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How to write a CV for jobs in tech

learning on the job, retraining, woman on computer

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.

CV writing

Talent Tips: interviewing & CV writing techniques for women working in tech

Article by Kate Thrumble, Director of Talent, EMEA at R/GA

CV writingThe onset of Covid-19 has fundamentally and irrevocably changed the way we work. And it’s yet to be seen how it affects the way we hire.

With in-person interviews becoming logistically challenging, it’s more important now than ever to make an impression during your initial contact with a new company: the CV, and that first interview. R/GA London’s Director of Talent, Kate Thrumble, has dedicated her work to helping women overcome barriers to career progression, both internally and externally, and here shares her advice for how to plan for success...

Ultimately, there are two key things to remember. With the CV (which is ultimately the paper version of you) and the initial interview (the 4D version of you), you need to:

  1. Step into the role you want, not the one you have, and
  2. Learn to co-drive. An interview is a two way thing.

Step into who you are

Don’t minimise yourself or carry previous workplace baggage. Leave that at the door or preferably in the rubbish bin on the way in. Women, more than men, fall into the trap of using minimising words such as ‘maybe, possibly, might, just’. Don’t sabotage yourself. Think about your language and try out phrases like “I’m confident/I’m convinced/I strongly believe”.

The same goes for your CV: be punchy and to the point. Think about the role you are going for and whether your CV matches that clearly. The role needs management experience which you don’t have? Pull on every aspect of your role that reflects this, even if you aren’t a manager (yet). Use mentoring, proactive sessions to help more junior talent or buddy systems to illustrate how you can transfer your skills. This might mean having a number of CVs so the most appropriate one is sent out.

Keep it tidy

With your CV, be smart about the space being used. Use the header for your name and contact details so they are easy to find at a glance. Don’t leave in the paragraph you wrote about being a keen diver if actually you haven’t been diving in 10 years!

For your interview, think of 3-5 examples where you have really done a good job. You’ll find that you can use them as examples to answer almost all interview questions. Think about the structure of your answers. It’s so easy to waffle - try the Situation, Task, Action, Result model (or STAR for ease). Think of what the situation was to give the context, what were you being asked to do, what was the action and then what happened in the end.

Silence your inner critic 

Those voices inside saying you aren’t senior enough? You aren’t cool enough for this brand? You are too old? Too young? Too female?! STOP.

If the interviewee asks you a question which triggers any of your insecurities then take a step back and think about what you would logically do. Act as if you are giving a friend advice. For example, if your hang up is that you’re too young and you get asked about something you don’t have experience in, take a step back and think about how you would logically respond in that situation, and try to weave in aspects of your experience as evidence to support your response.

To make sure you leave the interview knowing that you got what you need and gave it your best shot, be brave and ask: “Have you got any reservations about me that we can use the remaining time to address?”. A question like this allows you to cover off anything that might have been missed, and can help to quieten that inevitable post interview noise in your mind: “I wish I hadn’t said that, why didn’t I talk about this?”

Be authentic

Ask the questions you want to ask, not the ones you should ask. If you don’t actually care why the interviewee loves working there then don’t ask the question. Use the time as you want to — you will find you get a lot more out of it.

Take the driving seat. Jump in with questions — a two way dialogue can make the whole thing feel a lot more relaxed. Remember an interview is a two way thing, often people forget this. Just as going on a date isn’t solely about you getting the person to like you, you have to like them too!

Final thought

The last tip, although it sounds corny and cheesy I promise it helps - write on a piece of paper ‘You’ve got this’. Put it somewhere you can easily touch during the interview, like your pocket. If you are having one of those panic moments during the interview, touch it or just remind yourself it’s there and then think how proud 12 year old you would be right now - look how far you have come.

Kate ThrumbleAbout the author

As R/GA London’s Director of Talent, Kate is responsible for developing, implementing, and leading the people strategy for the office. As a member of the executive team, Kate is also responsible for the talent planning and retention efforts across R/GA’s EMEA region.

An experienced human resources professional with over 13 years’ experience spanning five industries, Kate joined R/GA from Momentum UK, where she previously headed up the Talent team and was responsible for the full employee life cycle from attraction, retention and exit. Kate was also a board member at Momentum. Throughout her time at Momentum, Kate partnered on a number of global projects leading to greater cohesion and development of standards across many of the different in terms of its people practices. Prior to joining Momentum, Kate worked in-house at Burberry and Hearst Magazines. A well-respected thought leader in the industry, Kate has collaborated with industry organisations such as Creative Equals over the years, as well as being a contributor to industry publications such as Campaign Magazine and The Drum.

