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I am CS student and have just few months before I graduate. I can write programs, but use pretty many manuals in the process. It's almost 50% writing/50% reading (maybe even more reading). What I want to ask is how much do you need to know a language (technology, method etc.) to say in you CV, that you know it? Thanks in advance.

P.S. I feel uneasy to learn just one technology to perfection, because it's limiting my further possibilities.

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Apr 4 '11 at 11:03

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

You put something on your CV if you are comfortable using it. Just ask yourself, if I put this on my CV and get asked about it in the interview, am I going to look stupid? –  Jeff Foster Apr 4 '11 at 9:44
@JeffFoster There are cases, where I am comfortable using a technology and know how it is implement and sometimes even can write an analog, but interviewer asks questions, which requires pure knowledge of the API, for example. Is they just checking me or what? –  Shark Apr 4 '11 at 9:48
Please don't post the same question on two Stack Exchange sites. The Stack Overflow version was migrated here creating a duplicate - which I've now merged into this one. –  ChrisF Apr 4 '11 at 11:21

7 Answers 7

up vote 7 down vote accepted

As a new grad, you're not expected to have a ton of knowledge about any one subject.

You are expected to learn quickly. You will learn more in your first month on the job about the practical side of software development than you did in your entire degree program. Nobody's going to put you in a position you aren't equipped to handle (unless they're insane or cheap or both).

Reference manuals exist for a reason, and there's no shame in keeping a stack of them on your desk. Even after programming in C for 20 years, I still keep a copy of Harbison & Steele handy. Keep your mental bandwidth free for the problem at hand, rather than trying to memorize every last library call. After a while, you'll internalize the stuff you use every day anyway.

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+1, and 'unless they're insane or cheap or both', well I know some companies which are insane and cheap yes, putting freshmen in the front line on crazy deadline projects :( –  jv42 Apr 4 '11 at 19:58

Personally I would focus less on "knowing" a language and more of "understanding" a paradigm. Don't get caught up on being able to program in Java vs C#, but knowing what Object Orientation means. If you know the concept of a paradigm then learning a new language will be a matter of playing with it for a few days to weeks.

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I really understand this concept. It is not hard for me to learn almost any MVC framework (at least popular ones) or imperative language, but to write code I need to often get reference such as class names, method parameters etc. It's so frustrating when employer asks to name all parameters for some function or something, that I can look up in manual in mere seconds. –  Shark Apr 4 '11 at 19:28

When you've graduated you can add the languages that you've passed to your CV, but what most companies do is they will let you write an aptitude test to test your knowledge in those areas which the job is offered.

So if your just copy & pasting from text books and internet the whole time (that's if they allow you to use materials while you write the test) you will properly not finish in time and if they monitor you they will also see that your still not too familiar with the program language.

They don't expect graduates to 100% either but you should at least be able to most of the basics functions without looking back at your text books.

You should have a good understanding of the theory behind the programming language because they tend to ask you question on it during interviews.

Now I'm not saying you shouldn't be reading at all, just practice enough so that your reading goes down to 10%-20% (which would generally only be for something new that you are trying). And work through other text books as well not just the ones that were part of your course.

O and perfecting one technology will take years if ever, and what you work with will depend on your job but you can always work something else in your part time.

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It's pretty hard to tell you how much you need to know to say you "know" a language, it depends on your definition of "know" :)

I would say you should just be honest and state your experience on your CV. If you have written a project in a language then say so. If you have just looked at a magazine article about a language and are interested in it then don't claim skills but mention your interest. Don't make blanket a claim to "know" a language, that's virtually meaningless anyway.

You are a student, no employer (at least not a sensible one) will expect significant industry experience. They will want some evidence of skills, so be prepared to do a coding test and certainly talk about what you have done with a language.

As for using books, I use reference material everyday and have been working as professional developer for many years. Usually I use on line material rather than books (typically MSDN, as I use .Net), but I read books outside of work to keep up with new technologies and learn about other areas. I wouldn't worry about this. If you are familair with the basics of a language you should still be prepared to use reference material to check that you are taking the right approach to solving a problem and to check the "idiomatic" way of solving a problem.

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It's almost 50% writing/50% reading

Maybe this is a big statement, but I feel strongly about it. You will never master any language fully. Your knowledge of a programming language is irrelevant to how good of a programmer you are.

What you want to focus on is answer this question. " How many problems you have faced and how have you solved them. "

Computer science is really about solving problems. Speaking purely in your context, you should feel free to put all the languages you have used. Just be prepared to answer how you have used them.

In this field is a good practice to do 50% writing code and 50% reading. Not all during your work time, but outside of work too.

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Along with a claim of knowing anything, I think a CV should show what you've done with it. As a student you can indicate what coursework you've had and amount of self-study or projects outside of the classroom. Not sure how to demonstrate fluency with a language in your CV; this will come up during an interview.

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How well should a fresh graduate know a language?

There is no good answer to that. It depends on the employer ... and the other graduates you are competing against for jobs.

Some employers of new graduates are looking for people who can start to be productive (at least with simple tasks, with supervision, etc) from day one. For those employers, you should be aiming to get your skills to a level where you can do that, and that you can convince your employer that you have that level in the interview. If you have better skills than the next guy, you have a better chance than the next guy.

On the other hand, some employers of new graduates are looking for people who are smart and hard working; i.e. people who are likely to learn fast. For that kind of employer, good marks ... and signs of a passion for IT ... are more important than specific skills. Deep knowledge of a particular language could be a green light, but if you gained that knowledge at the expense of skimping on your other subjects and got low marks, that could be a red light.

P.S. I feel uneasy to learn just one technology to perfection, because it's limiting my further possibilities.

There's no worry that you will learn any technology "to perfection" ... or even remotely close to it :-)

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