back to article The common factor in all your failed job applications: Your CV

It has been a decade since we first demonstrated that IT pros' resumes were a bit crap, and so here's an update to help you get real about how you present yourself in 2021. As Real Techies™, we know when code is too rotten to rejig and must be deleted with extreme prejudice. Why should your CV be any different? Jobs are like …

  1. 9Rune5

    The gap year

    Even when you get past this, expect to be asked what you’ve been doing, and the response of a blank look and mumble gives the impression you’ve been watching daytime reality TV.

    My ex-boss (incidentally the best manager I have ever worked for) had such an interview once. The candidate exclaimed he did not want to discuss his gap year, which of course put our imagination into high gear.

    The sad bit is that my ex-boss is a very nice and understanding person and I believe she would have accepted a "yeah... spent a year in the joint" reply. The non-answer was worse.

    1. FlamingDeath Silver badge

      Re: The gap year

      My reply to “what have you been doing” in reference to any gap, would be “none of your fucking business mate” and if they persisted or got upset with my curtness, I’d just walk out.

      Simple as that

      Enjoy your encrypted data you fucking cheap cunts :o)

      1. GrumpenKraut

        Re: The gap year

        Ho hum, that is a bit harsh. I was asked about a measly two month "gap", and my (truthful) answer that I needed a bit of vacation time between jobs was fine for them.

        Shit like "tell us about what type of person you are" will elicit a somewhat unfriendly reply. But no more than "really, this is silly and a waste of everybody's time".

        1. fredesmite2

          Re: The gap year

          " What type of person are you ? "

          Why .. are you going to invite me over for Sunday dinner ?

          1. Bbuckley

            Re: The gap year

            What type of person are you? I'm the dogging type.

        2. ThomH

          Re: The gap year

          Per the rule of "You are a waste of space", I've long ago dropped particularly-specific dates from mine. Nobody's ever going to say "Oh, you worked at BigCorp between June 2012 and April 2015? That's a shame, because we really wanted somebody who'd worked there from March 2012 to January 2015."

          Assuming your two-month gap didn't cross a calendar year, that might do the trick?

          1. GrumpenKraut

            Re: The gap year

            My two-month brake was mid year. Having month-year is expected hereabouts, and I stick to that.

            Btw. if one applies for a state-job (civil servant), they want that *exact* date when you started and ended school, every one of them. Turns out there is no way for me to find out. I did select a plausible date just making sure it was neither Saturday nor Sunday. How could *they* ever verify?

      2. Robert Moore

        Re: The gap year

        "My reply to “what have you been doing” in reference to any gap, would be “none of your fucking business mate""

        Enjoy being unemployed.

        Anyone who responds like that to a simple, legitimate interview question is clearly a jackass, and I do not employ jackasses. I have intervied plenty of people and found that interviews are much more about finding out who the person is, than anything else. That sort of attitude makes it very clear.

        1. Arty Effem

          Re: The gap year

          " I have interviewed plenty of people and found that interviews are much more about finding out who the person is, than anything else. "

          So you're not too worried about incidental factors, like for instance whether they're actually capable of fulfilling the advertised role? Sounds about right for a typical employer.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The gap year

          Some government agencies have particularly strick NDA's. I may or may not have been offered a contract with one of those agencies around the beginning of the period you're enquiring about.

      3. N2

        Re: The gap year

        Thats you out the running then...

        Perhaps I should consider "are you a twat" as a legitamate question?

    2. fajensen

      Re: The gap year

      HR is, in my experience, often too concerned with gaps. I have explained to "our" HR that the person I wanted to hire was working an independent contractor and that contracts expire and when they do, she will have a gap until the next one. This is not "instability", this is life for a lot of those people we need to hire.

      At the interview stage in "my" place, we mostly believe the CV and we really just want to see that the candidate is neither a dick nor a sociopath.

      On gaps, I just want to hear a not-bad, not-red-flag-triggering story. If the applicant has not done much with the gaps, nobody cares, it is just common courtesy and making conversation to either tell the boring truth or make something reasonable and coherent up, a.k.a. Embellishing (A Skill they will need for the progress reporting, if they want to go anywhere near Management later).

      The common sociopath usually drops out by telling stupid lies, because to "it" there is no emotional difference between lies like: "Taking a break as the CFO for the Wallenstein Group", "Leading a secret force fighting ISIS in Bosnia", and "Investing some time in renovating my home and get the ecological, raised bed / victorian, vegetable garden sorted".

    3. fredesmite2

      Re: The gap year

      None of your business is a acceptable answer

  2. tfewster

    Time flies

    Wow, has it really been 10 years since Dom shook us awake with his first series of articles?

    I'm not certain my CV has improved, but I certainly have a better understanding of The Enemy ;-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Time flies

      I knew a manager who, when he received a stack of CVs from the Personnel Department when we were hiring, quickly flicked through the 'Interests and Hobbies' section on each one, and if anyone mentioned supporting a football team he didn't like it went straight in the bin.

      The team he didn't like was one of the two local league teams (he vehemently supported the other).

      And he was allowed to do this, even though Personnel knew about it.

      1. fajensen

        Re: Time flies

        Personnel / HR does not give a shit until there is a risk that someones behaviour might land the company in court.

      2. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        Re: Time flies

        I don't want to work for someone like that. Period.

    2. Writer of this aricle

      Re: Time flies

      The enemy is changing his spots.

  3. b0llchit Silver badge

    Different types don't match well

    Techies are generally looking at the substance of things. They will look at context and details, broad, wide, narrow, specialized, generalized and then some. It is about content, not about the same thing with a new name, again.

    Those who generally read/evaluate a CV are looking at the form of it. They cannot grasp any technical content and do not appreciate the depth and width of knowledge required for someone to be a good techie. Thus, they look at buzzwords and think they can determine the quality of a person by looking at how you format the letters and do not care what is written.

    It is a petty that the non-technical type is more prevalent than the technical type. We, the techies, are a suffering minority.

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

      Re: Different types don't match well

      Alternately, techies are accustomed to looking at one, often narrow perspective, while recruiters and managers are looking at another perspective. It is lamentable that recruiters are forced to look only at the output generated by their context-free keyword search, but what else are they supposed to do? Conversely, the hiring manager is sifting through the dross of people who have followed Dominic's advice and trying to extract meaningful information from an endless series of keywords jammed into the resume or CV. Too often, candidates include every single technology they've ever heard of, only for it to be discovered in the interview process that the closest the candidate has come to, e.g. containers is a Tupperware party ten years ago.

      Thus I would entreat candidates to follow Dominic's advice but only so far as you have actual competence with the skills listed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Different types don't match well

        I had a recent candidate turn up for a technical support electronic engineer role, who claimed he had "worked with RS485 for 10 years", with an electronic engineering degree to his name.

        The lad had fluffed uni, worked in a call centre (not necessarily a bad thing) and had occasionally plugged an RS485-to-USB device into his computer.

        Literally had no idea what RS485 was, couldn't tell me the simplest thing about it.

        I will admit, it got him through the door and it is technically true. But ouch, the interview was difficult.

        1. Sam not the Viking Silver badge

          Re: Different types don't match well

          We had a candidate whose CV claimed a degree in electrical engineering and extensive use in computational software for machine analysis. I was wary at the interview because he seemed rather vague and dismissive of our 'simple' applications. The recruitment agency advised that his background was very sound and was currently in a well-paid but non-stretching job and was looking for something more stimulating.

          Our interview panel decided to employ him (with one abstention..... guess who?).

          I was set to train him in the initial induction period, and immediately it was blindingly apparent that he had no degree, no experience and his electrical knowledge might have spotted an on/off switch. We were encouraged to find a more appropriate position for him within the company but I insisted a person like that was not what a small company could bear.

          No winners in this story.

          1. juice

            Re: Different types don't match well

            As mentioned here previously, I went for a programming-job interview once, but was pipped to the post by someone who had done better at the interview.

            Only to receive a phone call a few weeks later; it turned out that the person they'd hired actually had zero programming skills, but had somehow managed to blag their way through the interview.

            I've never really understood why people do this - I've no doubt that there are jobs where you can blag your way for a year or two, but technical jobs generally require technical skills!

            In another life, I worked for a company which was struggling to fill a technical-support role, not least because the agencies kept sending through anyone who even mentioned a computer on their CV. I ended up throwing together a "jack of all trades" quiz for candidates to respond to - a mix of programming, network and database questions, reflecting the sort of day-to-day issues that you'd have to deal with in that role.

            And all the candidates were given an hour to run through this, and were even allowed to use their phones to help them. Because it was more about how they approached their answers, than what they answered.

