I competed and was highly successful in a number of maths competitions.

A few points:

  1. Regarding the applicability of maths to programming, from experience I know it to be a major advantage in algorithm design; but admittedly not so much in building an iPhone app.
  2. My degree is Science (Advanced Maths), so that is probably enough proof for most employers - mentioning competitions might just be overkill
  3. I now have two years of programming experience, so maybe even something as significant as top of Australia might seem to irrelevant to many employers
  4. If I remove this completely from my resume, then I don't really have anything to make my resume stand out at all. Lots of others would have similar work experience or have achieved reasonably good marks in university
  5. This might be more relevant for companies such as Google that have been known to hire a large number of competitors in the International Olympiads. In fact, they are now a major sponsor of the International Maths Olympiad.

Should I mention my maths competition results and if so, how should I include them?

  • 3
    You might have a look at the answers to these questions to get a sense of the types of things that do and do not belong on a resume, and how resumes are read by prospective employers: How important is a grade point average on a resume and Why is a 1-2 page resume recommended?.
    – jcmeloni
    Commented Jun 24, 2012 at 16:09
  • 5
    spending 2 hours guessing possible values to solve a question - this sounds like the exact sort of thing you want to avoid mentioning. Guess-and-check is not a good methodology in software development (or almost anything, really), and is highly likely to make an overcomplicated mess.
    – Izkata
    Commented Jun 24, 2012 at 23:55
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    @lzkata: Yes, but I was the only person who solved the question!
    – Anon
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 0:04
  • 2
    @izkata - Not necessarily. There is a value in the ability to use induction and deduction from nothing to solve a problem. It is quite evident from many of the requirements documents that I have seen that the business just guessed what they would need. Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 13:36
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    "apart from memorising shuffled decks of cards, which I can't even do properly yet" ... Please take some advice from someone who used to multiply 4-digit numbers in their head (it took ages, I'm not a lightning calculator) and stop wasting your time and mental energy on utterly pointless activities. Commented Jul 15, 2014 at 18:13

9 Answers 9


I would place 2-4 lines of award information. Even though you studied math/science, this shows you were near the top. Especially if you are looking for a programming job in finance, science or actuary where math skills show up a lot. One way to do it:

Awards 3 medals and 10 cash prizes in 5 different maths competitions including:

  • a
  • b

Note that in North America, we say "math" instead of "maths" as the plural. (source). If you are applying for jobs in Australia, using the British spelling makes sense. If you are applying to US or Canadian jobs, I recommend trying to reword your resume to avoid the plural altogether so you grammar doesn't seem "wrong."

  • 10
    Or say "mathematics" and you'll sound right in either case, I think.
    – Justin
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 12:00
  • I think it's commonly believed that skill at math is a good indicator of aptitude for software development, but for many positions its a 'nice to have'. Unless you are applying for a position that specifies a strong Math/Maths background, a two or three line summary of these impressive accomplishments should be plenty. Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 16:17
  • @Justin good point about spelling out mathematics! Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 2:54

As someone with Math in their name, I'll throw in my 2 cents....

  1. For Math intensive firms (Wolfram Associates is one that comes to mind) this can be very important, but not the only important thing.
  2. For firms that pride themselves on hiring "the smartest person possible" this can also be very important. Google (cited in another response) is one. Most people can naturally project that the smartest math person in their high school can learn to program. (In most cases the top math person is the same as the top programmer)
  3. Even for places that value teamwork and process, it can be good to talk about.
  4. Companies with a national culture that favors math (example: France) will value this.

Some caveats though...

  1. Some people are better at solving theoretical problems than getting things done and delivering. Just having good math is only a first step.
  2. Good academic credentials is more a signal of a good employee, rather than proof. 5 years of good publicly visible work is proof. ("Look at these 6 websites, this part of game X, and these 3 apps in the Apple store" goes a lot further)
  3. People want to work with people similar to them. You don't want to come off as too arrogant.

Good luck in the job hunt!

  • 2
    You have very good points except caveat #2. The competetion awards are also publicly visible works. IMO, they are more valuable than 3 Apple apps. In these days, anybody can write apps or have their own web sites while those awards are hard to get. Please let me join you to wish OP good luck in job hunting!
    – Nobody
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 12:30
  • @scaaahu - It's publicly available, but it's not software - which is why I consider it less relevant to the job in question.
    – MathAttack
    Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 1:50
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    Sorry, I still disagree. OP did not specify what software development job he is applying. If he applies for an avionics system development job, which would be more relevant? Web design or math competetion award?
    – Nobody
    Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 2:07
  • @scaaahu - I agree - that's my first point. If it's math intensive, it becomes much more valuable. Again, I'm not trying to discredit the background at all. It's very valuable. Just more valuable in some areas than others, and it's not the only important skill.
    – MathAttack
    Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 11:57

Only if you are applying for industries that require heavy pure math theory and its application?

