A similar recent question made me think about a situation I overheard recently.

A developer/DevOps friend of mine who has an easy-headed attitude to everything, often comes up with little quirks. One time he mentioned it would be an interesting twist for his future job endeavors if he modifies his CV in a way that the programming skill of using regular expressions is stated as speaking a foreign language.

He based this on the premise that regex is hard and outlandish, and that if someone asks about it in an interview, that's a good way to discuss about it light-heartedly and thus to become more appealing during the process.

However, in my book it is unprofessional. What is a more general stance on matters like this?

  • 3
    I understood this joke only because you explained it, so I guess there is a chance that some HRs wouldn't understand it either. Commented May 1, 2020 at 22:53
  • 4
    Can we claim maths as a foreign language?
    – Solar Mike
    Commented May 1, 2020 at 23:02

3 Answers 3


Your CV is a way to provide information, not an art piece.

As such, it should be honest, clear and to the point.

The people checking it will probably be handling dozens of them, and probably will not have neither the time nor the state of mind nor the background to understand clever jokes, double entendres and the like.

No matter how funny do you think it is, anything that obscures its meaning or induces to confusion is inappropiate.

At best it would make the people seeing it which kind of person are you to be writting silly things in a document that you put forward to some strangers'consideration (maybe will they worry about you writting silly jokes in your communications with THEIR customers, or inside the user documentation you write?)

At worst it will not be interpreted to mean a joke but as an attempt at deception and will mean that any application you make is thoroughly ignored.

And in this particular case, even if it goes undetected it will not help at all, since the company will not be looking for Regex speakers since they do not have any customers from Regexia.


While there was at least one college who accepted computer languages as credits for a foreign language, I'm hard pressed to see how changing the resume and listing the skill under a foreign language header will be more compelling than listing it normally.

  • He lists it normally - everyone understands
  • He lists it separately, as a foreign language. Most people will be confused, some will miss it because they are only looking for computer skills, not language skills, and a few will figure out what is going on. Of that few, some will have a sense of humor and some will not.

So, if he wants to lessen the impact of the resume, make it harder for people to pick out pertinent information, then by all means. If he is trying to get a job, the resume is not the place for oddball humor.

  • 7
    " some colleges who will accept computer languages as credits for a foreign language" Wait, what? Seriously? Where in the world does that happen?
    – Polygnome
    Commented May 2, 2020 at 17:18
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    @Polygnome I don't know about colleges, but this popped up in 2018 Senate Bill Counts Coding for Language Requirement
    – Peter M
    Commented May 3, 2020 at 17:32
  • @Polygnome - ok, it happened in at least one college, about 40 years ago. I was generalizing and probably inappropriately. Commented May 4, 2020 at 22:04
  • @Polygnome It's not unheard of as part of the admission requirements for colleges in the US. Here's the University System of Georgia's requirements, and Florida may do something similar. But note that these are the minimum standards for what the university system will consider as a high school degree; individual high schools will have their own, usually stricter, graduation requirements and universities will consider a student's choice of courses when making admissions decisions. Commented May 7, 2020 at 5:03
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    @ZachLipton Thanks! Ok, accepting it for admission is somewhat fair I guess. "Accepting computer languages as credits for foreign languages" sounded to me as if you could replace the credits for a foreign language needed for a degree with a computer language, which is quite different from accepting it for admission. Also, the document you listed says "2 units of computer science" with "a coding and programming emphasis.", which is also quite different than just knowing a computer language. So all in all its by far less spectacular than what it sounded to me at first. Thanks for providing that.
    – Polygnome
    Commented May 7, 2020 at 7:40

You are right, it is unprofessional, and is probably costing your friend more than it is helping.

"Foreign Languages" is for languages used in human communication, such as French or English. For computer languages, I would put a separate section titled "Programming Languages".

RegEx is also a search syntax, not a programming language or a foreign language. It makes no more sense to list this as a programming language than it would to list Google Advanced Search under that list.

I wouldn't expect people to get the joke. If I read a CV like that, I'd have assumed that the sections were filled in by a bot or a minimum-wage employee of a CV shop with no idea what they are doing.

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