            Scarily, a lot of people scored very low on all fronts when it came to this quiz; some just stared blankly and gave up immediately. But we did hire the one person who gave it a good go, and they've done very well in the company ever since!

            1. HereIAmJH

              Re: Different types don't match well

              I occasionally get the 'pleasure' of doing technical interviews for contractors that my team is looking to hire. I'm sure I was an awful person in a previous life, and karma is paying me back.

              Recently we reviewed a couple dozen CVs for an upcoming position. We interviewed a handful. And only found one that had the experience reflected on his CV. Interviewing applicants is like online dating; you find the perfect person, only to find out when you meet them that their profile (CV) was 90% bullshit. Not sure I can continue to live with the disappointment.

              If you find the perfect position and you want to pad your CV with tech that you don't have work experience with, use the Internet. There is probably a YouTube video for everything. Being able to intelligently discuss that tech may not get you the job, but it's better than the stupid look on your face while you try to figure out a response to a question that you know nothing about.

              1. martinusher Silver badge

                Re: Different types don't match well

                Regrettably all too often what you are interviewing is a person who's primary job skill is writing CVs.

                FWIW, I once hired a guy who was by far the worst CV writer I had ever come across (small company, no HR filter -- fortunately). I interviewed him because nobody could deliberately be that bad CV writing and inside all the crud you could see that he had some idea about software. It turned out that his primary job skill was programming, something he was very, very, good at.

                Over the years I've done quite well out of the 'reject' pile.

                1. Ken G Silver badge

                  Re: Different types don't match well

                  Object Oriented CV()?

              2. Ace2 Silver badge

                Re: Different types don't match well

                “Being able to intelligently discuss” - I find that the questions I know nothing about are the easy ones. Ask me about X, I’ll say I know nothing about X, but can you explain it to me? In a few minutes it will be clear that I can rapidly learn to understand anything that you can possibly throw at me. (And I’ll get a job offer out of it.)

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Different types don't match well

              That rings some bells.

              I had to interview a 'prime candidate' for job that we didn't really need to fill. It didn't even exist until they decide to fill it!

              He was totally unsuitable. He had a relevant academic qualification, admittedly (pharmacist), but he lived 200 miles away and he and his wife had a launderette there (I kid you not). He planned to commute at least twice a week - which turned into at least twice a week more. He hadn't a clue about what we did - he was just 'a pharmacist' and we were a pharmaceutical manufacturer.

              I reported this back to my superiors, but they went ahead and hired him anyway. They'd already decided to do so even before the interview, but I never got to the bottom of why.

              Once he was in, he reported to me. He ended up spending 90% of his time at his desk actually asleep. I asked him more than once if he had an illness or sleep disorder, which he denied. He was on a high salary, as well.

              One time, he couldn't get to work because he'd run into a deer on the M25 at 4am one morning, and it was embedded in his radiator.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Different types don't match well

                I reported this back to my superiors, but they went ahead and hired him anyway. They'd already decided to do so even before the interview, but I never got to the bottom of why.

                Maybe he was the person responsible for regulatory compliance, even if he does not yet know it?

                I knew someone, a smart and ambitious person, who was hired right out of university as the "Head of Operations", with a very good compensation package, by a now rather infamous chemical plant. Infamous, because it turned out that they were burying their most toxic waste in steel drums on two of their sites instead of disposing of it.

                The owners and crooks basically needed "A Name, that was not theirs on the paperwork". Both of the crooks were officially working as "Head of Engineering" and "Head of Sales", running a shadow organisation for the real "Operations" through a few minions.

                PS -

                The rat was smelled and the person left after only a few months in the job, dodging a bullet. The governments involved have recently finished the cleanup at the last site, it took 30 years to do.

                Both crooks and some of the minions went to jail and were bankrupted by court proceedings over the liver cancer cases that they probably caused. If the crooks had hired a less ambitious person as the front, the plan might have worked.

            3. el_oscuro

              Re: Different types don't match well

              I typically interview people for senior DBA positions. And to me, the number one job of any DBA is knowing how to backup databases - and restore from those backups.

              Typically I just listen in on the interview while the other DBA's conduct it. But I always ask one question: Have you ever had to restore a database from your backups and if so, please describe how you did it.

              This is a totally free form question - there are many ways this can be done. But for all of the senior DBA positions I think maybe one has even attempted to anwser that question.

            4. Arty Effem

              Re: Different types don't match well

              "Only to receive a phone call a few weeks later; it turned out that the person they'd hired actually had zero programming skills, but had somehow managed to blag their way through the interview."

              If you're smart, that's the first thing that should concern you; if you're really smart it'll also be the last.

          2. martinusher Silver badge

            Re: Different types don't match well

            >and immediately it was blindingly apparent that he had no degree, no experience and his electrical knowledge

            Telling outright lies on a CV/resume is a good reason to fire someone.

            1. fajensen

              Re: Different types don't match well

              Telling outright lies on a CV/resume is a good reason to fire someone.

              Except that means admitting that the recruitment failed. Management in 2021 doesn't like to know about bad things, like that something business process failed. Surprisingly often there will be a settlement: The miscreant get a nice lump sum in return for signing an NDA. Probably one could make a career of it.

              The story "upwards" will be that there were some allegations made of inappropriate behaviour and the issue was closed with the help of "Legal". Nobody in the "upwards" will want to know specific details of any inappropriateness, because that could make them responsible for something, this is not what they do.

  4. IceC0ld

    my CV IS the classic add the last position to the top, and if it goes over the two page limit, delete the last one in the list ................

    but I am not after code / programming work, I am the basic 2nd 3rd line support guy, happy to help out, and stay late to complete a call

    but even I, after reading this, will look upon my CV with fresh eyes, and attempt to add in the buzzwords I have picked up

    sadly, however, I do not believe the additon of BS / arsewipe / ffs, you did WHAT ! will be of any real use, I shall, however, report back when next I am trying to secure funded emplyment :o)

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Yep, used to do that

      but one HR numpty insisted on going back to what I did at school (I was 50 years old at the time) and why I left at 15, why I didn't go to Uni and a load of crap like that.

      I had missed off some things from my CV that were not relevant to the job I was being interviewed for.

      She didn't like that one little bit. Her job was to filter the 'wheat from the chaff' and 'not to waste the managers time'.

      After an hour, I just got up and walked out with the words,

      "If this is the sort of interview that is typical for this company, I really don't want to work here".

      Three weeks later I was back as a contractor.

      That is all history as I'm retired but I still get the odd call from an agency asking for an up to date CV.

      They can pound sand for all I'm concerned.

      1. Writer of this aricle

        Re: Yep, used to do that

        Sometimes the HR interview can give a good insight into company culture and even help you avoid the worst ones.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Yep, used to do that

          Went for a gig - a "HR" Interview after two tech interviews meant they offered me the job, and I declined.

          Ask me as much techie stuff as you like, make sure I can do the gig but HR interviews are 100% red flag.

          HR should file the paperwork, not ask me questions beyond the need to know basis - which is my name , and legal right to work in the UK. Beyond that, I want my invoice paid on time, and that is an end to my engagement with "corporate".

          Since I turned them, down I've had recruiters try to entice me to interview with them again twice now, a year or so apart.

          Shame really as the techie people seemed nice, I liked the choice of questions as a decent range of expertise, and crucially lots of little tricks which would catch out the unwary, but not trouble an old hand (Senior role). You had to produce an AMI using a broken base image and write a small application atop the new AMI - they added an alias to the shell of the broken base image.

          alias ls="rm -rf" which made me chuckle.

          Sneaky buggers added a race condition that you'd have to spot to pass but all questions were related to the professional expertise required, so I had high hopes of them after the technical interviews.

          Over the course of some twenty minutes, this person made it very clear, this was their kingdom and all subjects should show proper deference.

          1. ecofeco Silver badge

            Re: Yep, used to do that

            It never ceases to amaze me how many companies sabotage themselves.

        2. ecofeco Silver badge

          Re: Yep, used to do that

          Sometimes? :)

    2. adam 40 Silver badge

      Add the latest to the top but don't delete anything

      My CV is similar, but screw any 2-page limit.

      All the jobs go on, and stay on, back to Uni working as a research assistant.

      My CV breaks all the rules set out by HR's, recruiters, etc etc.

      It started out as plain html so it can be clicked around online, but editing that was a faff so I now edit it in word.

      In my 36 year career (so far) I have been out of work for 6 weeks, and well paid to boot, including 20-odd years contracting during the juicy 90's and noughties.

      So screw your CV advice, I do it my way. And it works.