Corporate business programming has very little to do with pure math theory unless that industry is heavily math based like commodities trading, algorithm design in an academic setting much more so, your milage may vary.

What you listed above will just look like a bunch of line noise and get ignored at best or get you immediately tossed out at worst by anyone looking to hire a general software developer and doesn't understand what all those things mean.

Especially an unqualified laundry list of things that don't show any relevance to the job being applied for, just looks like you are padding your resume. It says, if you had relevant things you would have put them there instead.

There is a lot mentioned about standing out, standing out in the wrong way also gets you cut down the quickest! If your resume stands out as having lots of things that I don't care about I can toss it aside the quickest.

What you should focus on is work related Accomplishments specific to the target opportunity

What employers want to see is what you accomplished in the most recent time frame. That time frame is a sliding window of about -3/-5 years.

You say you have 2 years of experience, you should focus on figuring out what out of those two years of real world work experience will make you stand out. Your math achievements made you stand out in University, they will become less relevant as time goes by, even if they stay just as impressive.

  1. This is definitely something I want employers to ask about, so I can talk the crazy things that I did, such as spending 2 hours guessing possible values to solve a question or when I did an induction after proving for the first 1000 numbers manually.

This is a double edged sword. It might show that you are a dogged problem solver that will eventually get things done through brute force. But it can be interpreted as someone who doesn't know when to give up on a lost cause or seek help out of some kind of misplaced pride.

"The first thing you learn in Law School is never ask a question you don't already know the answer to."

If you aren't absolutely positively 100% sure how someone will interpret that #5 then you don't want it brought up, you are gambling with an opportunity.

Irrelevant is irrelevant

CV/Resumes should be highly targeted at the position you are applying for. If that position doesn't require a heavy background in math, then don't mention it. It is taking up space for things that would be more relevant.

Anyone reading it will think you don't know what their company is looking for or what their business is about.

Take some sales training, sooner than later.

Every hiring manager is looking for "what can you do for me", if you list a bunch of irrelevant information, no matter how impressive you think it may be, if it is irrelevant, it it shows you don't that their why they should hire you and definitely don't know how to answer it. This is what your CV/Resume should reflect.

No matter what your technical skills, your first job is as a Salesperson. Your most important customer is yourself! You have to become just as competent salesperson as you are at math to succeed in a career.

Unfortunately most technical people are the worst at socially intense activities like promoting yourself to someone, many times who is non-technical, and think that a laundry list of skills should land them the position without any more discussion.

  • Do you think it would be "line noise" even if I summarised it using only one or two short bullet points?
    – Anon
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 14:02
  • Unless it is 100% relevant to the position, that space could be better used for something that is 100% relevant.
    – user718
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 14:24
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    @Casebash - You should list them in Awards. You resume should be brief but complete. It should present your skills, education, and talents to create a complete picture. Just listing those awards should be enough. But you must realize you cannot make a single resume each time you apply to a job the resume should be tailored to the job your applying to.
    – Donald
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 14:52
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    @Chad I love resumes that I get across my desk that standout, especially the ones that standout as not being irrelevant to the position as quickly as possible so I don't waste my time on someone that doesn't understand my business and what is important to me. Listing anything irrelevant as an un-qualified laundry list to the position in question is not a positive thing to do in any case
    – user718
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 15:04
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    @JarrodRoberson - If you are going to disregard this resume because of his extraordinary accomplishments then I think having them on his resume is a good thing. It is not like he is listing that he took 3rd in a local spelling bee. There are, I suspect, at most 1000 people in the world that can match his accomplishments. If this is irrelevant to your position then I think it is a good thing that it was disregarded. Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 15:36

Good math skills are very rare and highly valuable. High placement in national and international math competitions are impressive and should definitely be included on your resume. For example, if you were on the Australian team for the International Math Olympiad, that would be excellent. If you were in the top 10 in the Australian equivalent of the Putnam examination, that would be great too. Awards from regional high school competition are much less interesting.

You should try to find companies who need your talent. If you are really good at math, don't take positions in companies where you are unappreciated.

Also, I can't help thinking "Why aren't you in graduate school?"

In summary: Some development teams value mathematical ability. Include collegiate and professional awards. Omit high school awards.

