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Luke Barnard
Luke Barnard

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Writing a Relevant CV

For the last few months I've been helping out with the frontend developer hiring process at Tessian (that's right, we're hiring - send me a DM!) and I'd like to share some thoughts on keeping your CV relevant. I must note, these views are entirely my own - not Tessian's.

This will be the first in a series of posts that I want to share from the perspective of someone who has been looking at A LOT of CVs with the sole aim of finding really incredible engineers to join an already awesome tech team.

Context > Breadth of Knowledge

The first thing I notice when I look at a CV is the number of technologies and frameworks mentioned. I find that lists of entire A-Z of libraries, frameworks, architectures or paradigms can distract from the information that matters the most. A CV that really stands out is one that brings to light the unique parts of someone's experience. Mentioning relevant technologies with your previous roles and projects will help give a much clearer idea of how much experience you've had with a particular bit of tech. It also gives context - reading "PHP" on it's own doesn't give as much insight as "helped rewrite PHP monolith as a set of micr-frontends".

I've also seen some CVs that show how comfortable someone is with certain technologies with graphs or ratings out of 5. When it comes to indicating relative proficiency in certain technologies, I think it's best to stick to the facts, which in this case are previous employment and projects.

In any case, remember that you can learn anything in time - there should be nothing stopping you from becoming more proficient with a given stack. The projects you list on your CV will showcase this.

Remember that giving context is more important than the number of technologies you can list.

Impact > Work

I've noticed a lot of CVs mention very common tasks that you might do as a developer. In particular I notice most people tend to mention one of the below:

  • Developed UI components
  • Fixed bugs
  • Wrote unit tests
  • Participated in SCRUM meetings

Every time I read this I find myself wishing that I could ask the candidate what they really achieved on a particular project and how they had an impact.

My advice is to focus on the unique aspects of a particular project and the impact of the tasks you did, e.g.:

  • Optimised the performance of the checkout page, which lead to an increase in successful purchases
  • Helped rearchitect a Rails monolith to a set of micro frontends to increase maintainability and decouple key products
  • Introduced BDD practice to the team to increase stability in new features
  • Merged multiple repositories into a monorepo, which decreased lead time
  • Maintained development environment for the frontend team to speed up local testing

And if you can't think of many achievements for a particular role, try describing the project and what it achieved or parts of the software that you built and maintained.

Remember, the impact of your work is more important than the work itself.

Humility > Exaggeration

When writing your CV it can be tempting to exaggerate or show off about the things you've achieved. This might seem appropriate given that you want to wow a potential employer and appear to be superior to other candidates. For instance, I've seen a few CVs that decorate experience or projects with adjectives and impressive numbers.

The problem with this is that it has unintended biases in the mind of the reader. Exaggeration distracts from the facts themselves. The experience on your CV should be able to stand alone without any exaggeration. Being transparent and humble will go a long way, if the facts are impressive they should impress without the extra additives.

As an example, let's say I decided to write on my CV:

Optimised the SEO of the landing page which lead to a dramatic increase of traffic (x10)

Compare this with the following:

Optimised the SEO of the landing page which lead to an increase in the number of users registering

With a small adjustment, the statement is more humble, and focusses more on the impact of the completed task.

Remember, your experience got you to where you are today - it doesn't need exaggeration.


To summarise, here are three tips for writing a CV:

  • Giving context is important, your work doesn't exist in a vacuum
  • The impact that your work has is more important than the work itself
  • Exaggeration only serves to distract, humility will go a long way

Thanks for reading, for more like this follow me here on or on twitter! ๐Ÿš€

*NB: I re-wrote this post because I felt it was too negative and that's really not how I want to share my ideas. Any criticism is hugely valuable for me, so please leave any constructive feedback in the comments.

Top comments (2)

olivvv profile image

"Companies are looking for top talent " that sounds like an idea from people having not recruited much...
Companies can only recruit real people from the real market, not dream unicorns.
You seem to think that every single dev company does scrum and has good unit test coverage. This is not true at all. Doing scrum and unit testing is a distinctive skill, even if you think that it is "normal".
So fr the balance on the market is still on favor of devs, there is no need for special luck to have the cv considered by a recruiter. I have seen many times stories were the recruiter of some small companies start nitpicking stuff on candidates CV, not realizing that the candidate was simultaneously talking to another company, ready to make a much bigger offer.
That how some companies fail to recruit during months. By being too picky, they pick nobody.

luke profile image
Luke Barnard

Hi olivvv, thanks for the feedback. I rewrote my article in an attempt to communicate my thoughts in a more positive way. I totally agree that not every role is the same, I think what I really wanted to say was that a CV should focus on the candidate's unique experience and it should give context to the tasks that they've done.

I think it depends on the role too - a senior developer probably wouldn't mention (reusing the same example) unit testing because at this point in her career, this is irrelevant. A junior dev on the other hand should definitely mention this kind of thing, and mentioning the impact is no bad thing imo.

I totally agree that being picky is not an effective way to recruit. Sticking to the facts is so important when finding a candidate to fit a role.