in 4th year of college, the experience and achievements section for some students may be light and lack the excitement for a reviewer. In these cases projects help a lot. A good project while covering empty space may help deviate the focus of the interviewer and be a saving grace. Learnings from, and time spent on, an interesting project can match the interviewer’s expectations of knowledge acquired during internships.
Secondly, it can help reorient the course of discussion in favour of your strong suits. Following are the central aspects of any interview discussion : Algo and DS, Computer Science fundamentals and Projects. An interesting project can help align the upcoming questions in the domain of your project and the technology surrounding it and circumvent questions on Algo and DS and to some extent computer science fundamentals as well.
This actually happened with me while I was interviewing with Microsoft and Visa for my summer internships.
Importance in job
The sudden shock everyone receives when they join the job market is that what they studied as part of their college curriculum and what they actually work on is drastically different. Our programs focus on teaching us basic computer science fundamentals and DS and Algo but the work profile demands something completely different. We often need to work on an application stack that we might not have even heard of. We need to learn a particular language, the application stack from the basics, working with shared code base, practical OOPS development, testing and debugging code and then finally company syntax for writing the code. It is after all this heavy lifting that you will be equipped with handling the load of real life product development.
Now if you have experience working with projects you will find yourself at a distinguished advantage compared to your peers. You already know four to five things that I’ve mentioned above. Even if that’s not true for your case, you’ll find it easier to grasp the technology, IDE and frameworks. I’ve seen strong competitive programmers struggle for months trying to wrap their head around product development while people with project development experience cruise through all these stages and progress rapidly. In my experience, they also have a higher job satisfaction compared to competitive programmers as far as product development companies are concerned.
Projects to work on
I’ve seen plenty of people mention C++ sudoku-solver or word-search solver in their projects section. That is a BIG NO. In this age of advancement and development in the world of computer science and technology, writing something so trivial, which can be copy-pasted or implemented in a split second is disrespectful to computer science and also yourself.
The big segments of project development today include but are not limited to Web development, Mobile App development, Desktop App development, Machine Learning, VR and AR, Blockchain and IoT. Now there can be two ways to pick a project to work on. Either you can go all out in one of these avenues and develop a project with upto 50k lifetime users and a good rating and review. Example — an application on PlayStore, a website for a company, an IoT project on GitHub with lots of stars and forks etc. Or you can work on a hybrid of these to display knowledge of multiple disciplines. Example — A web or android project with interactive UI which can solve and display the result of some real life problems, Mobile VR apps for teaching children, Machine Learning on backend of IoT to solve problems etc. Make sure you don’t pick a simple common project like calculator in android or To-do list project on web and the like. And make sure you know your projects in and out because you should be able to justify every single aspect of the project and how it will contribute meaningfully in any given context.
Displaying project on Résume
However interesting your project might be, it’s representation on your resume is equally, if not more, important. An interviewer can lose interest in a project with poor description, leaving it unnoticed while a strong description for an average project can do wonders. It’s all about presentation on the paper. Those few 50–60 words should be enough to pique the interest of the interviewer, making it the focus of your discussion. So how to do it ?
Now these are reference descriptions of my app G-Forms for google forms on the PlayStore. Some important differences between these two descriptions are as follows-
- Try to add as many relevant stats as possible — At a quick glance, numbers catch attention quickly since they are easier to comprehend and understand in a swarm of text
- Use adjectives — Utilising adjectives will help add weight to and make the description more interesting
- Mention Learnings — Explicitly writing about your learnings will quickly demonstrate all that you learnt from the project. Otherwise the interviewer might only scratch the surface of the total concepts used in the project.
- Put links — Always add a link to your project description. It can be a PlayStore link, a Web address or a GitHub link. Links add authenticity to your resume while giving the interviewers a chance to see the project themselves in case they see the resume on a computer.
I hope I was able to clear a lot of your doubts regarding project ideation, development and its importance. I have mentioned a few of my projects and their implementation details on these medium links that you can see and implement yourselves.
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Coding Blocks has a course where they teach how to make web based projects with Algo and DS implementation in back-end to solve real life problems. I recently joined as an instructor for the course and will be teaching how to create these projects from scratch. You can check out the course if you need ideas and inspiration with these projects.
Please show your appreciation by applauding this post. Let me know what else you would like to learn in comments and I would try to publish a post on it soon. Keep geeking it out 🤓