Here at SwarmOnline, we receive a lot of CVs each month – and we really do take the time to read every single one of them. Believe it or not, we haven’t developed an app to review them for us – yet!
In software development, there are usually several ways of solving a problem; although some are certainly better than others. There’s rarely just one correct solution – and it turns out that this rule also applies to CVs.
But just like bad code, a poorly-written CV can be painful to read and it creates a negative impression of the author. But when it’s well-written, both the code and your CV can be a joy to read. This is because they’re concise, informative, well-structured and leave us wanting to find out what else the author has to offer.
So how do you avoid writing the CV equivalent of bad code? Read on for our insider tips on avoiding common pitfalls – plus some surprising things you may never have considered.
1. Email Addresses
Before we even get close to learning which school you went to, we’ll probably see your email address. It’s right there at the top of your CV.
This innocent-looking snippet of personal data actually leaks a wealth of information about you. So much so, that Barclays even ran a series of national TV adverts featuring advice on what your email address should look like when applying for jobs.
- At the very least, the local part (everything before the @ symbol) should be professional. badd_boy_xox may have looked cool when you were 14, but don’t expect anyone to take you seriously now. Ideally, it should only be your name, without numbers and only minimal hyphens, underscores or dots.
- The domain (after the @) also creates an impression. ISP-specific domains such as @btinternet.com or @AOL.com suggest you’re not tech-savvy enough to move away from the default email address you got when you signed up for a 56k modem in 1999.
- Your email address is even an opportunity to subtly show off your tech skills. If you have a ‘vanity’ address such as firstname.lastname@example.org it makes a positive statement about your tech literacy. Just make sure you have something equally impressive waiting when we inevitably visit your site!
- Your email address is also a unique identifier. See tip number 4 for why this could spell trouble. You can always create a dedicated email address to use while applying for jobs.
2. Attention to Detial
- Most people will lay claim to “excellent written communication skills” or perhaps “an eye for detail”. Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to contradict your claim in the very same sentence!
- Like the (deliberate) spelling mistake in the heading above, glaring errors stand out like a sore thumb and there really is no excuse for not spellchecking – after you have set your dictionary to British English, of course!
- It’s not just typos which can slip through the net, either. Make sure the chronology of your past experience checks out – did you really graduate before starting primary school?
- Get a trusted friend to read over your finished CV before sending it. A second pair of eyes can often spot things you miss.
3. Putting the P in ‘PDF’
So you’ve spent hours formatting your multi-column CV and the margins, fonts, spacing and layout are just perfect. Time to hit send? Not so fast!
- Don’t be tempted to use an automated CV generator or online template – this simply guarantees that your CV will look exactly like everyone else’s.
- Documents in Microsoft Word and other word processors can look very different when opened in other operating systems and versions. We might not have that fancy font you used.
- PDF files are designed to avoid this exact predicament – the ‘P’ stands for ‘Portable’. So if you want to be confident that your CV looks the same for everyone, be sure to save it as a PDF before hitting the send button.
4. Search for Yourself
Everyone’s searched for their own name in Google, right? We’re no exception.
- There’s a lot of truth to the maxim “the internet never forgets”. So be sure to find out what everyone else will see when they paste your name into a search engine. There may still be time to remove that awkward breakup vlog from 2011.
- But your name isn’t the only trace you leave behind on the internet. A quick search for your email address (see tip 1, above) or even your mobile number can throw up some unexpected results. That My Little Pony fan site you registered could still have your contact details in the whois logs.
- Even if you offer up your social media profiles willingly, it’s still a good idea to do some housekeeping first to make sure that the first impression they make is a positive one.
5. Quality Tailoring
We’re not talking about your interview outfit. Rather, your CV should be tailored to the job you’re applying for.
- That 10 metre swimming certificate may have been relevant when you wanted to be a lifeguard, but we build apps. Give more prominence to the experience and qualifications that you feel are relevant to the specific role you’re interested in.
- Similarly, you don’t have to focus exclusively on academic qualifications. We know you worked hard for that French exam, but if you have a relevant professional accreditation or qualification, don’t gloss over it.
- Real-world examples are always good. “Implementing communication channel infrastructure to facilitate interpersonal electronic messaging” is nowhere near as impressive as “I configured an email server for the entire company”.
6. Hobbies & Interests
If you do choose to devote valuable CV real-estate to your interests, it goes without saying that they should be, well, interesting.
- Sorry Rover, but “walking my dog” isn’t interesting; it’s just responsible pet ownership. Build an IoT pet feeder with an Arduino and we’ll talk.
- We do love it when people have done something productive in their own time, however trivial it may seem. Maintaining your own blog/website, organising a developer meet-up or contributing to an open-source project are all valuable and worth a mention.
- Not all hobbies are work-related, however. We have plenty of musicians, sportspeople and even a few poker players among our ranks – what’s your unexpected hidden talent?
7. Cover Yourself
Whilst a CV tells us a lot about your skills and past experience, it doesn’t leave much room to tell us why your CV has graced our inbox. The place to do that is the cover letter.
- Use the cover letter as a less structured way of telling us everything else you would like us to know about your motivation for getting in touch.
- Include details such as any preferences for office location and how to get in touch if we need any extra information such as references.
- All of the same rules apply to the cover letter as with the CV – don’t get complacent at the last minute and let spelling mistakes or other errors creep in.
- Keep it tailored to the role you are applying for and find out who you need to contact in advance; nobody at SwarmOnline is a Sir yet – and we have no Madams on the payroll.
- Don’t forget to actually attach your CV!
8. And Finally…
- We don’t consider ‘protected characteristics’ – not least because it’s illegal to do so. These are things like age, race, marital status or disability. So don’t waste precious space by including them in your CV because they don’t add anything to your application.
- Nobody likes management speak and clichés, so don’t fall into the trap of littering your CV with them. You’ll just sound silly.
- Be prepared to back up everything you tell us! Don’t say you’re “proficient in Microsoft Office” if you only used Excel – because we will grill you on Access and Publisher!
- Be confident, present yourself in the best possible light and we genuinely look forward to seeing your CV at the top of the pile.