Curriculum Vitae - must rage

This topic was created by rich_a .

  1. rich_a

    Curriculum Vitae - must rage

    Aaaargh! Just got a bunch of CV's through for a posting at our place, and I'm thoroughly ashamed that IT professionals can get CV's so wrong. I really wanted to contact all of the people who sent a CV to explain to them what they're doing wrong. Since I'm not allowed to do that, I instead present this guide wot I made which explains some do's and don'ts for budding IT professionals... Would be interested to hear if you think I'm being too harsh or if I'm on the money!

    CV do's and don'ts.....


    - Write a "mission statement" which is meaningless. At most write one or two sentences that describes your qualities and what you're looking for. No-one is impressed by the ability to write pages of waffle or your amazing ability to shift paradigms through your strong belief of teamwork.

    - Make a generic CV. I've reviewed CV's that state that the applicant wants a "general" job in IT and they've applied for a programming position. If you seriously want to apply for a programming role, tailor your CV so it mentions that you want to be a programmer. If you are applying for many different kinds of roles, suck it up and produce a version of your CV for each role type you're applying for, don't be lazy and assume that one size fits all.

    - Include massive paragraphs about every project you've ever worked on. Some people have documented their whole careers on a project by project basis. No-one has the time to read all of this! Just tell me what technologies you've worked on and what skills you've gained during each job you've had.

    - Include notes to anyone in your CV. I had one CV that included a "note to recruitment agencies" in it with a diatribe about only wanting to work within x miles of their home. Remember your audience - most employers will see this as confrontational and will drop your CV like a steaming hot pile of dung.

    - Put "using social media" as one of your hobbies/interest. It's not a hobby, it's admitting that you play Farmville, and no-one is impressed by that.

    - Apply for jobs that don't meet your criteria. There's very little point applying for a job in the Midlands if your profile says you're only prepared to travel 10 miles from your home in London.


    - Fill in your job seeker profile accurately. Remember that many job websites prepend this to your application. If you're going for a hardcore stats programming job and your profile says you want to do web design, employers are unlikely to read past the covering page.

    - Include a covering letter. Most CV's that come through from job websites don't even have one or have a generic one supplied by the website - this is a fatal mistake. Remember that this is your foot in the door - a paragraph to describe why you are right for the role, even if you don't strictly meet the entry criteria. Also this can be used to reinforce that you are seriously applying for the job - if you're based in Luton and are applying for a job in Hull, this is your chance to say that you are willing to relocate for the role rather than have the reader scratch their heads about why you've applied for a job so far away.

    - Format your CV so it's readable. Big clear headings dividing each section, making sure text wraps where it's supposed to if you're using indents. Employers get loads of CVs each day and tend to want to look at details in a certain order. Help them by formatting it sanely. Also make sure your fonts and sizes are consistent, this document should be perfect - it's a reflection of your attention to detail. The worst CV so far had almost non-existent headers, wrapping problems, sections with different spacing and inconsistent fonts in the same paragraph. There's literally no excuse for someone in the tech biz not knowing how to format a freaking Word document.

    - Proofread and get others to read your CV. So many CV's come in with spelling mistakes, grammar problems and mess-ups of catastrophic proportions. I had one the other day where the candidate didn't even spell the name of software they claimed to specialise in correctly. These CV's tend to lose you any credibility and end up in the bin.

    - Highlight skills you think are applicable for the roles you are applying for. When you're reading lots of CV's a day, it helps tremendously when the author has highlighted the keywords you're looking for in a CV. For example, in a paragraph describing what you do in your current job, highlight the tools & skills you use in bold.

    - Restrict the number of pages. I'd expect a graduate level role to come in at 2 sides of A4. A more senior role may stretch out to 3 sides, 4 maximum if you've literally done everything that is possible within your chosen career. Any more than this and you're formatting it wrong or adding too much information.

    - Put on your name and contact details! The CV is a way of selling yourself. If you don't put on your name, address, telephone and e-mail details you're doing a poor job.

    1. Hungry Sean

      Re: Curriculum Vitae - must rage

      nothing harsh here, this seems like basic solid advice.

      I'd add something to the effect of: "don't be afraid to be a little different."

      I'm thinking of one of the best interview candidates I've seen whose CV listed a BS in math from the 60's and a PhD in linguistics from the 90's and was interviewing for a driver SW development role. People who can shine in multiple fields are often very special. I've always been sad he didn't accept our offer.

      1. Bloakey1

        Re: Curriculum Vitae - must rage


        "I'd add something to the effect of: "don't be afraid to be a little different."


        I agree with this. I used to add Sergent <sic> French Foreign Legion, speak 6 languages fluently, to my BSc. (hons) Information System Design and MSc. I.T. Security.

        High functioning autistic type, moi? dunno but not far off it.

        Now it doesn't matter but it used to make people think. Some even brought me in to see what a Legionnaire looked like and eventually employed me on the spot.

        Keep it brief, be different and do not tell lies.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Curriculum Vitae - must rage

      It's interesting to get a perspective from someone who has to read these. Most of it seems like common sense to me. Which tends to mean it's very uncommon to actually see it in practice.

