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As the fall semester comes to a close, I have begun to update my resume, and start to submit it to companies for summer internships. I worked for a large company last summer as an Engineering intern, but I'm having trouble explaining my duties.

Basically, the interns were there to fix bugs that the regular programmers were too busy to work with. Much of these were trivial, but some of them were very complex, and I learned a lot from them. However, without talking about source code and system design, it's hard for me to explain my job in terms other than "I fixed stuff that I was told to." This is pretty standard for interns I would imagine, but it's hard to make look good on a resume. While the interns were rarely tasked with writing system components from scratch (I don't have access to any of my code anyway), I also collaborated with the other interns and we solved many problems, including the hellish task of combining the alarm systems from multiple systems.

How can I show this on a resume without having proof? This might be a fundamental trouble for all programmer resumes, but any advice would be welcome.

  • You summarise what you did, make sure you're prepared to talk in-depth about what you did and don't lie. Is that what you want to know? I'm not sure what else I could say here. I've retitled your question as "spice up" might be misunderstood as trying to misrepresent your accomplishments. (EDIT) I've retitled it again because I think what you're asking is how to list the details without becoming too technical. If that's not the case, please comment with more details and/or edit the question again. – Lilienthal Nov 9 '15 at 16:21
  • You describe it in terms of what you accomplished in terms of benefit to the firm and briefly the technical descriptions. If the technical folks are interested in an interview they'll ask you to explain what you did and that is your chance to get technical and enthusiastic, and if you are embellishing they will see through it. – Spehro Pefhany Nov 9 '15 at 22:09
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You can't show the source code, but you can explain your workflow processes. So, something like:

Engineering Intern, BigCompany Ltd (Start Date - End Date)

  • Analysing bug reports to trace errors in existing software products
  • Liaising with developers and designers to determine correct behaviour
  • Implementing appropriate fixes and communicating with users to ensure that their problems are solved
  • Combining multiple existing systems to produce [whatever the intended goal of the multiple alarm systems was]

This may not immediately read like "brilliant coder!" but this will show that you've worked with an existing codebase, you can communicate with people to understand the problems they're having, work with the existing design to understand that your fix isn't breaking something else, and generally explain what you were doing during your internship without having to go into source-code-specific details. Again, as noted by Lilienthal in the comments, be prepared to talk about all this at interview, go in-depth about how you did things, but not about the details of the source code you were working on.

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There are different areas where you can provide too much or too little detail and it is important that you cover those areas appropriately.

  • Do not get too deep into business domain buzzwords, most of the real work you do can translate across business domains and they can be learned. Don't confuse the resume reader with jargon.
  • Do not go into deep detail about what the system does. Provide enough detail to show that you understand the functionality of the system you worked on.
  • Do go into detail about what you did and why it matters. Did you improve run-time, make usability improvements, improve the underlying architecture? Without giving away potential IP, tell me what you did and how. Be prepared to explain how these efforts were important when you have the interview.

As a hiring manager, I am trying to evaluate whether you can help me solve the problems I face with my system. I need to know what you bring to the table and that is demonstrated by the what and how of your efforts. It's amazing how many resumes I read that are pages long and don't tell me a single thing about what the candidate actually did. Lots of liaising and communicating and collaborating on some really awesome systems and yet not a single detail about a specific problem the candidate solved.

I really do want to hire someone, help me see that you are the best candidate out there.

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