Writing an effective CV – some advice for technical CV writing

Over the years we I have personally reviewed hundreds of CVs for various positions at Dev2. All of them for technical positions ranging from Software Architects to Software Test Analysts. There are a few points which I’d like to share with young and upcoming talent on writing an effective CV to get it to the top of the pile.

Whether you are submitting your CV directly to a company or going via an agency, the same principles apply. Your CV will be one of many, so it needs to stand out.

 

Keep your CV simple

I want to be able to scan your CV for the information I need to trash it or short list it. Heavy, information dense and clogged CVs make this really tough, tiring and time consuming. It’s likely to get left for last. The key to an effective CV, much like most things in life, is to keep it simple. Less is more – if I need more detail on something I will ask it. Plus there is always the interview!

I’ll run through each section of your CV:

 

Cover letter/page

Keep this short and specific. Maximum  a half page in length. It’s an opportunity to explain why you would be a good fit for the position advertised, why you want to work for this company and what value you can bring. If you share some personal attributes, the stock standard “good listener” and “excellent communication skills” are likely to be overlooked unless you have something to back these up. Be original, and speak about attributes that you have had real feedback on.

If you can cook a mean curry, now is the time to tell me.

 

Personal information page

Keep this brief. I need to know some basics like:

  • Your full name
  • ID number or date of birth
  • Residential area only (I don’t need your postal address, street address or any other address, save this for later)
  • Contact number and email (not your IM name, not your skype details or Twitter handle, I will only email or call you if I need to get in touch)
  • Availability (I’m not talking about single or married I need to know how soon you can start)

I don’t need to know your health status – I assume you are in good health and able to work in an office with people during normal hours. If you have Ebola, you should probably be in hospital, not applying for jobs.

If you have a disability, then feel free to share this information if you feel the need to.

Your personal and spiritual beliefs are yours to keep; you don’t need to put this on your CV. We work in a multicultural office, with people from different backgrounds and religions. We do not select people based on any of these criteria, and we do not have a preference.

Other spoken languages are not important. We need people who can speak and communicate well in English. We definitely don’t need a detailed table of your reading, writing and speaking ability for each language you can speak.

Marital status, drivers licence and next of kin details can all stay with you. We assume that you can get yourself to and from work.

Skills matrix

It makes my life so much easier when you put this in table form:

  • Programming languages/operating system/technology used
  • Years experience
  • Skill level, usually out of 5, with 5 being “Expert”

Simple, clear and easy to see if you have the right skills. Don’t fluff this, if you have 1 year experience I’m not going to believe you when you say you have 4 out of 5 proficiency. This is important stuff.

Education

Keep this simple – the school you went to, what year you matriculated, your tertiary/other qualifications and what they are. I don’t want to know your matric results, or the result for each subject you took in your 4 year degree.  Unless a qualification is really relevant to the position you are applying for, leave it out.

 

Employment history

This is key. I look for a few things here like your pattern of employment – do you jump around a lot? Do you only do contract work? Did you leave for money, love or something else?

Always order this with your current employment at the top, moving down from most to least recent.

Critical information:

  • Company name
  • Job title
  • Employment start and end dates
  • Bulleted list of duties and technologies used
  • Reason for leaving

Keep this simple and not too long. I can always ask for more info. Remember that I will be doing reference checks, so don’t bullshit the reason for leaving. If you got dismissed or you had a massive personality clash with your previous boss, put it down. I appreciate the honesty and we can make our call on your character.

That’s all I want to see on your CV, nothing else!

To sum up, here are some final points on how to make your CV stand out:

  • Keep the formatting simple and logical
  • Always run a spell check!
  • Get input from a friend, another set of eyes is always valuable
  • Make sure your dates are correct and correlated and you don’t make silly mistakes like spelling “Matric” as “Metric” – they’re vastly different things
  • Only give key information, remember that less is more

Here is a list of all the things I don’t want to see:

  • A clip art picture of a person sitting behind a computer
  • Any clip art or images of any kind
  • Page borders
  • A mix of fonts, incorrect use of caps and lowercase, lettering and styling
  • A scan of your matric certificate, degree, ID, passport, drivers licence, marriage certificate, your Grade 1 Certificate of Merit or any other kind of document. I’ll get what I need later.
  • We really don’t need this information till much, much later, and we will ask for it when we need it.

I hope this helps you now and into the future!

 

Wallis Buchan