      "Remember that this is your foot in the door - a paragraph to describe why you are right for the role, even if you don't strictly meet the entry criteria."

      It's been my experience that employers seek someone who fits their requirements and will not bother to look at this. "What, he only has 18 months writing device drivers in assembly, I demand 2 years at least."

    3. wonder

      Re: Curriculum Vitae - must rage

      Hi Guys

      I am updating my CV and I want to get it reviewed. is there anyone out there who can provide some feedback ?



  2. John H Woods Silver badge

    Good free advice is always welcome ...

    ... I don't know where you're based so your pint is virtual.

  3. rich_a

    I hope someone got some insight from what I wrote. Writing a good CV seems to have become a lost art, it's something we were taught at university before being uncaged, yet I've seen CV's of the recent alumni of the same university and they were clearly not given any tuition regarding them.

    I'd love to know from others what they look for when they review CV's.

  4. Corinne

    "I'd love to know from others what they look for when they review CV's"

    Where do I start? You have to bear in mind that I've tended to be sifting for the more "soft skills" side of IT - BAs, PMs, PMOs so I have slightly different priorities to someone looking to fill a technical role e.g. spelling and grammar are more important to me. Saying that, you can all spend some time ripping my own spelling and grammar apart now!

    Like you with whether it's easy to read - no 8 point squiggly font, use of bullet points rather than walls of text in long paragraphs, key skills listed at the front. Consistency in layout for things like headings, line spacing, use of bullets.

    Not just can this person use a spell checker, but do they also check the context of the words (there, their, they're). Can they use punctuation properly, and do they know more than full stops and exclamation marks (bonus points for using colons and semi-colons correctly).

    Are the key skills for the role included in the candidates key skills section on the front page? If I'm sifting a big pile of CVs I don't want to have to read through the details of every job someone has done to find out if they have ever planned a project using the mandated tool.

    Unlike many I'm not so fussed about gaps of a few months here and there especially for contractors; there's a serious amount oif contention for roles in this side of IT and I know some really excellent people who've been out many months through no fault of their own. I may ask for an explanation via the agency, but I won't reject a person simply because they haven't been snapped up in days every time a contract ends.

    Likewise for contractors I don't insist on every contract lasting years and years depending on what they were working on; many contracts are just for the hump period of a major project. However I DO look for lots of short term permenent roles - someone who moves permanent jobs every 9-12 months tends to be bad news.

    Is the candidate trying just too hard? You know the kind of thing; in a junior role they were apparently single handedly responsible for saving a massive programme, in at least 3 different companies.

  5. Adam SmithSg

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  6. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge


    I find the hardest part of writing a CV is getting to smell of cologne, but making a nice shade of peach always helps I find.

  7. Adam SmithSg

    Dos and don’ts for the CV, will surely my resume look professional and attention grabbing. I got the thread on right time, when I actually need it.

  8. Rambler

    always good to find CV hints and tips from the other side as it were

    My CV is 2 sides A4 for the short version, 4 sides for agencies to cover the fact I was an electrician for 30 years prior to IT

    and I try to add a cover note too


    most job applications go to an agency first, not to the client, and some agencies are really NOT up to muster on IT tech, and its variuos nuances, but so far, my CV as it stands seems to be liked enough to get me to interiews, which is the point of it all, after that it's just me that fecks it up :o)

    but will go through my CV again soon, and check it against the advice here - cheers

    1. JulianB

      >> some agencies are really NOT up to muster on IT tech

      When I was being sent to interviews by an agency, I always took my own version of my CV with me, and the interviewer was always grateful to see what I'd actually written before the agency scrambled it.

  9. Edwin

    Old thread but...

    Excellent post!

    Some further comments:

    TAKE YOUR TIME! If the ad appeared today, tune your CV to the ad and write a cover letter. Then review it carefully tomorrow. The day after, reread the ad and look for key terms. Are they covered in your cover letter? If not, tune some more. If there's a deadline of e.g. two weeks, take ten days to get your ad in. If well written, the person on the other end will know that you put effort into your application and take the process seriously.

    There is no silver bullet. There is always the chance (sometimes a very good one) that the wrong person will read your CV. Think they're asking for the wrong qualifications? It may not matter - if an overworked/disinterested HR drone is first to sift through the CVs, there's a good chance they will compare your CV to the list of qualifications and bin it anyway. No matter how good your argumentation (or supplementary qualification) is. The important thing is to stick with it and NEVER let the quality of your applications slip.

  10. Lionel Baden

    regarding notes

    Actually I do have 1 note on my CV to recruiters.

    I do not wish to commute / move to work in London.

    Although I still get the odd job offer in London :(

    Its never been an issue for me in interviews, most people fully understand the sentiment. If they don't then nothing lost as we probably wouldn't of seen eye to eye anyway.

    But many thanks for your guide.

  11. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    Good advice

    But I was taught *never* to let your CV go over 2 pages. Unless specifically relevant to the new role, anything over 5 years should be a 1 line summary for timeline purpose, or just highlighted as a skill in the summary section

  12. jcitron

    This is great advice for anyone seeking employment.

    The biggest don't is: Never, ever lie or fudge anything. This will always be found out.

    and of course do be honest with your prospective employer.

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