learning on the job, retraining, woman on computer

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.


Public speaking, conquering the fear featured

Conquering the fear

By Rhona Kennedy

Public SpeakingIt’s totally normal to find certain situations intimidating or even downright scary.

Some things (like job interviews) are pretty much unavoidable; others are easy enough to avoid but, if you master them, they will reap personal and professional rewards.

I’ve collated some advice I’ve gathered over the years on how to face some common fears, namely: turning up at Meetup events and networking, job interviews, and public speaking/speaking at conferences.

Going to Meetups/Networking

It can be pretty nerve-wracking to turn up to a room full of strangers and introduce yourself (the dreaded “networking”). Here’s some tips on how to conquer it.

First up, maybe it’s useful to start off small. Find a smaller Meetup (maybe a very niche technology/interest, or held in a smaller venue or somewhere friendly like a coffee shop) and head along. Or, if it feels less scary to you, find a bigger Meetup where you can “blend in”.

Take a friend or colleague along for moral support. Even is your friend doesn’t work in the same field, or doesn’t have as much of an interest in the topic as you do, it can be handy to have someone to arrive with and chat to. Alternatively, check if there’s someone going who you know - you can usually see a list of attendees on Meetup.com or Eventbrite.co.uk – it makes a big difference knowing there will be a friendly face there.

Prepare your elevator pitch in advance. This is a quick spiel about who you are and what you do – it doesn’t need to be “salesy” but being able to sum yourself up in a couple of sentences is handy and takes the nerves out of introducing yourself to a stranger.

Networking is really valuable; meaningful networking isn’t about chucking your business card about indiscriminately or aiming to have as many LinkedIn connections as possible, but it is about building beneficial connections and helping each other out. It gets easier the more you do it; practice makes perfect.

Pro tip for tech Meetups: if you hang out near the pizza/refreshments then I guarantee people will talk to you!

Job interviews

Preparation is key. When you feel organised, you are much less likely to get flustered. I would also advise planning your route in advance; maybe even scope out the location the day before. Arrive in plenty of time, find a nearby coffee shop and do a final pass of your notes.

If you don’t have enough information to prepare, just ask your recruiter or the person who invited you to interview for more information. For example, it might make you more relaxed to know what the dress code is and dress accordingly. Nobody wants to be in a suit when everyone else is in jeans – or the other way around!

Even if your preparation is impeccable, there will still be questions you don’t know the answer to. Keep calm. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed; just be honest that this isn’t something you’ve encountered yet and move on.

Please know that the interviewers want you to succeed – they haven’t invited you in just to fill their diary! They are on your side and want you to do well.

The Big One: Public speaking/speaking at conferences

Again, I think it helps to start small. Try introducing another speaker before doing your own presentation, or pick a really friendly Meetup, or a quiet month to present for the first time. A five minute lightening talk at a local Meetup is less pressure than a big presentation at a conference with hundreds of people – and will allow you to practice your material and get some feedback.

It took me a while to realise that nobody really likes public speaking; even the folk you admire who are really good at it and do it all the time get nervous and forget their words. We’re all in the same boat. It gets easier – try, try, try again! Great and confident public speakers are not born with this talent; they get better with time and practice.

I also think it helps to know that everyone is rooting for you. The audience is on your side, they are interested in what you have to say (and they’re often just relieved they’re not in the hot seat). It’s

not the easiest advice to put into practice but a) try to care less about what people think and b) don’t put too much pressure on yourself and try not to be too bothered if you do stuff it up. It’s actually endearing to have a bit of personality and your audience will enjoy seeing a human side to you. I would also advise planting a couple of friends or colleagues in the first couple of rows – or finding your pals in the crowd – it helps massively to see a smiling face mid-presentation.

Use props to your advantage. If you’re forgetful, make yourself some cue cards. If you fidget (guilty!) then plan to hold a pen or something in your hand to anchor yourself.

If you are presenting and there’s a time limit – practice and make sure your talk is within the limit. Nothing is more nerve-wracking than watching someone watch the clock, and you don’t want to risk being cut off (for example in a lightening talk) if you go over. It’d be a pity if no one heard your whole talk.

The tech community benefits when everyone has a voice and we hear the opinions and thoughts of a diverse range of people. It’s challenging to speak up and we can all get intimidated by a crowd, but it’s also important that we conquer our fear and seize the opportunities we are presented with and support others in their endeavours. It gets easier with time – good luck and happy public speaking!