The trouble with software engineer CVs
- You can’t write a good CV because you’ve never been taught how to.
- You’re a geek with poor soft skills and you’re incompetent of writing a comprehensible, attractive CV.
- You haven’t seen other CVs yourself, so you can’t judge between poor, mediocre and excellent CVs.
- You can write a nice CV but you can’t write a damn good one, because you’re just not a damn good engineer.
- You don’t understand the purpose of CV.
- Add a cover letter \ mission statement
It could be 1-2 paragraphs where you describe yourself, or even just 2-3 sentences inside the CV. What matters here is to tell about yourself in short and show the employer that you know what kind of position you’re looking for. I find this shows character.
- Describe what you did in previous jobs COHERENTLY
I can’t stress how important this is. Explain exactly what you did in your previous job. Mention what product(s) you worked on, how big the team was, what was your role in the team, what technology stack you used, what challenges you faced, what impact your work had on the team, which interfaces you worked within the organization, etc. Clarity here is key. Avoid including vague descriptions and titles and make sure the reader can understand your actual experience. Refrain from any hand waving. Hand waving can only get you so far but it won’t last through the interview.
Bad example: Developed a large scale project as part of a client-server platform while incorporating high load database interaction. Participated in the lifecycle of the product from inception to launch.
Good example: Worked on the company’s advertising portal as a web application engineer in a team of 4. Built several web-apps from scratch using a Ruby-on-Rails + MySQL + Redis + EC2 stack, while scaling one of them to 50MM users.
- Prove that you can code
Provide your github account. Add a link to some pet project or school assignment you’ve done. List any open source projects you’ve contributed to. If you have nothing to show, think about ways to contribute or publish code that you’ve written in the past. This will likely skyrocket the credit you get before even getting the job interview.
- Show your online footprint
Gear up your CV with your Linkedin and Twitter accounts. Mention your blog. Tell us about any communities or sites you’re active in (e.g. stackoverflow). If you’re scratching your head on this one, have no doubt, any decent employer will most likely Google your name and fish for more details about you. Providing these assets makes the employer’s life easier and creates an enormous impression that you’re a part of an online tech community.
- List your hobbies
OK, this is just me, but I like to see that a candidate has some out-of-office activities. If you’re a member of the local hockey team, or an avid biker, a wine lover, a basketball fan, or anything else cool, I want to know about it. On the other hand, if you’re just an uber-geek-lab-rat with zero social skills and no interests whatsoever besides programming then I don’t want you to work with me. Call it discrimination if you will, but I want to work with vibrant people who can pull off a joke and enjoy a game of pool just as much as they can program.
- Have a look at other CVs
You’ll be surprised how much this helps. Try searching “software engineer résumés”.
- Have a friend read your CV before sending it
For some reason, lots of us don’t think this is necessary: “I don’t need someone to look at my CV, I know how to write one”. Wrong. Even if you’re sure you know how to write a CV, always question yourself by passing it through another pair of eyes. It’s worth it even if all your friend finds out is a small spelling mistake that you missed. You’ll be surprised how much people will be inclined to read your CV and give you notes.
- Don’t write a national bestseller novel
Try to squeeze your CV into one page. I think most people would respect this. Spare the employer the torture of reading the 3-page pile of boredom you just wrote. Be concise and accurate. Mention only the most important things relevant to the position you’re seeking. If you were temping as a waiter while you were an undergrad, and that extra line is causing a page break, throw it out. Go over your CV over and over until you weed out all those mundane details nobody cares about. If you worked in a shitty place for a short time, consider not even mentioning it.
- Don’t tell us about 4th grade
Some people like to write their CVs from the dawn of man. Don’t start writing about your experience from the 90s.Write the positions you’ve had in reverse chronological order and not the opposite. I care much more about what you did in your last job than what you did back in ‘98. This goes also for education, accomplishments and other activities you took part in.
- Don’t use fancy Word-Art or tables
This just looks so freakin’ amateur. Keep your CV clean and simple. No need for fancy artwork and photoshop. By all means don’t use a bordered table with rows per each work place. The flip-side of this tip is to maintain proper alignment to bullets and sections in your CV in order to ease the reader’s eyes. When hiring, employers sometimes go through so many CVs everyday that they start scanning through them instead of actually reading every word. You want to put those eyes at comfort. The recipient of your CV isn’t always cognitively aware of this, but I can definitely testify that when I get a nicely laid out CV, I give that candidate some extra points without even noticing. Earn those extra points!
- Don’t mention JSON and XML as skills (!!)
Sorry fellas, but this is pathetic. Everyone nowadays works with these formats. There’s nothing special to know about them, and they sure as hell don’t qualify as skills. The next CV I read with this bullshit will be pinned to the wall of shame (we don’t really have one of those in the office…) .
All in all, I have to say that there is a substantial correlation between candidates who write a good CV and candidates who do well in the interview. Screening candidates just by their CVs is a form of art. Discerning the ones who are actually qualified and deserve an interview is even a finer art. Make your potential employer’s life easier by getting your CV done right. On that note, Capriza is hiring, so go prepare your CV and send it on over!
One last tip: if you make it to the job interview, make sure you stick up for what you write in your CV. An employer is more likely to ask you questions of what you claim to know rather than just random disciplines in computer science. If you claim you’re a Java developer, don’t dare coming into an interview without mastering object oriented programing. If you say you know databases well, but can’t write a simple SELECT command, you’ll be caught pretty fast. And for cryin’ out loud, know your data structures before you interview. The next candidate I see who can’t reverse a linked list or traverse a binary tree will be hanged on the wall of shame…