Software engineers have been in huge demand during the last 10-15 years due to the fast-paced development of new technologies. Even the COVID-19 pandemic did not break this pattern. On the contrary, we see many new tech roles opening up around the world amid the rapid digitalization of work processes. In this context, it is particularly important to pay attention to the first impression you make on an employer by your CV to survive the growing competition.
Recruiters look through dozens of CVs every day and it is a true art to manage to grab their attention only by a single document with outlined professional experience. Meanwhile, if you do, you get a chance to proceed with further steps of the recruitment process and demonstrate your strong sides at its best.
So, the main purpose of your CV is to show that your experience and skills correspond to the required competencies in the most structured and clear manner. Ideally, a recruiter should understand it after the first look at your CV.
The same applies to the CV of a software engineer. However, there are still its own specificities, as tech professionals do a job that sometimes can hardly be explained by words in a comprehensible way with correct accents throughout the text.
Zero to One Search team shared its opinion on how an ideal CV of a software engineer should look like and gave some recommendations on how to compile it:
Keep it short
In fact, you should strive for the middle ground on this issue. A CV should not be too long or too short, although tech recruiters say shorter is better:)
In general, two pages is the optimal size, so that a recruiter avoids scrolling your document for the rest of the day. At the same time, make sure that all important milestones of your experience are covered and highlighted.
Tatiana Zmeeva, Tech Recruiter:
“A one-page CV is not your goal, but you need to attract and hold recruiter’s interest. So, put the most relevant and important details, like what your project was about, what was your role, scope of responsibilities and achievements.”
At the same time, details or projects you consider essential should not be excluded from a CV to observe the limit at all costs. If your career record is really very long and the number of projects is off the scale, opt for internal links in a CV or make a kind of an annex with your portfolio to the document.
Anastasiia Ocheredko, Tech Recruiter:
“The ideal size of a CV is two pages. Your projects’ examples should either be available via internal links in the document or, if you want to elaborate a bit more on your implemented projects, create a separate document and send it as a follow-up to the CV.”
Mind the structure of your CV
Before creating a new document on your laptop summing up professional experience, define its basic structure. Your goal here is not to miss any important bloc and put information in a logical order, omitting unnecessary details.
Anastasiya Zabolotina, Tech Recruiter:
“Be structured. Describing your experience always mention the name of the company/project, dates of your work, month and year, your position and a short description of your tasks. Three sentences would be enough if it includes information about what exact tasks you performed, the technologies you worked with and a short brief on successfully implemented projects.”
Make sure that you outlined all the relevant education, courses and necessary personal information. Do not forget about the projects you made in parallel with the main job if any.
Julia Pelyushenko, Tech Recruiter:
“The structure is very important! It shows how disciplined and attentive to details you are. Please, keep in mind that your CV should include at least these blocks: personal information; a short summary of your professional experience (companies, projects and their duration, your main responsibilities, tech stack for each project); educational background, certificates/courses; side projects (if any of them are relevant to the position you are applying for).”
Do not lie describing technology stack experience
The golden rule for any CV: mention only those technologies you have a proven experience with. Even if you know how any particular tech stack works in theory or have heard a lot about it – do not list it in a competences block, as a recruiter will quickly find out about this little lie. If not during an interview, then at the coding task stage, for sure.
The golden rule number two: focus on programming languages and tech stack required for a position, not the ones you like the most to work with. If you lack enough experience in the needed stack, do not inflate your skills, just sincerely put only those projects and tasks you have provenly dealt with.
Yana Gonik, Tech Recruiter:
“It is very important to show that a tech stack you are good at is relevant to the job opening you are applying for. Use similar keywords in your CV to those mentioned in a job description. It will help you to attract the recruiter’s attention. But be sincere, never lie or exaggerate, because it is very easy to check during a technical interview or a coding task with a company. Include the languages that you are technically strong in, your real competences.”
“Do not include in your CV everything you have ever heard. It’s always better to mention those technologies that you have touched indeed (e.g.: in case one of your colleagues has been working with AWS but you haven’t, please do not put AWS into your resume). The hiring manager may ask you questions regarding ANY technology that you have mentioned in your CV, keep it in mind!”
Properly present your achievements
The main thing here is to be concrete and provide illustrative information on your achievements.
