Making your CV stand out is a tall order, sure a great CV helps (12 Brilliant CV Designs You’ll Want To Steal) but your approach and CV content is important too. We caught up with Matt Young, CTO and Director of Geonomics to hear his first hand advice on how to catch his attention…
It is a truism that you only get one chance to make a first impression. But many people seem to forget this when sending their CV to a prospective employer. Your CV is your chance to show yourself at your best. If you’ve put the work in to ensure you come across well then you can stand out from the crowd – and maximise your chance of being called for an interview. If you’ve just thrown the CV together in a hurry, discerning employers will likely assume you take the same lack of care in your work, and it will end up on the “No” pile.
In the tech sector things are more difficult, as, before it reaches a technical hiring manager, your CV will often have to pass through non-technical recruiters and HR professionals who are looking for exactly the right blend of technical jargon and humanity when reading, or rather scanning, through a candidate CV.
So with time counting against you and the ever-ongoing struggle of gauging how many technical details are too much, a checklist of items to assist in getting your CV noticed by a CTO, can go a long way.
Here are six things you can do when compiling your CV to increase your chances of landing that dream tech job.
1. Target readability
Making your CV easy to read and process can make a big difference in how the document is perceived and will show that you are serious about getting the job you are applying for.
Some easy things you can do include putting your name (rather than “CV” or “Curriculum Vitae”) at the top of the document, and making the file name of your CV document the same as your name (rather than “cv.doc”). This will help ensure the soft and hard copies of your CV don’t get misplaced.
Also pick a sensible font and size. 12-point Times New Roman is a lot easier to read than 9-point Arial Narrow for instance. The easier your CV is to read, the better. Whilst it’s a good rule of thumb to keep the length of the document down to two to three pages, the way to achieve that is by keeping the number of words down, not by shrinking the font size.
2. Don’t bargain on the cover letter
A cover letter and a CV are different things and should contain different information. Your CV should have all the essential information about your career, experience, education and qualifications. The cover letter, if you have one, should be specific to the post for which you are applying, and should focus on why you are interested in the company and the role.
Don’t write a cover letter that repeats what is in your CV. And don’t leave information out of your CV because it is included in the cover letter. The CV is the most important document and this is often what the prospective employer will look at first. If the CV is missing key information, the company might very well decide that you are not worth their time and not even read the cover letter.
3. Communicate clearly
The way in which you write your CV is just as important as the content. Instead of writing that you are a good communicator, it is better to show the company this by communicating well throughout your CV.
Make sure that what you are writing is clear and unambiguous. You may assume the hiring manager has a general knowledge of IT and access to Google, but don’t use jargon or abbreviations that are unlikely to be understood. If you are not sure about this, get a friend to read through the document to make sure that you are actually saying what you want to say.
4. Aim for accuracy
If you are applying for a technical job where a typo in a source code, file or shell script could cause a system not to work, you want to make sure that your CV is also typo-free.
Demonstrate your attention to detail within your CV. Check it several times to make sure there aren’t any errors. Use a spellchecker. If you’ve used a hyperlink, make sure it works. An old editor’s trick is to do one of your proof-reads “backwards” – i.e. from the end to the start. This will help you focus on looking for typos without getting distracted by the narrative. Another option is to print your CV and read it out loud away from your computer.
5. Be honest and specific
The most important part of your CV is your career history and educational background, and it’s important to spend time on getting this correct and clear. If what you write is vague and generic then you will not stand out from the crowd.
Be specific about the start and end dates of each job and each period of education, and if there are gaps, clarify. Do not leave it up to the recruiter to fill in the blanks between periods of employment as it could look like you have something shameful to hide.
Similarly, be specific about how you fared at university: if you got a 2:2 but don’t say this then many employers will assume you scraped a 3rd or a pass – i.e. their assumptions will be worse than reality.
For the role descriptions, unless they were particularly unusual, the day-to-day responsibilities of the job aren’t that interesting to see. Employers know what a typical Software Engineer job or Systems Engineer job entails, so you don’t need to write that you “fixed bugs” or “deployed software” or “used such-and-such ticketing system”. Instead, focus on what your contributions and achievements were. Imagine you’re talking to a friend or a colleague and you’re telling them what you are most proud of having done in that role.
Another way to think about this is to focus on the key outcomes for each role and project on your CV. What did you actually deliver? What success did you demonstrate? What did you learn that helped you to improve what you did next time?
6. Don’t overdo it
Don’t overcrowd your CV with details that will not assist the recruiter in making a decision. Employers typically don’t need to know the exact model number of every server you’ve ever worked with for instance.
Photos, random facts, long lists of skills, personal statements and long sections about your personal interests are all things that can be left out. Omitting this information will also help keep your CV length below three pages.
The Geonomics Engineering Team looks at hundreds of applicants a year to find the handful of top-notch engineers, data scientists and other specialists we need to build innovative products. Our high standards for recruiting mean that, if you do get a job here, you’ll be surrounded by bright, stimulating colleagues. You can see more about our roles – as well as more tips on CVs and interviewing – at www.geonomics.com.