**Please, please, for the love of God, do not put everything in boxes**
It was only a matter of time until this post was written.. I know there’s a lot of these out there, but I think I might as well add my two pennies’ worth! I see a huge number of poorly structured and written CVs so this is still a problem worth addressing.
I know the market is evolving, and for a lot of developers you’ll use code samples, github, stackoverflow, network to find a new job. However, for many people – whether because they’re further down the career ladder, or new to the London market – CV writing is still a key part of the application process.
Though some things are a matter of preference, but I would say follow these basic principles and your CV will stand out to recruiters who know nothing about technology as well as technical employers.
1. Make sure the tone is Achievement Led
- Include a section near the start with Key Achievements. These should be the top 2-3 things you’re most proud of. If you’re starting out, pick side projects or work experience challenges.
- Broadly speaking, the STAR approach works at any level (Situation (setting/context), Task (what you were asked to do personally), Approach (what you did, and any challenges you had to overcome), Result (achievement – did you deliver in time, in budget, and what did that mean for your team and company?).
- Make sure you don’t lose your personality when you do this – there is no substitution for simple passion. I come across CVs with bios like ‘I have been programming since I was 13, and it is my life’, and I still love reading them. I know sometimes that kind of thing might sound a little trite, but it actually normally reads as very genuine, because it is. A combination of personality and achievements is a winner.
- I would count good spelling and grammar as part of this tone you’re trying to set. Spell check your text, get someone else to read it. I’ve rejected CVs for not doing so and have seen many employers do so as well.
2. Remember to KISS (keep it simple, stupid)
- I would recommend the following sections and this is my preference of order:
- Name, contact details > Short Profile (a few sentences) summarising your career history and objective for next role > Key Achievements > Technical Skills (technologies you’ve used and level you’re at) > Professional Experience > Training/Education/Qualifications > Hobbies (anything relevant to your career path is highly relevant to put here). Only exception I’d say is with fresh graduates, where I would put ‘Education’ straight under ‘Profile’.
- For Professional Experience, use the STAR approach (above) and outline specific things you did, not your team, though frame your achievements in the context of the wider project and say how it impacted the business. Outline briefly 3-5 key projects/tasks you undertook in the role.
- If written efficiently, your CV should really not go over 2-3 pages, regardless of level. You only need go into detail for your last three most relevant roles. If you have relevant experience from years back, highlight it in your Key Achievements section.
- Formatting – a professional looking font (calibri, TNR, arial etc), size 10-12, and **please, please for the love of God, do not put everything in boxes**. Recruiters will send your profile with a couple of others, and will make sure they are all formatted to look the same. This is just professionalism, and we will always talk through your individual suitability in detail over the phone. You will save us both a lot of time if you just keep the formatting simple. If you want to show your design skills, include a link to your portfolio, or have two versions of your CV at the ready.
Any questions or additions would love to hear them, as always!