Kate holds an MA in Human Resource Management from The University of Westminster and is a certified predictive index analyst.

If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here

CV writing

CV tips for telling your career story right

CV Writing
Image via Shutterstock

By Amanda Augustine, Career Advice Expert, TopCV

Employers want to be able to quickly – and easily – skim your CV and understand your career narrative.

Be sure that when they take a quick glance, readers will know the type of position you’re pursuing and why you are qualified to undertake such a position.

Curate your CV’s content with your job goals in mind.

Think of your CV as a strategically positioned marketing document, rather than a laundry list of everything you’ve even done and learned. The information should be curated to clearly showcase the relevant skills, education and experience you’ve acquired throughout your career that qualify you for the role you’re currently targeting.

It’s alright to minimise the details for those positions that don’t support your current career goals, to highlight only certain aspects of other jobs that demonstrate your qualifications or to dedicate more CV space to a position that best represents your relevant skill set. Pick and choose the information your share based on what will best support your career story.

Set the tone with your personal statement.

The top third of your CV should set the stage for the rest of of your document. Start by including a professional title or headline that clearly explains to the reader the type of position you’re seeking.

Then, follow this with a personal statement that acts as your ‘elevator pitch’:

In no more than five lines, sell the reader on your story by explaining how you are able to leverage your strengths and experience to provide value in a specific capacity to an employer. Within this section, aim to communicate your record of achievement, experience level, value, industry (assuming this is relevant to your current goals) and your immediate career goals. This section will set the tone and focus for the rest of your CV, so give it some careful thought.

Bullet your accomplishments.

Divide each position in your work history into two components: a short blurb which summarises your responsibilities, as they relate to your current job goal; and a bulleted list which calls attention to your most noteworthy – and relevant – achievements. Bullet points, when used sparingly, are an effective technique for highlighting important the pieces of information on a CV, as they draw the reader’s eyes to focus on those details.

Show, don’t tell.

Employers want to see proof of your qualifications. If you list a particular skill that you possess in the top third of your CV, be sure to support this claim by providing a specific example, figure or case study in your work experience or education sections that illustrates this ability.

Don’t assume readers will connect the dots on their own – make it obvious how you’ve leveraged a skill or your knowledge to solve a problem, complete a project or create a positive result for the company. Ask yourself, at the end of the day, how can I demonstrate that I not only possess the skills and experience the company is looking, but I’ve been successful in leveraging these in my prior work?

Interview tips for telling your career story right

Support your claims...

...You wouldn’t walk into an interview and simply state, ‘I’m detail-oriented!’ ‘I work well under pressure!’ and assume you’ve properly convinced the interviewer of your abilities. Instead, you need to support whatever claims you make about your skills by telling short stories that illustrate your qualifications. In the interview, I recommend using what is referred to as the STAR method:

Describe a Situation or Task...

...you had to handle that allowed you to leverage a specific skill or area of knowledge that’s required for the position.

Explain the Actions...

...you took to address the situation or accomplish the task, providing colourful details to make the story interesting and engaging.

Describe the end Result...

...How was the situation resolved? What was the outcome? What did you learn from the situation and how did you overall help the company?

As you’re preparing for an upcoming interview, re-read the job ad and make a short list of the primary qualities the company appears to be looking for in the right candidate. Think about the soft and hard skills they’re expecting this person to possess, and what challenges someone in this role might face. Then, use this information to brainstorm a few stories you can share from your work history that would help you demonstrate your qualifications. Use the STAR method to prep these stories.

Keep your audience in mind.

A good storyteller always keeps his or her target audience in mind. At the end of the day, what do they care about? When it comes to job seeking, your target audience is either a recruiter, HR professional or hiring manager who are all interested in understanding if you possess the right skills to do the job and if you will be a cultural fit on the team. Tailor the information you provide – both on your CV and during the interview process – to speak to the needs of your interviewer.

Mind your body language.

The nonverbal signals you send can either strengthen or weaken your story. Consider recording yourself with your phone as you  practice sharing a story in a mock interview. Pay close attention to your hands, your body language (e.g. any nervous ticks such as hair twirling or knee tapping, the tone of your voice and your eye contact, as this will all play a part in how you – and your career story – are perceived.

Here at TopCV, we believe everyone has a story to tell. It’s our job to help professionals tell the best version of that story to write the next chapter of their careers. If you’re unsure whether your CV is telling the right story, submit it today for a free CV evaluation to find out.

Amanda AugustineAbout the author

Amanda Augustine is the career advice expert for TopCV, the largest CV-writing service in the world. She is a Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC) and a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) with over 10 years’ experience in the recruiting industry.

Have a job-search question for Amanda or TopCV? Submit it here.