CS Internship Guide #13: Volunteering and Resumes

Part of the CS Internship Guide


A few years ago, I was trying to improve my resume. My goal? Encourage recruiters to offer me more interviews. My college’s career center reviewed my resume, and they strongly suggested that I list any volunteer experience I had. I respectfully disagreed.

You don’t need volunteer experience to get a computer science internship. I didn’t put any volunteer experience on my resume, and I ended up with internships for three summers in a row.

teen-volunteer

(Usually) Leave Volunteering Off Your Resume

In most cases, I would skip listing volunteer projects on a CS resume. Volunteering shows how you have good character, but it doesn’t typically demonstrate your proficiency with data structures. The real estate on your resume should feature your personal projects and any past internships. Volunteering may help you stand out a little, but you need programming know-how to grab HR’s attention first.

So I’ll add a caveat: Adding a line or two of volunteer projects in an extracurriculars section is perfectly acceptable. Just don’t go into too much detail.  If you do have an urge to point out your volunteer experience, you can always bring up the topic in a conversation with a recruiter.

When To Highlight Volunteer Experience

You should highlight volunteer work when you’re applying to a company whose core business relates to your volunteering projects. Imagine you’re really passionate about climate change. You participate in environmental organizations and want to intern at a company that develops clean energy technology. Showing those recruiters your volunteer work would definitely make your resume stand out!

In addition, if you have lots of extra space on your resume, feel free to add all your volunteer experience. This is common among new CS students that don’t have many personal projects yet. (And if you don’t have some awesome projects to showcase on GitHub, get started now!)

A Positive Impact

If you want to volunteer, do it because you want to make a positive impact on the world, not because you want a resume bullet. Unless your volunteer work relates to the company or you need to fill up space, leave it off your CS resume. Or keep your volunteering bullets brief. Remember, recruiters look for technical know-how, impressive personal projects, and passion.

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One Response to CS Internship Guide #13: Volunteering and Resumes

  1. Pingback: CS Internship Guide #6: The One Sentence Internship Candidates Need to Read | Startup Helium

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