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Raise the “bar” for your CV up

On the 15th of February, in 2014 Reno Lavillenie from France broke the record of Sergey Bubka in the high jump and raised the bar to the height of 6,21 metres. The previous record of 6,15 metres was set on the 21st of February in 1993. These numbers eloquently speak about the fact that everything is changeable and it’s always possible to regularly raise your bar including a professional bar too.

Ok, but shall we come back to the subject – the CV. In Europe/the USA “the bar” for technical specialists in the IT industry is way higher than in Ukraine. So why can we not raise our “bar” too?

The following 15 tips are compiled on the base of the working experience and mistakes of team. We present CVs of software engineers to European and American technological companies. But before we do that, 80% of all the CVs must undergo editing and corrections.

1. The Size

CV shouldn’t be longer than 1-2 pages (informative and laconic). Recruiters and hiring managers usually spend no longer than 10-20 seconds to view it, and easily can miss out the important information. Thus, it’s highly recommended to list all your professional skills right from the first lines of the CV and exclude “excess water”.

2. Don’t look for easy ways

We’ve got a developer’s CV and we’ve got “Export to PDF” option on Linkedin. But these are two absolutely different things, even if you think you’ve got enough information in a profile. The letter with exported from Linkedin profile may easily be ignored by employers. A lot of companies actively check up Linkedin to see reviews about a certain candidate, find common contacts, etc. Therefore, it would be a good idea to send a link to your Linkedin profile in the Cover letter (which should also be written well). But don’t muss it up with the CV.

3. Style of writing

I personally distinguish 2 styles of writing the CV – formal and informal.

The formal style looks like follows:

“— Improved rendering of decals (shot marks on objects) in Unreal Engine 3. Raised limit from 20 to 2000 per frustum area without loss of FPS.
— Developed inner usage statistics counters;
— Integrated OAuth into SOAP and REST interfaces”;

An example of the informal style:

«Our team created cool new stuff that we tested on developing markets, and often (which we are proud of) these cool new things were back‐ported to main app. Being one of 3 Front developers, my role is to clarify requirements for stories, and then, implement them, closely working with designer and java guys, when it’s needed».

Each of the styles has got its “pros” and “cons”. Much depends on the company to which you plan to apply, the level of position and culture of the company. However, the common sense says it’s always much better to write in that style that you feel is “yours”. By doing so, you’ll have more chances to receive responses from those people who have got similar mindsets.

4. “Sweets”

A good CV should have something that would differ it from the rest “plain” texts – a good sense of humour or self-irony, interesting numbers (more than 3 million lines of code were covered with unit-tests) or facts (5 reasons why employers should hire YOU). These simply things will make your CV stand beyond the rest.

5. Cover letter

Writing Cover Letter is the first step to creating a positive impression on your employer before he or she even opens your CV. To enter a good University in Europe or the USA, a student is supposed to write a decent Cover Letter. Whilst studying at University, young people are taught to write Cover Letter in a clear and professional way to be able to successfully achieve the desired position in a good company.

— Hello, you can find my CV attached — won’t work at all. You need to use a unique approach, avoid using common phrases and be witty to some extent. Look for the right “hooks” to catch attention of your employer.

6. Where is “passion”?

It’s not a secret now that every company is looking for “passionate” and “enthusiastic” specialists who live for their favourite job. Everyone wants to have employees who would match those criteria. Hence, it’s advisable to add this “passion” to your CV.

For example:

  • Add your Github/Bitbucket/Stackoverflow account. But first thing first, make sure it contains some interesting information;
  • Tell about your participation in various open-source projects;
  • Add certificates, training courses on Coursera, etc.;
  • Give reference on your technical blog;
  • Tell about participation in competitions in programing discipline (even if that was a few years ago);
  • Provide information on organization of meetings/workshops and thematic conferences;
  • Tell about organization of local groups (for example,

7. Achievements

It’s a good manner to tell about the tasks that you were performing while working on a project in the perfect tense (developed, implemented, optimized, etc.) By doing so, you will let your employer a chance to measure up your work.
Besides, very few candidates tell about their achievements in CVs. I’d recommend to use the following constructions:
— Accomplished X by implementing Y which led to Z
— During my work on this game I solved several interesting problems
— The most challenging tasks were

8. Description of the projects

The applicants often give either insufficient information on the project or take on the job of their own marketing people and list all social and smart features of the project. But you’ll be really lucky to find a good description of business domain that you’re good at. Employers appreciate such information because you should know what limitations business puts on the process of writing a code.
It’s not worth to describe all your projects. Pick 1-3 and give them a good description.