      1. Joe 59

        Re: Add the latest to the top but don't delete anything

        Your CV at 2+ pages isn't a bad thing. The AI and grep will reach into the 3rd and 5th pages just fine, and the hiring manager will flip to subsequent pages because they're curious. And if they're not curious, they'll find what they need on the first pages.

        In all my time hiring engineers, the substance is what matters. I built this. I materially contributed to that. I earned this, I earned that. I contributed to this, I authored that.

        It's the resumes where the applicant did the bare minimum that I toss in the trash. Oh, you wrote Web Chess in college? Big fucking deal. I'm hiring the guy who wrote a game engine in college to make his absolutely terrible top-down combat easier to make, or the woman who wrote a mobile app to track the fishing seasons and limits, not the kid who can't do more than the bare minimum.

        Unfortunately, my son is now one of those kids doing the bare minimum. Drives me nuts, but he simply believes he's too good to take up the mantle fixing bugs for some random open source project. He needs his weekends, after all, minecraft isn't going to play itself.

      2. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: Add the latest to the top but don't delete anything

        If you're skilled enough - and well known -- then your resume is unimportant. The last job I was hired into happened in such a random way that I didn't submit a resume or even a formal application. They happened after the fact to keep HR's paperwork in order.

        Most of the time, though, you've got to play the game. One job I was hired into about 30 years ago turned out to be a key position in a struggling company which required some technical expertise to stabilize the development. I was hired as a result of an active search where a recruiter identified likely candidates and then laid enough of a trail of seed corn to entice a suitable one into the position. As a technical lead I inherited a filing cabinet full of paperwork, which months later included a resume I'd sent into the company which had obviously been roundfiled. An important lesson.

        1. el_oscuro

          Re: Add the latest to the top but don't delete anything

          I'm famous like that - and have had a well known nickname for the last 25 years. The last time I actually used a resume was in 1998 - and I didn't take that job.

          That story about my resume in 1998 goes way up on the weird shit-o-meter. Several years prior to that, I met my future wife while we were in the Army and she recounted an exercise she was on called "Team Spirit". Every time she was on the base where they had the exercise she had weird premonitions where it seemed like something terrible was going to happen there.

          So fast forward to 1998 and my contract has expired. I had interviewed with a consulting firm and they had made me an excellent offer. The comment from the client was "if he is half as good as his resume, he will do fine here". Meanwhile my former project manager who worked for Oracle wanted me on a new contract they were starting up. So I had a 2 minute phone interview and Oracle Fed-Exed my offer to me the following morning. That same morning, my girl friend told me she was pregnant with my first child. With obviously a lot more influence in my life now, we discussed the 2 offers I had. She said: "Remember that premonition I had during Team Spirit? I think you should take the Oracle offer instead".

          So I listened to her and took the Oracle offer. Had I not listened to her, I would have been in the Pentagon on 9/11.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Add the latest to the top but don't delete anything

        I have a PDF CV generated with latex, as I got sick of faffing in open office.

        Add a new section named appropriately in correct directory and run make - hey presto PDF.

        It also works very nicely with the basic pdf2text that people seem to be using in recruitment when sucking CV's off the job boards.

        I am somewhere in the middle, all jobs stay on. Tech is described with level of expertise, and listed on the back.

        I think it's a filter, people either like your skills and experience or not.

        On the other side of the table, I mainly talk to people about the work I want them to do after skimming the CV - but I've only ever hired technical people within S/W dev or Infra. So it's a more collegiate process, if you can do the job - I'll recommend your hire - at any age - see for details of short sighted ageist idiots.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm not sure about you chaps but if getting the job I'm interested in involves a blind application to some minimum-wage-and-commission 22 year old doing the initial sift & screen, rather than a brew with the prospective hiring manager, it's probably not a job I'd really want to take! Sterling advice otherwise.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I might be interested in a technical job, and I might be ideal for it, but if the company uses either artificial ignorance or non-technical people in the hiring chain, and as a result fails to correctly interpret my clear and non-hyped CV, then it's their loss, not mine.

      1. low_resolution_foxxes

        In my experience, HR seem to think that any engineer can perform any engineering role.

        I suppose asking them to evaluate the merits of C++ vs transistor design is a tad unfair. It's all "engineering" really!

    2. Muppet Boss

      >a brew with the prospective hiring manager

      Agree, passing through the HR defences right to business should be a no-brainer after a couple of years. In fact, for a reasonably skilled professional, the demand these days far exceeds supply.

      Also, if the recruiter has no clue that "I-can-do-it-all" candidates usually turn out to be "I watched how they do it on Youtube" kinds then is it really the right company to work for?

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      If only we all had that kind of opportunity.

  6. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Unfortunately, very true

    Many moons ago I had to assist in the hiring of my replacement when I moved on from a highly specialised systems engineering contract. There were over 100 applications for the position, but I got to see only eight as the rest had been filtered out by an entirely non-technical administrator. One of the eight should never have got through as it was incoherent, vague about the applicant's skills and full of irrelevant lifestyle detail, and none of the rest stood out as particularly fitted to the wide scope of the job. They finally hired two of the seven, pretty much picked at random as far as I could see.

    The persistent myth we still fall for is that employers seek exceptional people. They don't - they seek ordinary people with minimally adequate skills that come cheap and won't rock the boat. And, with very few exceptions, agents seek the least effort way to earn their commission, hence all the automation between you and anyone you can actually speak to. Einstein would never get a job, even in the patent office, these days.

    1. GrumpenKraut

      Re: Unfortunately, very true

      > Einstein would never get a job, even in the patent office, these days.

      Neither would he get funding for research. Due to essentially the same reasons.

      1. Writer of this aricle

        Re: Unfortunately, very true

        Einstein was actually turned down for a job teaching school level physics.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Unfortunately, very true

          Well, he did rock the boat.

          Would we know of him if had got the job?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Unfortunately, very true

      "they seek ordinary people with minimally adequate skills that come cheap and won't rock the boat"

      ^ that is so true. A long time ago I was once working as a student alongside some equipment that 2 on-site service guys had spent 3 days trying to fix without any progress. I noticed while wandering past that they had used a particular brand of PC to drive it, which had an updated controller for ye olde PCI card that interfaced the machine. That evening I swapped out the machine for an older one, fired it up and had it running in 10 minutes. I spoke to the engineers the next day when they came in to find the machine running fine and asked them if this would pass for an interview test as I needed a job. They laughed at me and left. I guess they enjoyed paying their guys not to fix machines.

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Unfortunately, very true

      They don't - they seek ordinary people with minimally adequate skills that come cheap and won't rock the boat.


    4. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Unfortunately, very true

      Employers, especially in smaller companies, are also looking for someone they'd like to work with.

      I'm pretty sure part of the reason I got my current job was because I share a sense of humour with my boss, and we've not hired people just because they annoyed everyone in the office.

      There's not any way to prepare for that sort of selection though.

      1. Tim99 Silver badge

        Re: Unfortunately, very true

        About 50 years ago I was a Scientific Civil Servant. After doing the job for a while I was trained to interview applicants, and was told a great truth: Most interviewers make up their mind about a candidate in <45 seconds, they then spend the next 45 minutes reinforcing their opinion. I left the job before I had to interview anyone.

        1. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

          Re: Unfortunately, very true

          $5 seconds is if anything longer.

    5. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

      Re: Unfortunately, very true

      That's harsh, but fair.

      also know that when Einstein applied to be a teacher they turned him down flat.

  7. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Very interesting article. I would add a tip, perhaps more valid my side of the Channel: make the CV concise, everything should be contained on one page. It demonstrates ability for clarity, capacity of synthesis and make the work of the recruiter easier. Also avoid fancy and flashy layouts, unless you apply for graphic designer. The IT folk is expected to be rigorous, organized and efficient.

    I’m a C++ programmer, I’ve done VB for money

    You confessed your sin, it's a good start. A fault confessed is a half redressed.^^

    1. Dave 15

      I do c and c++ but I am at least honest enough to admit both are crap for gui heavy windoze programming, vb is perfect for that. I am not some sort of language snob, computers, operating systems and languages are just tools to help get a job done, no more and no less. I don't care if the spanner I use on my car is built by X or Y or out of this or that, if it fits and is tough enough to turn the nut then it's the spanner for the job

      1. Potemkine! Silver badge

        c++ but I am at least honest enough to admit both are crap for gui heavy windoze programming

        BS. You should have a look to MFC or Qt for instance, at least if you build applications a little more complex than notepad (which is probably done in C++ anyway).

        VB is for making fast crap apps. Making commercial applications with it is an heresy, unless you don't gtve a fuck about your customer.

