Recently I've heard a lot of people say they are struggling to even get an interview. I have also met plenty of very talented engineers over the years who struggle to get called into interviews directly due to their CV.
I know when I started applying to jobs this was something I struggled with. I’m hoping now that I have been on all sides of the interview process I can help other developers get over the first hurdle.
I've worked directly with recruiters, had jobs where my only role was interviewing developers and have received countless amounts of applications so the advice here is what helps me and the recruiters I know filter out the best.
Free CV template at the end!
I go into more details in this video but keep reading to get a summary of the whole video.
If you are just looking for your first job, this may be terrifying because you probably feel like you don’t have much worth mentioning. You need to create some experience. Unfortunately, it's hard to even with a degree these days to get into your first job without some "real" evidence that you can do something of value.
What I would say is highlight your relevant skills from past jobs if applicable but really your CV should be 95% your current skills that you are looking to get a job with. DON'T include pages of past irrelevant jobs in the aim of making your CV look bigger or better. Less is more and especially when you are including relevant information.
I would recommend trying to get a couple of websites or apps online. Reach out to family and friends and online and build something they might need so you can use them as references too! Now isn't the time to be greedy. For your first couple of projects you could even do it for free to get some good references but obviously, if you get offered some money don't say no either. 😉
Lastly, if you for some reason can't find someone online or that you know that needs your skills then show the projects you built from courses/college. Deploy them and link them in your projects so people can at least see them if you can't build a professional portfolio.
The header should include your name, contact details and a link to your GitHub and personal website.
If you don't have much on your GitHub I would recommend just leaving it off
It should also include a title matching the role you are applying for.
If you can't make a concise sentence or 2 outlining why you are a suitable candidate without using flowery words like self-starter or motivated you should probably just not include this section at all. A bad intro can make you sound more junior and if you can't do it well I would avoid it totally.
Here's an example of a brief and professional intro:
A senior engineer with over 6 years experience in software development. Experienced in leading teams, mentoring engineers and software architecture.
This is a section lot's of people don't include but it gives a reader a great overview of your skill set at a glance.
I usually make it into a table format so it's easily read and understood.
Somthing like this might suit:
|Frameworks / Libraries
This should be focused and include relevant bullet points. It should follow a structure of — Company name, your job title, the date you started/finished and then a summary of the role finishing with bullet points with the technical skills you used in the role. Highlight what contributions you made personally to the overall team. Saying you "worked on a ReactJS" app doesn't give me an idea of how much you contributed.
Was it a team of 1 or 10?
Did you overcome any big challenges?
Now is the time to brag a little! 💜
Here's a sample of how I would write it:
Fake Company 1
August 2017 – Present
It was my responsibility to architect and lead the development for a greenfield project to drive customer engagement.
The time I lead consisted of six developers whos roles varied depending on expertise. The new architecture led to increases in the average daily usage of 15 minutes to over 1 hour. This was achieved by creating a Progressive Web Application with push notifications and reducing the initial load sizes by 90% versus the existing application. We also fixed scaling issues by moving most of the functionality to Lambda on AWS.
- Increased customer engagement.
- Drastically reduced loading times on application.
- Lead team of six developers.
If you have a long job history I would make sure you get detailed with your last couple of roles and then just bullet point the later ones.
For a lot of companies, education or at least some technical coursework will be important to show that you are a capable learner. Although a degree is not always required for a role, you should definitely be including at the bare minimum some of the online courses and tutorials you have finished.
Education and Training
2014-2016 | Fake University of Ireland: Degree in Computer Science
Finished with First-Class Honours.
Technical Courses Completed:
Most companies will also like to see that you are not just a one-dimensional coding robot, as it can also help with conversation starters in an interview. You can also throw in a little more about how you are staying up to date. For example, I always include a MeetUp I’m a member of, a sporty hobby and a nerdy hobby. Be creative here, you can grab someone’s attention with an odd hobby. I know for me, mentioning I was a Star Wars collector always got some conversations rolling.
- Member of code for Ireland
- Fitness Enthusiast: Regularly attend the gym
- Star Wars Collector
I don’t usually include references on the end of my CV but do include a “References available upon request”. If you have references from jobs (not your current role) it would be helpful to include them here as it might speed up the hiring process. Usually, references are used after a candidate has progressed through all of the stages of the interview.
- Not tailoring your CV
- GitHub links with no real value
- No projects
- Too much colour and creativity
- Related ☝️ Bad format (can't be read by HR software)
- Job hopping
- Making yourself sound junior (this whole article should address that).
Job sites like Monster offer some great CV templates, and I think you should be using some sort of template to aid you so you don’t lose hours on formatting pointlessly. They are also great as guidelines for what to include to keep you on track. Your choice of font and layout are key to making sure a would-be employer carry on reading your CV. Simple formats work best.
Don't have time to waste crafting it from scratch, here's a starter document on my drive you can copy. 👇
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