In other words, do not be vague, avoid phrases like “I made a significant contribution to a company’s growth” or “all set targets were achieved.” Instead, go for concrete figures and comparisons: “before I joined the team this figure was X and after two years in a position of Y it multiplied and reached Z.”
“Show your strong sides, experience, achievements. You can mention some interesting projects that you have successfully accomplished, your role in them, particular responsibilities and results. Use action verbs, using the achievement-oriented approach, without describing your daily work routine.”
One more valuable advice: organize the information on your accomplishments in bullet points to make it more reader-friendly and do not forget to mention a company and position you had at that time. In a separate bulleted list, you can outline your side achievements as an individual professional.
“In the body of your CV, specify information about both personal achievements (courses, certificates, workshops you hosted, etc) and corporate achievements (e. g.: facilitated sales growth by X%, participated in the transition from monolith to microservices and so on).”
Focus on your relevant experience
Some candidates looking for a job think that specifying their entire work experience since the school times makes a CV look more solid. Let’s dispel this myth: in fact, it rather discourages a recruiter’s interest in your candidacy.
Natalya Yarkova, Head of Business Development:
“One of the mistakes potential candidates make is consistently describing their entire professional experience. It is better to focus on the last two or three months of labor activity, this is the most relevant period for an employer. The remainder can be just shortly listed after the latest experience.”
What is wrong with such a CV? First, its size. Second, it indicates that an applicant does not fully understand what requirements a position implies and just lists everything he or she can remember.
“Sometimes, candidates who have a pretty versatile background put into a CV all technologies they ever faced or tried. Eventually, it’s hard to figure out what’s their focus and area of interest.”
Target your CV for each company you apply to
Tech recruiters reiterate in one voice that the strategy envisaging bombarding dozens of employers with a single CV is not a successful one for a job search. Customize a CV, change accents to generate interest of a particular company. This does not mean that you should rewrite a document every time. Just make several amendments to secure the recruiter’s attention.
“Target your CV. It should always be relevant to a job opening you are applying for. It means that sometimes you even need to change it in accordance with the requirements mentioned by an employer. For example, if it is a Full Stack position, show the relevant coding language, experience with both backend and frontend. If you are interested in a senior or a team lead position, note that you have the experience of managing a team of developers.”
“Before applying for a particular job, take your time to read the job description carefully and adjust your CV accordingly. Highlight all relevant experiences you have for that position. I often see CVs of guys who are actively searching for a job. Usually, they just need a job and do not care about a company or a project. They often apply for a bunch of positions even without reading JD, while their CVs look pretty sleek and smooth.”
Keep an eye on details
The devil’s in the details. Even if your CV is perfectly structured, adjusted to a concrete position and has an optimal size, there can be some typos, misspellings or formatting imperfections. One can think that it is not so important, once a CV itself has been written almost ideally. But it’s not true, as these tiny details affect the whole impression a recruiter gets from a CV.
“Check your CV for minor mistakes and typos. For example, a candidate who is applying for the position of Quality Assurance specialist makes several mistakes in his resume. What kind of quality control can we talk about in this case? Such candidates are immediately rejected by a company, even without further consideration.”
One more tip: do not forget to check the name of a file with your CV.
“As for a filename. In 80% of cases, it makes you want to cry. We often get something like ‘MyCV_1_copy1_2019_new.’ Name your file with your first and last names – you will save recruiter’s time for structuring files.”
Also, it’s better to not get carried away by formatting: use formal shifts and colors, refrain from using animation or some unusual objects, keep it more business-like. Moreover, do not forget to add your contact details and links to professional pages, like LinkedIn and Github.
These simple but crucially important tips will help you to differentiate your CV during the first resume screening and significantly raise your chances to get a long-awaited call from your dream company?
… and one last tip:
“Always comply with the following rule in your CV, personal and writing communication: Be Bright. Be Brief. Be Gone. This rule is essential for your career. It means that you have to be impressive, structured and not disturbing in any type of communications.”
Zero to One Search recruiters work with software engineers searching for a job on a daily basis and look through thousands of CVs per day. To share this valuable experience with you, we launched special CV&LinkedIn consultations for everyone looking to improve presentation of the key skills, achievements and experience and quickly get a dream job!