Guest author Chris Hart has more than ten years of experience in the recruitment industry. He is the creator of ‘The Recruiter Index’ – a source of straightforward and honest advice for recruiters seeking to up their game
If you Google ‘What to put on your CV’ it brings up 162,000,000 results. That’s quite a lot to read. Especially if you are trying to update your CV quickly and are unsure what to do (or what not to do!)
The advice was pretty generic and old-school of the articles I clicked on. So I thought I would offer some honest and up-to-date advice on CV writing for tech professionals.
There are some obvious dos and don’ts that I shouldn’t have to spell out. But in the interest of clarity, I’ll do it anyway. Obvious pointers include:
Keep font and format consistent throughout.
Make sure you spell check thoroughly. It helps to have someone else proofread it as well as they may catch mistakes you missed.
Provide your phone number and email address (the number of CVs that come through with no number on them is painful).
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I’ll outline some less obvious, more helpful pointers in the rest of this post.
These tips apply to all technology professionals regardless of the sector (development, data, security etc.) There may be one or two exceptions, but I’ve tried to make it a one-stop-shop for everyone.
Write one. These do get read, not all the time, but more often than not. It should be placed right at the top under your contact details. Make it about you, not about the specifics of the role you are applying for. Give an overview of who you are, what you’ve done, and the things you enjoy most in your career. Hiring managers and recruiters want to know what makes you tick.
This is a must-have, especially if you are a developer of some kind. You’d be surprised how many people leave this stuff off. If you are applying for any kind of dev role, the best way to showcase your skills is a link to a portfolio on GitHub, Stack Overflow or another similar platform. Failing that, providing links to sites or apps you’ve worked on is always helpful. Even if you work in an area where it is more difficult to showcase your work (e.g. networking) you can still include links to a personal blog or a list of projects you’ve been involved in. Providing concrete examples of your past work makes you stand out from the rest and demonstrates a genuine passion for what you do. Recruiters and Hiring Managers love the enthusiasm. So get it on there.
Get them right. Don’t just list the years, your career history should be broken down into the months. Once you’ve mapped this out on yours, cross-reference it with your LinkedIn profile to make sure everything matches up.
Went travelling after uni? Took time off after being made redundant? That’s fine. Just be open and honest about it. Explain the gap by listing the relevant dates on your CV timeline along with a few sentences about what you were doing during that period. Particularly if you did anything to keep your tech skills up to date during that time. If you brush over gaps without addressing them, whoever is reading the CV will assume you did nothing.
Even if it’s completely unrelated to tech, put it on there. It shows there’s more to you than just your chosen profession. If it is tech-related, that’s great. The more you can get across you love what you do, to the point where you took some voluntary work to get up-skilled, the better you’ll look to a potential employer.
Avoid clichés like "I like to keep up to date with technology and socialising with friends". That means nothing. You work in IT so, of course, you do, and everyone socialises with friends. Who else would you socialise with? Be honest. We want to see real personality. If you don’t want to list your interests because you feel they are lame, trust me, they aren’t. This is a great opportunity to separate yourself from other candidates.
The key to a great CV lies in the detail. But so many people fall short here. We want to know what you do, what you use to do it, how you do it, who for and how many people. Don’t just say ‘I developed the app for iOS and Android’ or ‘I supported the Windows Desktops’. Tell us how you did it and what tools you used to do it. Talk us through the process or how many people you supported and how long it took you etc. We want the whole story.
Don’t bother, they never get read and they don’t get sent, unless you are specifically asked to do one, then never write one. Ever. It’s just wasting your time.
Graphs, Pie Charts and Animations
If you want to show off your design skills let your blog or portfolio do the talking.
Fancy Fonts and Coloured Backgrounds
CVs are generally formatted in Arial 10 or Calibri 11 in a plain black font with a white background. And if you think it’s a good idea to write a CV in Comic Sans then just don’t bother applying.
Putting Random Buzzwords in Bold
Make it 1-2 Pages Long
This is nonsense, I don’t know who said this, but it probably dates back to the ’80s. As mentioned above, we want details. Don’t make it 10 pages long. I would say 4 is okay, 6 is the absolute limit, but I would avoid that if you can. 3 to 4 pages should be your rule of thumb.
Not a massive no, but bear in mind it often interrupts the formatting.
Don’t Say You Project Managed a House Renovation
We all know that means you just did a bit of decorating.
The most important thing to remember is to write a CV that gets across your personality, not one that reads like a textbook. Don’t make it too clinical, get your story across, put your weird hobbies on there and write it like you, not how you think you should write it. Your CV will stand out enough if you get your personality in there, it doesn’t need the colours, the photo and the pie chart to make you stand out, it’s the content. So tell your story with it.2