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By Rhona Kennedy

I’m a Technology Recruiter with over six years’ experience – I look at dozens of CVs each day (I dread to think how many CVs I’ve cast by beady eyes over in my career!) and I talk to the people doing the hiring every day about what they need/like/hate to see in a CV.

I know that CV-writing is a) daunting and b) very important to get right because there’s a lot riding on it.

After years of pestering my clients for what they see when they look at a CV, here are some of my top take-home tips.

Start with the good stuff

There’s an oft-quoted statistic that the person reviewing your CV spends only 7-10 seconds looking at it before making up their mind.  With this in mind, a “skills matrix” or easy to read summary of the technology and tools you’re comfortable with is a good place to start. Avoid dumping on loads of tools you’ve only touched or read about or haven’t used since University – stick to things you’re actually capable of working with.

Your CV is a marketing document. Its purpose is to sell you enough to secure an interview. It may not come easily to you to big yourself up – but you need to do it. Asking friends/colleagues for help with words/phrases that describe you might help with the cringe factor.

Also make sure your vital information is front and centre and easy for the reviewer to access.

How long is too long?

Be concise. Choose your words wisely. Write in a succinct manner – and then take more out. Like, Coco Chanel said, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.”

However, if your CV is longer than two pages, don’t stress – especially if you’re a seasoned professional with many years of wisdom/experience. As long as it’s all relevant stuff, then it deserves to be there. If you’re really struggling to condense your CV, bullet points might help. Bullet points are also easier for the human eye to digest than large walls of text. Helpful when you consider the point about 7-10 seconds, above.

Get your CV past the robots!

Assuming you’re applying for a job in 2019 and not relying on snail mail, the first person to read your CV will, most likely, be a robot, or at least a piece of parsing software. It is increasingly common for technology companies and Recruiters alike to use an Applicant Tracking System or ATS. Here are some tips to get your CV past the robots:

  • Don’t have critical information (contact details, name, location/postcode) in headers/footers – the software often doesn’t “read” these. In fact, skip headers/footers altogether.
  • Keep formatting simple – avoid unnecessary tables/images which will inevitably get reformatted in a less-than-pretty way.
  • Word documents are generally handled better than PDFs.

Some CV basics

Some of this advice might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at how often these points can be neglected!

  • Please proofread your CV – if spelling and grammar are not your forte, rope in a pal (or a friendly Recruiter!) to look it over.
  • KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid. Keep your formatting simple; stay away from headers/footers, text boxes/columns and fancy graphics/images.
  • Choose an appropriate font (and size and colour) and keep it consistent throughout. Remember the “don’t use Comic Sans – we are a Fortune 500 company, not a lemonade stand” meme? Yeah… don’t be that guy.
  • Don’t get too smart – your CV is a video game? Cool… but how do I contact you? How do I share with my client?
  • Location (including postcode) is essential – it’s how Recruiters and prospective employers find you.
  • Weird one: be sure to use a portrait orientation, not landscape.
  • In the UK, it is not a requirement to have your photo on your CV, and many managers I’ve spoke to really dislike this practice.
  • Unless your hobbies are really interesting, I’d skip it – we’ve all read Harry Potter and we all say we go to the gym…
  • Spell check again, just to be sure!
  • Finally, if you’re ever in doubt, let us help you! We look at dozens (hundreds?) of CVs every day and we’re here to help! Rope in a “professional CV reviewer” or Recruiter, as we’re more commonly known. Or have a friend who works in your field review your CV.

About the author

Rhona Kennedy is a Principal Consultant at IT Recruiter Consultancy Cathcart Associates; for the last six years she has been recruiting Software Developers across Scotland for some of the country’s most innovative and exciting organisations. Rhona also volunteers with Girl Geek Scotland and is a passionate advocate for women in STEM and loves working with and supporting female Developers at all stages of their careers. In her day job, she leads a team of Recruiters and is responsible for motivating the team, setting targets and is heavily involved in the hiring and training of new recruits.