        1. jotheberlock

          I'm sorry, MFC?! That was terrible back in 1998 let alone now.

          Qt I'll give you.

          1. FIA Silver badge

            MFC... I can feel the stress dreams coming on again....

            "Here's a framework for writing Word... what? You're not writing Word.... well... erm... good luck??"

          2. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

            *Many* years ago, MSFT took me out to dinner in Nice and the head honcho went round the table introducing the people as I buttered a bread role.

            He then pointed to a bloke saying he'd done AFC, wheels whirred in my head and I said MFC ? with *perhaps* just a little too much emphasis and my hands stopped moving as I looked at him.

            "Put the knife down Dominic" was the next thing said.

            Be clear that I did not want a fellow C++ developer stabbed, honest, but I take satisfaction in the small moment when he felt fear.

            1. dotdavid

              "I buttered a bread role"

              Is that some kind of recruitment slang for making a job sound better than it really is?

    2. Dave 15

      Vb, c, cOO, fortran....

      I ha e used many languages (even ratfor and Cobol) in my time but I still like to use c and proper c arrays and function pointers etc etc etc none of which gets past clang which seems to think I am a 10 year old who needs to use the latest stupidity coming from modern c++ which will render the code unintelligible and slow

      1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

        Re: Vb, c, cOO, fortran....

        I pride myself on being able to write Fortran in any language.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Efficiency is turning up to the interview with your rucksack and asking where the server room is.

      I have done this with one of my longest standing clients.

      I rocked up to help a friend (who was working there at the time) with some network planning...but a fire had broken out an hour before I arrived in the comms room. Sysadmin and techies had their heads in their hands crapping themselves. The fire was out but nobody was doing anything.

      Had all my kit with me so I waded in, had them back up and running within 2 hours, then I had my meeting with my buddy and the CEO about networking, CEO was blown away by the repair in the Comms room and just hired me then and there without discussion, top bloke. The "engineering team" was eventually chipped away and I now stand in its place and I have been for 10 years.

      Literal trial by fire.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        The best CV is one that's never written because it doesn't need to be.

      2. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

        Had a guy do that for me. *bad* things had happened at a firm where I was Head of IT, I was far far away and I instructed the head of operations to meet him with a complete set of password, despite no one in the bank having even met him before.

        That's a very short list of people.

      3. veti Silver badge

        That's great, but what is going to happen when you get bored enough to move on?

      4. el_oscuro

        I kind of had something like that. The first time I logged into an Oracle production database was to restore it - after Oracle support's top recovery consultant said it was unrecoverable. According to the Oracle6 documentation, he was correct. The client was performing online backups incorrectly. They were set to lose 2 years of data.

        This was on someone else's system, and I had never seen the O/S, much less performed any recovery operations on it. But since their online backups were no good, I started asking other questions like whether they had exports or had maybe taken a backup when the database was down.

        Turns out the operator had taken a full backup of the system after the original crash and we used that for full recovery.

        But even if they hadn't taken that backup, it was still recoverable. You just needed to install the (then new) Oracle7 which had new features to allow recovery in this scenario.

        Why Oracle's "Fireman of the Year" didn't ask questions like this, nor knew of the new features of Oracle7 is still something I don't understand.

  8. MrMerrymaker

    Tech CVs might not be understood

    Touched on in the article for sure, but the keyword obsession by the tech-illiterate is worth remembering.

    You must be dreaming if you think the first eyes to scan your CV are one's homed in a skull that understands anything technical.

    So it is sadly necessary to be fairly exhaustive - mention what you used, and why, and to what result.

    Also. Cover letters. These separate you from the illiterati.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Tech CVs might not be understood

      Fairly exhaustive, yes. But I'm still trying to work out why a job application five years ago was insistent on knowing my school results from 1976...

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: Tech CVs might not be understood

        I had one where they wanted references & validation of my HNC (Despite passing the course, they got it into their heads that I hadn't completed it) from my college, despite the fact that most if not all of the lecturers, were on a small island off of Europe not North America & highly unlikely to be still drawing breath.

        Fortunately another job offer came along, after being left in limbo for 4 - 5 weeks past my original start date & by now with no employment. When they finally came up with one having decided that they needed me to be earning the money for them (As an agency) rather than labouring the point between me, them & the client.

        I took great joy in telling them no thanks I have found a better role with no commuting, they countered with (Eventually) that the b/g checks were likely to take as long as theirs, I'd be better off with them & they would increase my hourly rate for my inconvenience.

        Even more great joy was had by telling them that the b/g checks were already completed & I was starting on Monday (The same start date they had finally managed to finalise with the client).

      2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

        Re: Tech CVs might not be understood

        Also, if you're applying for jobs in a foreign country with a minimum expectation of a qualification that you don't (or can't) have because you were educated elsewhere (looking at you, France, with your "BAC+5"), bury it in white text on white background somewhere on the page so that it gets picked up by the scanning software but is invisible otherwise.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: knowing my school results from 1976

        Or in my case, 1969. I bunked off my last day at school to watch the moon landings. Then I played 'I'm Free' by 'The Who' at full volume just to annoy a teacher who lived next door but one.

        School was a place to escape from ASAP as far as I was concerned.

      4. Oneman2Many

        Re: Tech CVs might not be understood

        Because the company has a global policy regardless of the position. Personally unless its something outstanding of academic research then 5 years of actual work experience > degree.

        1. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

          Re: Tech CVs might not be understood

          I wish it were true what you say, but sadly often is it not

  9. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    What really gets my goat...

    ...are those sites where they ask you to upload your CV, and then you have to retype the whole lot again in their own format (or worse, have to correct a form that they've attempted to auto-fill from your CV). I guess it's a way of filtering out those who don't have a capacity for pointless additional work...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What really gets my goat...

      That's exactly what happened in my last job application a few months back.

      My CV is very simple and clean, clear section headers, no tables or anything fancy etc.

      System: Please upload CV

      Me: I upload.

      System: Importing.....

      Me: See's result of import, with text in the wrong places, such as specific roles, being under completely the wrong client!

      Me: Spends next hour or so, copy/cutting/pasting text around, to get everything back in the right order!

      Would have been simpler and quicker if they'd have just asked for a section of info at a time, and just let me enter it myself!

      Still got the job though :-D

      1. DJV Silver badge

        Re: What really gets my goat...

        Was the first task they gave you rewriting their crappy CV import system?

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

          Re: What really gets my goat...

          There have been times, when the import\correction process has simply been a case of "Sod this for a game of soldiers!"*.

          *Dependent on how badly I needed employment.

    2. ciaran

      Re: What really gets my goat...

      I got a recruiter on Linkedin asking for my CV. I thought LinkedIn WAS my CV!

      Surely all recruiters have LinkedIn scrapers to autofill any and all application forms?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What really gets my goat...

        Why let LinkedIn or Google scrape all your private data?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: What really gets my goat...

          I hibernated my LinkedIn profile a month ago and my life has changed... not one bit.

          True story.

      2. fajensen

        Re: What really gets my goat...

        I find that not having the entire CV and a "completed profile" on LinkedIn and just having a "branding text" with a few key attributes / skills works better: Apparently, the recruiting people gets curious and ask questions about the real CV, I don't have to maintain the profile, I get to adjust the CV the recruiter gets before they get it.

    3. adam 40 Silver badge

      Re: What really gets my goat...

      I had a recruiter reformat my CV and (unknown to me) he had changed 1/2 years Java experience to 12 years!

      I went for the interview, all went well, and they hired me, as a well-paid Java developer. So then I had to teach myself Java on the job (coming from C and some C++ not too tricky).

      I wondered for quite a while why I got the job in the first place, this being a Massachusetts company they were not allowed by law to distribute your CV around the company or refer to it ever again, so the mistake was never noticed, until much later when the company closed down.

      The ironic part was that the recruiter was related to the CEO, and was creaming the fees, so I suppose they got payback for the nepotism! I did a good job there though....

      1. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: What really gets my goat...

        This sounds familiar. I had someone do this with my CV for an insurer in London. Came to the interview, went through the CV during it, got asked some odd questions about the CV. When I asked to see it and recognised what'd happened, I was honest and told them that the CV had been altered and that it did not reflect reality. I passed them *my* copy.

        Needless to say, the job was a bust, and so was that recruiter. I don't know whether the insurer ever accepted any new referrals from them or not, but at least I felt ok about the insurer's decision given that they'd clearly been led on and it's not fair on either them or myself.

    4. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: What really gets my goat...

      I don't even bother any more. Neither the machine nor a human can read my CV? And I want to work with that incompetency, why?