I’ve seen the description of a project that goes like that:
Since 2009:, Software developer

Brevity should come first, indeed, however Huffpo is the largest news portal in the USA and one of the TOP100 most visited world websites. The company has been bought by big corporation AOL. These are those facts that I would definitely mention in the CV.

When describing a project, you may pick 2-3 sentences that would tell about the tasks the best and give a few links to the site/Appstore/Play Market (if you’ve got it) and any other interesting facts (the amount of visits per month, Start-up of the Year Award, TOP5 downloads in AppStore during the last 3 months, application – a market leader in….and so on and so on).

9. Personal projects

To write a good CV, you should briefly tell about the projects that you may have done “for fun” and all those interesting things you were doing whilst working on the project and its social use (even banal enrichment of an owner can be presented in a favourable for you way).

10. Summary

You should either write a good summary, or no summary at all. You won’t need my help with the second option, but I will explain you with the first. As “a summary” typically goes in the beginning of the CV, it’s more likely to be seen by employers. Therefore, write a few sentences about your job activity and prove your professionalism. It’s not a simple task. Especially when you’ve got a limited number of characters. But if you manage to write an “interesting” and “catchy” summary, you’ll get “+5 to your karma”.

– Should I write a summary if I haven’t got sufficient experience in the given sphere (Android, for example)? – The answer has been given above: it’s got to be either good, or no summary at all.

Anti-example of summary:

I am 24 years aged Senior developer with commercial 2 years experience in Android development and about 4 years in Java. A focused, goal-oriented, fast learning, responsible team player. Strong understanding of programming methodologies, able to develop and integrate Android apps using different modern frameworks and approaches.

A good example that should catch attention:
I am a passionate and agile-minded software engineer who is scurpulous about the details. Starting to code Java since my 2nd course at University and got «Thinking in Java» by Bruce Eckel almost by heart, I am totally contributed to Android development for the recent 2 years. I am a big fan of low-level things like memory management, multithreading, etc and I believe that TDD will change the world for the better.

80 level of summary is when you’re capable to describe yourself with a single sentence, so-called “self-identification”. You can give such summary both, on your Linkedin profile in the Title, or in a business-card.

An example:

CTO, grown from LAMP developer with huge passion in UX/product management.

11. The list of technologies

This is where our guys usually don’t see a measure and list all the technologies they’ve ever worked with, even on a casual basis. In this paragraph you should mention only those technologies that you feel confident at and demonstrate your knowledge. For example, Java (expert), C++ (basic), PHP (proficient), JavaScript (mother tongue). I can assure you, employers won’t judge you strictly here. But if you write a lot of text, you may get into a trouble. Don’t write that you’re proficient at Microsoft office (Word, Point), or an advanced user of Linux, Corel Draw, Fortran. Agile, Scrum and Project Management shouldn’t be listed in your technical skills just as well. The more often you use the words Agile and Scrum in the CV, the better it is? No, not true. On a quick scanning of a page, it’s easy to define mindset of the CV’s author and see if he/she is “Agile” or “Waterfall”.

12. Experience of 3-4 years ago

All your projects and professional experience of 3-4 years ago won’t interest your potential employer. Even if in 2008 you used to work with the needed for an employer technologies, a lot of time has passed since then. Thus, if you’d like to make your CV really good, get rid of outdated facts and tell about those projects that have a got a true value to an employee.

13. What information can be reduced?

You can eliminate all the tables in the CV and get straight to the point. Don’t use headings that go as follows:

— Main tasks and job responsibilities
— Name of an employer
— Date of employment
— Project type and description
— Used Technologies

Instead of writing Telephone Number, give your actual number, instead of Date of birth – your age, etc. It’s not worth writing general phrases that majority people write. Don’t describe your Hobby in details. A photo is not a “must” in the CV. For technological companies it’s way more important to be able to see “your portrait” on Github.

14. Grammar

If you plan to apply for international companies, I’d strongly recommend to give your CV to a Native Speaker or a teacher of English who’d check all the mistakes and make it well-readable and grammatically correct. CVs written in “poor English” won’t impress potential employers and probably even spurn recruiters.

15. The final chord

You can’t have the only CV and cover letter that would ideally suit all your needs. Always assess the situation and modify CV and cover letter, taking into consideration the exact company/position and your own desire to work there.

In the end I’d like to show you an example of a good CV, written by intern who’s still studying at the University.
In addition, I would recommend you to read a book Gayle Laakmann McDowell «Google resume»

Andrew Stetsenko Tech Talents Relocation

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