  • I wasn't on the maths olympiad team - though the AMPO where I came top of Australia was one of the selection competitions. I did make the informatics olympiad team though. Grad school isn't as big in Australia, as we do specialist degrees rather than generalist.
    – Anon
    Commented Jun 24, 2012 at 22:41

How relevant, how valuable and where you place these skills will basically depend on who the main person hiring you is and what kind of position you are applying to. Some examples:

A hiring manager who is a recent graduate of a top School will hold these skills in high esteem. They themselves just spent 10 years continually proving themselves in competition and test and they will be more in a mind-mode that algorithms are everything. Whereas someone with 30 years experience may (also) value other skills just as highly (or even more so).

A position that has no customer contact vs a position where interacting with customers or clients to determine requirements.

A manager who is self-taught vs. a degree holding professional.

A position where advanced math will make the different between success and failure.

A position with a lot of fellow award winners vs. a position where most people are learning good techniques.

Basically I would research the position as best you can and also think carefully about what kind of position would best match your desires.

Re-reading your very extensive list I would strongly considering creating a web page that list all this and then referencing it with something much shorter, like "Winner of multiple math competitions from A to B and C to D" (replace letter with the top ones). This is also a chance to show that you can create a web page and also than you can summarize a lot of data into a simple reference.


The general advice is that you should expect to prepare several different version of you resume/CV. These versions emphasize different aspects of your strengths and experience.

Some jobs will require knowledge specific to the domain. They don't just need a programmer, they need somebody with knowledge of the subject. For these positions a long but edited version of your list of accomplishments would be appropriate.

For some jobs that are expecting you to be very experienced with the technology or language, your math competitions should be limited to a couple of sentences.

Because I am in the US I am not familiar with any of these events. You must make sure that they are presented in a way that allows you get the advantage you hope without having them just skip over the whole list after reading one or two. In other words if you won the Nobel prize make sure it isn't buried in the list.

How should they be worked in? That is the tricky part. Most hiring managers don't care about your goals, or outside interests. It doesn't make a difference that somebody gardens or runs marathons. None of those things help the company make a profit. That is why if you put them in a section that they might never read, you risk getting no advantage. You will only end up taking valuable resume real estate for something they never read.

If you only use it for the positions most related to math skills, you will get a better return. The hiring manager is looking for evidence, and your list of accomplishments will be just what they are looking to see.


Regardless of the type or topic of the competition. With your track record, your interviewer will see you as a self-motivated, active individual. Being able to perform well in competitions means you can handle pressure pretty well and most importantly, you can deliver a decent result on time.

Present your track record in something like a history log and bring over some evidence. Be modest. Don't boast about it. Show your passion but try to read your interviewer's facial expression, don't bore them with too much of your story. Some people may find solving math problem boring.

  • If the hiring manager finds solving math problem boring when reading a software developer job applicant's resume, then OP probably sends his resume to a wrong place. IMO, OP's math skills are valuable.
    – Nobody
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 6:03
  • @scaaahu - This website isn't limited to only software developers. I don't see how having the awards at least listed on his resume can hurt him.
    – Donald
    Commented Jun 25, 2012 at 14:46
  • @Ramhound: No, this site is not limited to software developers. OP is looking for software dev job and I did say math skills are valuable. However, if OP is looking for a football coach job, are the math awards helpful? I afraid not.
    – Nobody
    Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 4:08

You achievements are significant so I would be loathe to eliminate or minimize them. I think the summary you provided would work well on a resume. I think I would create a web page that would provide a full omnibus of your competition achievements that includes links to results at official pages. I would then create a shorted url(ie bit.ly/abcdef) to the site to include in the resume. Include a line of a complete "listing of my competition results can be found at..."

While I am generally against this type of url in a resume your case would be a great example of a reason to make an exception. You have some extremely rare and prestigious achievements that some employers will certainly weigh positively on you in consideration.


Include a full count of your maths-competition achievements and bullet-point (", including:") the three you're most proud of. Do the same with your science achievements, if you think they're worth it.

I would imagine that for most people who view your CV, these are less important than your academics and more important than your interests, so list them between the two.

When I've had a lot of CVs to look through, I've been known to be cruel to people who overvalue such achievements, but I would certainly be impressed to see them listed near the bottom of the CV.

Good maths skills, in particular, hold a high correlation to good programming skills. But it's certainly not a given that a good mathematician will be a good programmer (or vice versa). Make sure that it's clear on your CV that you know this; put your programming achievements front-and-centre (assuming you have any). They are what I want to know about first.


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