When Should I List A Programming Language On My Resume?

Written By John Sonmez

In this episode, I talk about when you should list a programming language on your resume.

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Full transcript:

John:               Hey, John Sonmez from simpleprogrammer.com. I got a question about resumes here and about when you can put a job or rather a programming language in your resume. This question is from Catherine and Catherine says, “Hi John, really enjoy your blog and emails. Here is a question that I hope you’ll have time to answer in one of your posts. I expect many people may be wondering about this.

“I’ve started to learn to code and I wonder how much training/experience I need to legitimately put a language on my resume. For example this winter I took a 15-week 3 credit hour C++ course from our local community college. I got an A in the course now I am considering putting C++ as a language I know on my resume. My journey is continuing with self study in Java and I plan to write an app and publish on Google Play. Once I do that I will feel good about putting Java on my resume as a language I know. In both cases I wonder if these claims will be seen as legitimate by hiring managers.

“Another related question is at what point do you draw the line of being a junior developer and developer in a language? My background is in mechanical engineering where the pace of change is slower than in software development so I think I might need to recalibrate. Many thanks for your consideration of these questions.”

Catherine there’s 2 things here right? The first part about putting a programming language on your resume is that—my answer is whenever you want to. Well, actually let me expand that a little bit, whenever you want to be asked questions in an interview about that programming language. You can put anything on your resume that you want as long as you have any kind of experience in it at all but the question is not can you, it’s should you. The answer to that is based on whether or not you feel like you could answer questions legitimately about that if someone asked you about that.

You might not have any “real experience” with C++ but you can put that on your resume if you feel confident that you’ll be able to answer any interview questions about that because I guarantee you if you put C++ on your resume then someone is very likely to ask you questions about it. It’s only going to hurt you if you don’t know the answer, if you’re not actually—have any proficiency in that. The same thing in your case with Java, I would certainly say if you’ve built a Java app and you put it on Google Play for the android store I would put Java on my resume, but again, it’s all about being able to answer those questions. There’s no formality, there’s no reason why that you have to follow any kind of rules or practice about when you’re allowed to put a language on your resume. You can literally put anything on there. Obviously you shouldn’t put lies on there if you’ve never touched a programming language but it’s just going to come out in the interview anyway. I wouldn’t really worry about that. As long as you’re telling the truth that’s the number one thing and number 2 if you’re comfortable about answering questions about that. Anything that you put on your resume you should just assume that someone is going to ask you about.

A lot of people put tons of stuff on their resume that they’ve just dabbled in. For those people what ends up happening is they get asked all these questions and then they don’t know the answers and they look like they’re just making up a bunch of stuff. That won’t happen to you if you know what you’re talking about. You also want to have a narrow focus anyway. You don’t want to just put all this stuff on your resume because someone’s going to be like, “Well, what do you do?” They’re like, “Well, I do 15 different programming languages.” Okay, well that’s impressive but how does that apply? They’re going to assume you’re not an expert in any of them. They’re going to assume that you’re a generalist. It’s much better to be a specialist like I always talk about so consider that as well.

The second question that you asked about, “When do you draw the like between a junior developer and a developer in a language?” It’s kind of funny because when you look at job descriptions for software development there’s like junior developer and senior developer. I don’t know if there is developer, right? It’s all kind of meaningless. I would never even really apply for junior developer. I would just call myself developer or maybe you can’t use senior. I would just call myself software developer, programmer, software engineer, whatever you want and not even worry—no one really needs to start at the junior level.

What junior means is that—it means we don’t want to pay so much very much. That’s what it really means because no one is really looking to hire a junior developer. What they’re looking to do is to not pay as much. Don’t do that. Just apply for developer position. Don’t apply for junior developer position. Maybe you could do that but I think you’re going to have a lot more success just going for developer position, have a little bit more confidence, teach yourself, make sure that you’re qualified for the position. I would either go intern or developer. I wouldn’t go junior developer. I feel like that’s just a—there’s not even really any definition of it. There’s no point in doing that. Don’t do that. Don’t worry about that.

Just from you asking these questions, just in general, and I guess probably from your mechanical engineering background where things are a little bit more structured. It feels more like—a traditional engineering background is like in the same thing maybe the health like doctors and kind of—is a little bit more of a formal rigid thing where there’s clear definitions of these things. I’m not a person that really likes rules and fake structures around things which is good because in the software development field no one could tell you anything.

You can just be whatever the heck you want to be. You don’t have to ask these questions. You don’t have to wonder should you—is it okay for you to do—yes, it’s all okay. You could do whatever you want. It’s up to you. You could choose it. You just have to live with the consequences, right, like I said. Don’t worry. Don’t let someone tell you that oh, you have X number of experience before you can be considered a non junior developer or you have to have used a programming language for this long. That’s all someone’s opinion.

The real thing that counts in this field is can you do the job. Everyone wants to know if you can code. If you can code, if you can write the code and produce the software then you’re going to find work. People are going to want to hire you because there’s a lot of programmers out there that can’t and I’m being totally honest with you. You’d be surprised. You would think that they just—how could someone exist as a programmer that couldn’t code? It’s out there. Just make sure that—don’t get so caught up in all this stuff. Learn what you’re supposed to do and make sure that you can do the job. If you can do the job then you’ll be fine.

Thanks for the question. Hopefully that answers your question and helps you out. Good luck getting a job in the software development field. If you have a question for me just email me at john@simpleprogrammer.com if you’d like to subscribe to this channel I welcome it, so go ahead and do it. Take care.