  10. DailyLlama

    Another important thing to remember...

    Is to omit anything you don't want anything to do with ever again. For example, there's a particular Print Management software (Safecom) that I never ever want to touch again, even with your hands, so it's not listed on my CV, and never will be.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Another important thing to remember...

      I realised this a while back, but I realised this a few years too late and I couldn't stop SQL snowballing into a huge part of my job. What a horrendous mistake that was.

    2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: Another important thing to remember...


      That "thing you don't want to do ever again" might end up being the reason they hire you. And, it might get better from there.

      // Token Ring, in my case

      // Transferred to a network switch group

  11. SecretSonOfHG


    I've a close relative that is starting to drift into long term unemployment territory, while I've switched jobs twice in the last five years, always improving pay scale, quality of life, and fun while working. A month or so ago he asked me how could it be that I keep getting job offers without even trying or actively doing anything while he was not being offered nothing above entry level work, if at all. I took a look as his online CV and discovered most of the flaws mentioned in this article: no keywords, no tailoring for what he wanted, missing concrete deliverables and achievements... and pointed him to them.

    But this is a much better articulated and exhaustive summary than I ever would be able/willing to do. So I'm forwarding him a link to this article.

  12. Bogbody

    Pointless applications

    10 years ago in the previous sub-prime crash I found my-self in need of a new job :-)

    I rapidly discovered that..

    Listing O and A levels showed that I was "too old".

    A Physics degree counted for nothing.

    Jobs that were paying £15 an hour suddenly became minimum wage.

    My 10 years of managment experience was ignored.

    I applied for one Civil Service job - didn't get it because I didn't speak the CS lingo. I made a second attempt and discovered that out of 350+ applicants 3 might get their CV selected and forwarded to the relevant department - 1 (yes 1) might get an interview. A third application that I was preparing went in the bin :-)

    It took 13 months and one false start to get a proper job. I'm still not a manager because I'm useless at it and I no longer want the hassle. :-)

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Pointless applications

      All of the above... and even worse, if one is looking at coming out of (blissful) redundancy from a high stress project management job to one's original training; electronics and microcontroller design/software, after completing a late-life Master's degree.

      Pointed questions were asked about 'did you graduate from Cambridge or Oxford?' (neither, thanks!) and the whole concept of looking for a few grand less than you were previously earning - despite the fact that I demonstrably did not have the skills and requirements being sought at those salary levels, mainly due to not having practiced in it for twenty years other than on an ad-hoc basis, i.e. without a formal position/job title.

      I ended up taking a one month minimum salary gig doing board-level fault finding just to get a foot in the door... and inside a fortnight parleyed that into a five-year contracting job at significantly better rates (though not as good as I had earned as a PM). More fun, adequate money, less stress. Bit of a win all round.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just like the last guy

    I'm an IT architect. I have the skills around it but that's the core of what I do. Recruiters and companies love having architects now. Usually they're developers who got promoted past team lead and aren't suitable for management but need a pay increase (and title bump) to keep them. Then they leave and there's a job ad for a chief architect or sometimes enterprise architect.

    Must have over 10 years experience (is that all?), must know python and javascript (hang on?), experience administering linux (as it happens, but why is that relevant?), willing to be on call out of hours (wtf?). That was one jobspec I was sent last year. Another was a good match for my experience but the guy who was rolling off the job was in the interview and he was the shouty "the customer is an idiot" type and expected a replacement who shared his personal style.

    No, I don't know how to do recruiting properly either, but at least I don't claim to be a professional at it.

  14. hammarbtyp

    CV's top tips

    Recently I've turned gamekeeper from poacher and I have had to review a number of CV's for an embedded software position. Generally most are pretty awful and it takes a long time to filter the information, so these are my top tips

    1. Keep it simple - I know the issues of trying to get past the guard droids, but adding every acronym under the sun in the hope something sticks will not impress, and just makes my job harder. I want to know what work you did, not that you know VB6,RS232,TCPv4,X.25 etc. Add those to an appendix at the bottom. Do not use fancy fonts, weird colour backgrounds or large images of yourself (actually any image at all, I really don't care what you look like)

    2. Keep it sparse - Again cramming information in small font just to sound impressive will not help me work out whether you are the right person for the job. I am trying to justify whether to take you to the next stage, if you add too much the information gets lost in the noise

    3.Keep it relevant - I do not need to know that you worked for Tesco at the age of 16 unless it was to develop their POS system

    4.Keep it professional - I am looking for a potential employee, not a best friend. Personal jokes and anecdotes don't really sit well

    5.keep it brief - 20 page essays may look to you impressive, but to me it is just hard work

    6.Be prepared to stand by what you put on the CV - we all exaggerate on our CV's a bit. However outright lies are remarkable easy to spot and in the interview process you will get interrogated about them.

    7. Target the job - this is my biggest recommendation. Do not write one CV and use it for all jobs. Look at what the job is asking for and write your CV to address that. A covering letter indicating why you are interested in the job, and why you feel you are appropriate is also good, because it shows you have researched the company and role and are likely to hang around more than 3 months if offered the job

    1. Warm Braw

      Re: CV's top tips

      The (apparently irresoluble) problem is that a CV that passes the "guard droids" is unlikely to be the one that impresses the hiring manager. But even if you could submit two, there's usually little basis on which a candidate might reasonably tailor them.

      You might want to see a sparse CV. You might know what you are looking for. The guard droid, however, is looking to tick boxes and most job advertisements don't actually indicate which boxes need ticking. You might not care that someone worked for Tesco at 16, but another employer will require a full employment history: the applicant can't be expected to intuit your personal preference. You might want it brief, but it's unusual these days if an IT job applicant hasn't had a significant number of previous employers - just listing them in a readable font can take up a lot of space.

      Recruitment has become a numbers game. Recruiters get a lot of CVs - that's why they outsource the filtering - but the flip side of that is that candidates have to apply for a lot of jobs to stand a reasonable chance of getting past the first hurdle. They're not going to "target the job" because they don't care about "the" job, they care about "a" job and the sad truth is they're going to have to use a scattergun approach to getting one.

      Hiring is almost completely broken and the more "professionals" that get involved the more broken it becomes. There needs to be much more honesty and openness about the reality of the job on offer: it's almost certainly mundane and tedious and likely needs less skill than the hiring manager thinks his status warrants. Candidates need to be more honest about simply wanting a salary and not caring who they're working for (within reason). The whole process needs to be less delusional.

      1. Steve K
        Thumb Up

        Re: CV's top tips

        They're not going to "target the job" because they don't care about "the" job, they care about "a" job

        Well said! I'm not sure how anyone can be "passionate" about most jobs or companies as implied by the crap posted on LinkedIn seems to indicate.

        It's not as if you would be applying for these roles/companies if you didn't need a job to pay the bills, is it....

        1. mmccul

          Re: CV's top tips

          Last time (many years ago) I was interviewing for jobs, I got asked why I wanted a given job, and I told the recruiter they needed to convince me I should take the job, I was interviewing them at least as much as they were interviewing me.

          Yes, I was offered the position.

      2. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: CV's top tips

        > Candidates need to be more honest about simply wanting a salary and not caring who they're working for (within reason). The whole process needs to be less delusional.

        Reminds me of this classic cartoon:

      3. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

        Re: CV's top tips

        Yes it is hard and this article is the flat text variant of my occasional CV surgeries, or the "Dominic Connor, Live and Uncut" career standup.

      4. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: CV's top tips

        "You might want to see a sparse CV. You might know what you are looking for. The guard droid, however, is looking to tick boxes and most job advertisements don't actually indicate which boxes need ticking. " etc.

        Perhaps the solution is to specify what sort of CV you want to see, both to the guard droid (to whom it should be made clear their own job is on the line if they don't follow it) and in the job ad.

        1. fajensen

          Re: CV's top tips

          Hahahahaaa - To ensure the quality of the recruitment process, the Guard Droids are very well paid recruitment agencies (and actual robots) and because they are very well paid they are also:

          1) Very good at what they do(*) and,

          2) Signing them on is done at a high level up in the monkey-tree

          3) Those higher up in the monkey-tree never makes mistakes!

          Piss-ants like anyone who knows what is going on in the business and what it needs, just have no business telling great leadership what to do. All good ideas comes from "their club" but really, they don't want to know because if they know then they might have a problem and that's not how they roll, after all, all this hands-on and knowing stuff is what put Kenneth Lay in jail!!

          *) Very good at getting paid very well. It is a skill, actually.

