Tips on writing an effective CV

Tips below apply to software engineering positions, as I am myself a software engineer, and conducted dozens of interviews as a candidate, and hundreds on interviews as a hiring manager.

When a hiring manager reads your CV, they need to understand what you can do. A hiring manager sees dozens or hundreds of similar-looking CVs that mention keywords like programming languages, personality traits and so on. Digging into them requires a lot of energy: even a 10-minutes talk with 100 candidates takes a lot. Therefore most of those CVs are discarded. And you can see why: because they DO NOT CONVEY WHAT YOU'RE CAPABLE OF. A list of projects / skills are just like in hundreds of other CVs.

That's crucial. No amount of pretty typography, or nice layout can fix it. I don't mean that a nice layout is not important - it is, but first things first: content is primary, layout is secondary. I've hired people with CVs edited as a simple .txt file.

Now, let's see how you can tell the hiring manager about yourself and leave a distinct impression.

1. General Layout. Organise your CV with 4 simple sections, in this order: Summary Work experience (reverse chronological order) Education (reverse chronological order) Awards / Accomplishments if any

2. Summary Be concise and focused. State your main center of gravity, and list only skills that are relevant to it. This applies to your career in general - don't be a Jack of all trades. Pick what you like, specialise in it, work on it every day, and in several years time you'll be a bad ass. This skill could support you for the rest of your career.

3. Remove all irrelevant stuff Don't mention everything you've done in your CV. List only things that are relevant. It's okay to list irrelevant job positions in order to avoid gaps in your work experience, cause gaps trigger questions.

4. Work experience entries For every entry, don't just write general "Worked on project X as part of a team, using technology Y". That does NOT tell what YOU are capable of. ALWAYS FOLLOW UP with your own specific contribution, e.g. "I worked on a python module that did A and B, and organised CI testing for the whole team based on Github Actions, you can see snippets of my work here>>" This is how you let a hiring manager know about yourself. BE SPECIFIC for most bullet points in your work experience. This applies to personality traits as well. Like, "I am a proactive person" - follow up with the proof, e.g. "I have noticed that X taking a long time for engineers in my team, so I went along and suggested Y, ..." This is the most important tip of all.

5. Create a portfolio GIthub project Collect all projects and code snippets you can showcase. Make sure they are well structured and well commented. Make references from your CV to your portfolio, as the previous point says. If you're a contributor to OSS, mention that in your CV and reference your best contributions.

6. Don't have work experience? Well, See 5 If you don't have work experience, then a portfolio project is a must. Invest your time into it, work on 1-2 projects , but make sure to pick up something that is not from an online course. Seeing identical portfolio projects from courses is discouraging and will probably make your CV discarded. Do something that is interesting to you, and structure it well. It may not be a Ph.D. dissertation, but it must be a quality piece of work made with care. Like, a carefully developed single UI control for a Frontend Engineer would serve # better than a copy-pasted booking website project.

7. Proof-read If you're not an native English speaker, you will likely make mistakes. Just like I did in this article. In this case, give your CV to your native English friend to proof-read. If you're a native English, that might be a good idea, too. Run it through the AI as well.

Hope that helps you to secure the job you want.

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Written by Sergey Lyubka


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