      5. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: CV's top tips

        Ironically, it was the CV (and some of its arcana) that intrigued the scientist who interviewed me for a position, only to then call my recruiter to tell him he'd recommend me for a different position altogether (on a similar pay scale). They didn't know what I'd done before; the job title I'd had at the last job was utterly non-descriptive to be fair. So, they started rootling around, asked things about Internet technologies (after they'd spotted BSD and Linux in the skill set) and it evolved from there. It was one of the most amazing, entertaining, and exhilarating interviews I'd ever had, and after a tour of the facility, I was sold.

        It was a match made in... heaven (pardon the pun) and it resulted in some really fun times in the science field.

    2. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

      Re: CV's top tips

      Had a couple of job interviews recently, stressing my desire to stay in the area & not dashing off for bigger bucks further afield

      Especially where one job was paying about 15 bucks below market rates & expected everything from website management, AD, various user issues, on call 24/7 etc, I did tell them that if you're going to pitch it that low, you are going to get monkeys or someone who will be high-tailing it up to the big city first chance they get.

      They did counter with what would be the minimum i could could work with, but I guess they found a monkey after all.

    3. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: CV's top tips

      These are good points, but a few of them are difficult or even infeasible. Keeping it sparse and brief are probably the hardest ones, because both weaken the stated credentials. By listing a bunch of things with which I have experience, not only am I likely to make it through a nontechnical scanning stage, but I can make a point to the person in your position that I have more than just what you need. If I'm applying for a job which wants C/C++ experience, then I'll be listing that, but it's also helpful to ensure they know that I know a variety of other languages. Not necessarily because they'll need them, but to prove that I have experience in useful things and didn't just take a C++ course.

      Similarly, I've tried the tactic of condensing every relevant job I've done so I can shove them all onto the bottom of the page. It involves chopping a lot of detail about what I did there, which is part of what I hope will argue for my credentials. I can't start skipping things as then it will look like I have gaps in my history that I don't want to talk about.

      1. hammarbtyp

        Re: CV's top tips


        I agree the biggest issue is that you have to meet multiple audiences, all who have different expectations. I can only go on what I look for in a CV, and that may well be different from those who do the initial filtering.

        It is a bit like good design. A good CV is difficult to describe, but you know it when you see it. It is also possible that I miss some good candidates due to the HR front end not knowing what we are looking for.

        and to be honest, as a developer, I am not so interested in what languages you know, rather your ability to fit in with the team, be a good problem solver, and can grow with the role. Unfortunately these soft skills are very hard to quantify on 2 pages of A4, and are unlikely to be picked up by HR anyway.

        The only solution I can think of is that we cut the initial layers out altogether and let the people at the coal face do the filtering.

  15. sandman


    Let's assume you've done all of the things mentioned in the article and your CV has been passed on to the employer. You're one of three who've made the cut, you've all got similar experience and qualifications, what else can elevate you above the competition. Here's where pure randomness comes in to play. I got one job because I put Formula I in the interests section of the CV, seriously, my future manager turned out to be an absolute F1 nut. Of course, I don't know how many other prospective people were completely revolted by the mere idea. ;-)

  16. Julz


    Would perhaps be more inclined to tart up and preen my CV in the way described if the job advertisements were equally polished and truthful. Most are incoherent bullshit about the company and how caring they might be. Littered with lists of alphabet soup requirements and are generally untruthful. The whole process is flawed at a fundamental level, of which recruitment agencies are the biggest, but not only, contributing culprits. More truthfulness and down to earth acceptance of the realities of life in the processes would help a great deal

  17. steviebuk Silver badge

    You also have to start not giving a shit if you don't get the role

    Why do I say that? Because I suffer from anxiety and hate interviews. I'm shit in interviews. One I went for I was just desperate to get out of the NHS. Turned out both managers that interviewed me were really nice.

    Long story short. Once I'd been in a year was talking to one of them when they were looking for IT manager replacement. One of the applicants walked out after being told there was a short test. She said "What they don't realise is we don't solely take into account the test, we look to see if they'll fit the team as well". I did suggest some people just panic so maybe that's why he walked.

    Also over the years I've seen people get roles they shouldn't have. I've seen an engineer get a role at the NHS only for HR to state "That's not policy or potentially legal. You have to put it out for interviews" so they did. Wasted everyone's time that applied because they were going to fudge the results so they could just choose the engineer they'd already given the role to. Interviews were only done to shut HR up. So sometimes, its not because you were bad in the interview, its because they either already have someone in mind and just going through the ropes or they are scamming the system to get rid of you so they can replace you with someone cheaper.

    I had the unfortunate job of checking over CVs at one job. I was only an engineer but the place was desperate, they'd fired the shit IT manager with no replacement so I had to help out in some areas, one was just checking over CVs. Because they were bringing in a temp engineer and the head of IT was mainly an accountant and not IT (although still a really nice person). When I was looking them all over I felt really guilty while reading them thinking "You're a chef, not choosing you. You have no experience, not choosing you". I asked her after how she copes. Told her about my anxiety and how I hate applying for jobs because always feel no one is going to give me a chance. She just said "You get used to it and learn to ignore the emotions, its not personal".

    1. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: You also have to start not giving a shit if you don't get the role

      Also forgot to say, the job where both managers in the interview ended up being really nice was the job where I just started to not give a fuck if I got it or not. I knew I was good, if they didn't see it, their loss. Thankfully I got it.

    2. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

      Re: You also have to start not giving a shit if you don't get the role

      Yes, not looking desperate is important, will try to remember to put it in my next piece.

  18. VTAMguy

    Older applicants

    "If you reckon the hiring process might prune older applicants.."

    At least in the U.S., it's not might, it's pretty much automatic, and they are very diligent about not considering older folks at all, despite years of relevant experience while still retaining a legal veneer to protect them (sometimes) from lawsuits. IBM regularly tries to get rid of older workers. It all gives lie to the idea that they want the "best" candidates - they don't, they want candidates like them, that aren't too threatening technically, that are their same age. It's quite blatant - older folks are seen as fuddy-duddies who can't learn new tech, when my experience has been that it's the other way around. Good programming has a lot to do with context, and understanding how tech fits into the overall picture, and a lot of whiz-kid googleboys have not a bit of that. I mean, look at all the poorly thought out stupid startups, and witness the number of password recovery secret question schemes where questions like "who was your favorite high-scoool teacher" and "who was your best friend in third grade" seem quite normal to people under 30 but make no sense for those of us who barely remember the high-school let alone any teacher names. Yet, my code will dance tiny circles around your code (name your language) because I've been doing it for 40 fucking years.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: Older applicants

      "who was your favorite high-school teacher"

      "who was your best friend in third grade"

      My answer to all of those is always my wife's mother's maiden name.

      1. Korev Silver badge

        Re: Older applicants

        My mum's is awC:s&g~p[N7MF4jlen8FrB~Jg3m:i - it used to take her ages to sign cheques...

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Older applicants

        Sorry, can't tell you. GDPR.

    2. GrumpenKraut

      Re: Older applicants

      Wish I could upvote this a hundred times. ----->

      Sometimes the problem is mediocre people fearing anybody with an IQ higher than the office pot plant. That I call the "Schreckensregime der Wichsfrösche", which I cannot properly translate (anyone?).

      Similarly, any mention of "dynamic team" or even (gasp!) "young dynamic team" is HR speak for "first oder hellhole, idiots only".

      1. keithpeter Silver badge

        Re: Older applicants

        "That I call the "Schreckensregime der Wichsfrösche", which I cannot properly translate (anyone?)."

        I can't translate it either but it sounds superb.

        1. GrumpenKraut

          Re: Older applicants

          Word by word it is "terror regime of the wanking frogs", the last two words for the MBA type of, well, wanker. Not sure this parses well in tze English, though.

          Anyways, beer o'clock!

      2. Ken G Silver badge

        Re: Older applicants


        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Older applicants

          I must say, it sounds a GREAT name / title for a website! And just asks to be extended... Wichsfröscheschadenfreunde?

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Older applicants

      Somehow they forget the older folks INVENTED the tech and processes they are using.

    4. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      DO COME FROM where

      "Yet, my code will dance tiny circles around your code (name your language)..."


  19. cantankerous swineherd

    I never put up with this bullshit and I'm glad I didn't.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is there any industry or company in which HR are the slightest use. In my place - a university - they recently rebranded themselves "People Services", but it hasn't made any difference to their legendary incompetence and stupidity. Worse still they call all of their staff "partner" presumably because "thicko with a 2ii in psychology from an ex-poly" is seen as a less desirable, although more accurate, title.

    1. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

      HRs vary *a lot*. some are very good, but I understand why you see them all like that as many have an attitude problem to IT people. More than one has expressed view about techies so harsh that if they were about women, Muslims, LGBTQ, people of colour or even the French, would not just have got them fired, but liable to arrest for hate crimes.

      This happens when they don't realise I have a CompSci degree and have done a bunch of stuff because I'm wearing my Yves St. Laurent suit, Thomas Pink shirt, hand shone shoes (never trust anyone who doesn't shine their own), and am out of context for tem to imagine I'm a geek.

      1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

        I don't shine my own shoes. Mind you, nobody else shines them either...

        My coat? It's the tatty one. Ta-ra.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "hand shone shoes (never trust anyone who doesn't shine their own),"

        Even Hush Puppies?

    2. fajensen

      "Partner" ... I would take that as a veiled threat of mutual destruction: "We go down, y'all go down!" :).

  21. Electronics'R'Us


    I have been on both sides of this fence.

    For a while I was completely freelance and my primary client was building an 'electronics and software capability'. They had one, but it was mainly in India. They needed to build it in the UK (primarily so they could work with companies that required security clearances).

    As part of that, I was the second human (well, I claim to be one, anyway) reviewer and as I have been in this business (electronics, software, FPGAs) for a long time it was fairly easy for me to figure out who was going to make the cut; one thing that put me off (and one of the client's clients) was spelling mistakes and poor grammar.

    Now that may seem harsh, but the tools we have today can do spelling checks and hint at grammatical issues. Your CV is telling me a story; make it flow a bit so I can see how you have progressed, learned new things, implemented interesting (or totally uninteresting - it might well be applicable).

    On the other side of the fence, I have not had to write a completely new CV for over 20 years although I have had 5 different jobs for 5 different companies in that time. I did tailor it a bit but that took pretty minimal effort. It also meant I could make sure that all my latest experience was up to date.

    On ageism: yes, it exists. I have been ghosted quite a few times after recruiters / companies figured out my age but I wouldn't want to work for a company like that anyway.

    To get all the keywords in, my CV is (of necessity) quite long but it gets past the keyword search for jobs I might actually be interested in.

    Electronics is somewhat different to IT when it comes to recruitment, especially at senior levels.

    I have seen my share of 'we only want an Oxbridge graduate' which was a warning that they weren't looking for someone with the right skills but where they got their degree. I have seen many people with advanced degrees from Ivy League colleges who had zero common sense.

    As it happens, I do not have a degree, but I have done many things that the younger crowd haven't (yet) simply due to being exposed to so many technologies (I can easily read a schematic with discrete transistors such as RF detectors, for instance). I have also had a lot of opportunities to becomes more educated and better at the jobs I have done and I make sure that is clear in my CV.

    In my experience, a degree is useful in many contexts, but any degree I would have done would have lost a great deal of relevance (although I like to point out to some who think only the new shiny matters that we have not yet repealed Ohm's Law).

    I had a small test (just a few questions really) at the latest place that were actually reasonable considering the role I had been invited to apply for. I know that puts some people off, but it was pretty simple stuff.

    Keywords are important but so is the narrative; far more important, apparently, than the 'keep your CV short' mantra at least in my experience.

    I got the latest position at the age of 66, incidentally. Some places do value the experience that brings.

  22. Blofeld's Cat

    Hmm ...

    I always wondered if the opening paragraph on my CV made any sort of difference, as very few people seemed to read it.

    "The people, places and events in this document are fictitious. Any resemblence to actual places, products, or persons (living, deceased or shortly to make the transition) is purely coincidental."

    1. Dr Scrum Master

      Re: Hmm ...

      Congratulations! You certainly brightened up my Friday morning.

  23. SotarrTheWizard

    The ones that really bother me. . ..

    . . . .are the pimps^h^h^h^h^h recruiters who demand to talk about your feelings and who you are as a person. Especially when you look up the vegetable-that-walks-like-a-man on LinkedIn, and found that only a few months before, they were running a Payless Shoe Store, or were a "Customer Service Manager" at a car rental firm. or, best of all, were a "Banquet Captain" at some Event Facility.

    And then you find out about the ridiculous fees that the pimps charge companies that they procure for. . . . .

    1. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

      Re: The ones that really bother me. . ..

      It goes both ways. When I mention my background in both doing things and shouting at people until they do it, some decide to try and engage in pissing contests.

      One candidate did this and asked why we were asking about why she'd done things a certain way and got quite intense. My colleague opened her PhD to the refences page and pointed out three to papers he'd written.

      Was glorius.

    2. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: The ones that really bother me. . ..

      From the article: Delete the word “feel”

      this can NOT be overstated nor overemphasized!!!

      Recruiters who are "feelies" should probably be bypassed or avoided entirely.

      Seriously, "What Color is your Parachute" [a book about job hunting], as I recall, talks about ways of getting your CV/resume past the eyes of HR and recruiters, and onto the desk of the hiring manager, things like addressing the envelope "attn: hiring manager", and finding out the manager's actual name.

      But using CV authoring tricks to get HR droids and recruiters to "not circular file" your CV/resume is also extremely useful (so thanks for the article). The initial prioritizing of bullet points (and then picking different ones for each application) is DEFINITELY a good idea.

      (pirate, er PRIVATEER icon, for the contractor in me)

    3. fajensen

      Re: The ones that really bother me. . ..

      And then you find out about the ridiculous fees that the pimps charge companies that they procure for. . . . .

      And then you start to wonder if you are doing it right.

      I had a boss some years back, a nice and genuinely funny person, only, he never did any work, every, did not know anything in depth. He was not stupid, he just wasn't interested. His colleagues and minions did the work, which was mostly technical reports, seminars and presentations.

      His actual job / career, as far as I could work out, was "project maker". The pattern is that he would set up some "stakeholder group" shadowing some corporate- or government- initiatives, get some really strange people involved, and yet (or maybe because), often attract some lush funding that he would burn through in some years with not much beyond PowerPoint ever delivered. When one ore was mined, he would sniff out another one.

      There *was* real skill involved, in getting paid very well and not actually doing very much besides mingling, conferencing and entertaining. And of course luring academics in to write quite convincing case studies for "the experience". And a sprinkling of some cray-crays and misfits to show Diversity or Whatever the funding selection criteria says is double-plus gooder.

      The Perfect Person to kick off a world-changing "Small, Modular, Molten Salt Reactor"-consortium.

  24. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

    Updated CV Or Resume (Over Here).

    Recently upgraded mine with my ISO 3103 certification.

    1. Muppet Boss
      Thumb Up

      Re: Updated CV Or Resume (Over Here).

      Congrats, I can see you are CAMRA certified as well!

    2. Ken G Silver badge

      Re: Updated CV Or Resume (Over Here).

      That wouldn't work for me, I'm Irish.

      (We have a technical objection to that standard)

  25. schermer

    Years ago, one of my colleagues was able to explain a one-year hiatus in his career by pointing to a brief stint as a professional golfer. I wonder, would that still work?

    1. Steve K

      That would explain the hole in one role

      That would explain the hole in one role at least

    2. GrumpenKraut

      Where this would not work, you absolutely positively do not want to work.

    3. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

      I've had to deal with gaps like that, most firms will take a statement from your accountant.

    4. fajensen

      Sure, It will work as long as it is a good story. It will work a lot better if it is something the recruiter always dreamed of doing but "never had the time" for.

  26. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    Get em while they’re young

    I did a little experiment a few years back

    On my CV I had a statement

    “I have a commitment to continually update my skills and knowledge”

    Any techie worth their salt can understand this, its something we have to do in a fast changing landscape and at our own expense usually.

    On another identical CV, I had the same statement , except I appended it with

    “I expect to have yearly pay reviews”

    Suffice to say, the latter CV got very few bites, actually none, while the former was pounced on like a weak bit of prey

    Nuff said

    It’s not what you know, but who

    If you’re in a secret club, it then becomes a circlejerk

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Get em while they’re young

      A recent university study showed this to be true.

      Most jobs and especially the better paying ones were mostly secured by knowing the right person.

      Merit? That's for the plebes.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Get em while they’re young

      "It’s not what you know, but who"

      This can work two ways. One is that the person you know knows you can do the job. The other is how we get Dido Queen of Carnage running Test and Trace.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: Get em while they’re young

      its something we have to do in a fast changing landscape and at our own expense usually.

      Q: What were you doing during the time gap between assignments?

      A: improving my skills and re-familiarizing myself with the cutting edge of technology in my field

      (Turning the possible disadvantage into an advantage - and better than saying "video games, IRC, and social media")

  27. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    Two way street

    The application process is generally a stab in the dark, alot of the time they’ve already picked their person for the job but because of laws, have to go through the motions to make it appear fair and accessible

    I find the interview stage the most interesting, people seem to think its the interviewer who is assessing the candidate, but trust me whenever I am in an interview, I’m assessing the company ethos and manglement. i’ve turned down a lot of jobs because I thought the interviewer was a bit of a moron

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    True story - 10 days ago

    Had a candidate who claimed years of experience in RAID. (MS Teams interview)

    Me: "Can you briefly explain the different types of RAID ?"

    Candidate: "What's RAID ?"

    I was co-interviewing with my boss, who to be fair had already pinged me a message saying "Don't be afraid to bin off chancers and save your time ..."

  29. trevorde Silver badge

    Technical Tests

    Was asked to do a 'technical test' for one job where I estimated it would take at least half a day. I said I'd do it for £300 but they declined.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have hired for a number of positions on my teams over the years and have to say that tailoring your C.V. for a particular position is not just pandering to the vanity of the manager. Often those managers are juggling day to day as well as hiring, and likely having a stack of C.Vs for each position, so it is in the applicants interest to make sure the key relevant skills are highlighted and so stand out from the rest of the pile.

    That is no reason for the buzzword bingo that recruiters rely on though.

    I once had a recruiter cold call me about an IT Operations job, something at that point I had over 10 years experience of. They wanted to know if I had 'Digital experience', not being sure what that meant given most things are digital now (digital scales perhaps?) I asked for clarification. Their reply was 'well, if you don't know what it is then you don't have the experience we need'.

    I decided that perhaps I didn't wanted the job.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I ended up sitting on the employers side of the table during the last recession. We had something like 150 applicants for a job.

    There were two of us going through the pile, and we printed two piles of CV's. (wasting about a ream of paper in the process, ho de hum...) We both unprompted did a first pass to get the pile to a manageable size simply by sticking anything on the "bin" pile that had noticable spelling errors, on the basis that if somebody couldn't be bothered to put effort into their CV then they wouldn't put the effort in if they got the job.

    This disposed of something upwards of a hundred CV's instantly.

    So if you are currently unfortunate enough to be looking then I would suggest:-

    1) Spellcheck your CV.

    2) Proofread it; don't rely on the spellchecker.

    3) Read your CV just before your interview; when somebody looks blank when you ask them about things on their CV it looks like they have fabricated them.

  32. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Advice about tailoring the CV to the job is all very well but one then finds that the agency sends the specially tailored CV for another vacancy with somewhat different requirements.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I accidentally ended up with a stack of discarded CVs

    I was consulting in a company once which was part of a major group, so we had their HR people in to handle the staffing.

    As setup progressed, we ended up with an internal move as the number of developers started to go down and that entailed also moving the furniture. As it so happens, I inherited what appeared to be the desk of a HR person, proven by a stack of CVs in onde drawer, all with "no" written on them, and they happened to be for the permie that had to fill my role.

    I read through the stack, and found the absolute perfect fit - but the HR woman had marked it "no" because (it turned out) she felt he would not be a good 'cultural fit'. I needed talent, not culture, and for someone with the right background that talent shone from between the lines of that CV.

    We got three candidates in, and it was immediately apparent we had the right guy for the job so he got the call that very day.

    I never told him HR has discarded his CV, but it sure nuked my confidence in the HR process.

    I'm now again working on a startup and frankly I'm dreading the HR part..

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: I accidentally ended up with a stack of discarded CVs

      Far too many companies sabotage themselves looking for "cultural fit" instead of real skills and experience and then complain they can't find people.

      Ass kissing and group think never produced a damn thing except more ass kissing and group think.

  34. ecofeco Silver badge

    Recruiters don't even read the CVs

    No buzzwords or composition changes are going to fix that.

    I get email invitations to apply for jobs from recruiters for positions and skills not even listed on my CV.

    But yeah, blame the victim.

  35. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    i've been

    on the end of the tailored job application...

    Ad read :IT newbie needed , local council, IT qualifications, plus willingness to learn howto maintain council IT services

    Job form that came back from council after sending my CV in

    "Must have 5 years previous experience running council IT systems".... IE internal council promotion only advertised because HR demanded it

    But from my time applying for various IT jobs (pretty much all through agencies) it was clear even 10-20 yrs ago , they all play buzzword bingo, and check you're not an old phart. and the only company to drag me along for a interview was more interested in how I got java to talk to the RS232 port and mech engineering background rather than the visual C++ guy that they actually wanted.

    Didnt get the job though. Maybe it was being able to rest my hand on the test rig and say "that bearing is about to fail" without needing an expensive PC/custom interface card and 25 000 lines of C++ to do it...

  36. Tessier-Ashpool

    "Although I’m a C++ programmer, I’ve done VB for money"

    Dirty crack whore!

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I married a recruiter. Article is spot on.

    A lot of people say you should tailor your CV to different jobs. That's fine if you can do it, but most people should put all their effort into getting 1 good CV.

    I used to tell my students to treat job applications as another subject and it should get as much effort as a module, so 4-6 hours a week in a study plan.

    1. A Nother Handle

      4 to 6 hours per week

      As much effort as I put into getting my bachelor's degree? Jog on.

  38. hammarbtyp

    The Chinese solution...

    Maybe the problem is the CV process...

    C Northcote Parkinson recognized the problem years ago, and he suggested two solutions

    The British solution is basically hire based on a strict hierarchy of which lord you were related too, or failing that which public school you attended. Obviously this would not work in our democratic world (although it is widely used in the civil service and banking). I am also not sure what the software equivalent would be. Maybe you have to describe which software guru you have studied under and those with the highest degree to Bacon be chosen

    Alternatively is the Chinese system whose whole tenet is that anyone who actually applies should be rejected because anyone risking losing face so de facto rule them out. Instead the recruitment committee should go out and offer the job to to a known associate

  39. Robert Grant

    This is a great article

    Practical and insightful. Old school El Reg :thumbsup:

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Recruiting is also a ball ache from the recruiter's perspective

    Just recently we've been trying to fill a software engineering position. We've had everything from the guy with the mediocre CV and experience, who doesn't get out of bed for less than 70k, to an army of people who want to renew their visas and "just want to program in Java"*. Then there was the one who listed Windows 7 and Windows Server 2000 as the operating systems on his CV. Bless. On top of that you have all the chancers who are all CV and no trousers. Yet it's the poor sods who do the executive hiring that I feel sorry for. A bad technical hire is quickly undone. A bad executive hire can badly screw the place up before anyone realises what is happening**.

    * Actually, we like words like Bash, Python, Awk and so on. We like people who know their way around a network, ssh tunnelling, know how to tcpdump and have a vague idea what Wireshark looks like.

    ** Lost three of our best engineers in a matter of weeks due to the recruitment of a massive arse.

    1. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

      Re: Recruiting is also a ball ache from the recruiter's perspective

      If you've a slot for a student over the summer who's fluent in C++, Bash, all the networking stuff you mention, though not ace at AWK and regards Python as a bit simple, plus both Windows and assorted Linuxes,I am easily found...

  41. fredesmite2

    the worse life experience you will have

    Is posting your resume on any job site(s) and having swarms of sleazy Indian based staffing firms endlessly sending email for any matching CV word with this trailer:

    *Candidate full Name: *

    *Current location:*

    *Relocation preference(Y/N): *

    *Phone No:*

    *Email: *

    *Skype/Web ID: *

    *Expected Rate: *

    *Preferred Interview Time: *

    *Notice period(expected DOJ:*

    *Work Visa/Visa: *

    *Any future vacation plan:*

    If recruiters are too lazy to fill this crap in ..

    Why should I ?

  42. trevorde Silver badge

    Blast from the past

    Was asked to code a 'bubble sort' algorithm for a job interview. The 90s called, wants their tests back.

    1. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

      Re: Blast from the past

      Actually I was taught Bubblesort in 1982, after we'd done QuickSort so that our young minds were exposed to beauty before bullshit.

      1. fajensen

        Re: Blast from the past

        BubbleSort is optimum on a one-word-read-write drum-memory machine, the kind of machine that runs our nukes and our tax returns (probably).

        1. Dominic, Writer of this aritcle

          Re: Blast from the past

          I do a bit of tech politics and was looking at quite why each cheque the government cuts (yes it still does that) costs over ten quid each in IT costs.

          *long* ago I used ICL VME and recognised some of the tech terms they used and that door creaked open in the dungeons of my memory and the horror came flooding back and I started talking in that jargon.

          They offered me a job, but like all government tech work vastly below what anyone competent to do it cold earn elsewhere.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like