DEV Community

Cover image for My experience writing a CV so far
Artur Mostowski
Artur Mostowski

Posted on • Updated on

My experience writing a CV so far

Contents

Preface & Disclaimer

I'm a software developer with almost 2 years of commercial experience working for fintech. Most of said experience pertains backend side of web-development. I'm also based in Poland.

By no means do I think that my experience is ubiquitous and I would bet that your path and experience will have or already has more differences than similarities to mine.

This post is written mainly for my younger studying friends who sometimes ask me how did my job searching fare than as an universal guide for everyone wanting to find a job in IT.

I treat this post as an exercise in writing undertaken to refine my style and as such it may contain sections that are of no value to you - i.e. origins of my structural choices.

My first "successful" CV

Background

After having studied CS for 2.5 years and knowing that I would be expected to have finished the internship before the start of the 7th (final) semester of my B. Eng. studies I've decided to start my first serious job hunting. It has not been terribly early in my programming career as some of my fellow students have been working since the 1st year of studies, but it was earlier than most, who have waited until the end of 6th semester and start of summer vacation to begin their internship search.

Structure origin

As someone with no commercial experience I've decided to make it only one page long. I've also read somewhere (reddit probably) that you should start with a one page CV and every 5 years of experience enable you to add a page more. This statement didn't turn out to be good advice, see my next failed CV.

Having learned latex during my studies I figured it would be a good idea to employ latex instead of Microsoft Word to write my CV. It was also due to my willingness to show off even the most peculiar skills I possess, which is not a universally good motivation, but it turned out fine in the end.

I've read several posts on reddit and googled a few articles. The ones that had the most influence over me were: University of Cambridge guidelines (website now replaced with this) and oddly enough the CV of a swedish professor available on his website I saw because one of his students posted a link to it under a meme I saw some months before.

CV with commentary

Link

As stated above it is only one page long since I didn't really have anything more to put in the document. Moreover University of Cambridge discouraged putting my age, or photo in the document, so I did not.

Something most of my "sources" agreed on was the order. The more important the section the higher it should be placed. Having no previous work experience I placed my education on the highest spot. I decided to enumerate - or rather itemize :) - relevant courses in lieu of my pre-academic education despite having achieved rather high scores on my Matura exam (high school finals).

The next section consisted of my "scientific achievements" that were meant to show that I'm not only passively studying, but I also strive to learn and improve my skills on my own.

"Languages and Technologies" section was meant as a place to put all the languages, framework, and so on required for the job, but I didn't really want to adjust my CV for every job offer so I dumped everything in there and ordered it arbitrarily.

The following section was actually the one most important. Showing off your projects - work, studies, hobby-related - is the best way show the potential employer that you are able to work consistently on something and from start to finish.

In the last part I put skills and assets that didn't match any of the previous categories, but could still show my potential value to the employer.

If I were writing it today I would switch the placement of projects and scientific achievements and perhaps put the Briliant Challanges distinction at the top of the achievements.

Recruiters feedback

The CV was dubbed "cute" by one of my recruiters, but the other one made a witty remark about putting my grade average in the document a few months later, so it must have stuck with him. Noteworthy is the fact that they were both developers from the team that I later joined. As far as I know I was employed because I had "vestigial" :) knowledge of coding and I appeared to be willing to work.

Failed attempt at refurbishing the original CV

Link

After having worked for 1.5 years I decided to refurbish my CV in order not to have too much work with it in the future should I need it.

Unfortunately I've wanted to put too much in the CV, while still containing it in only one page and ended up with this clustered, hard to read garbage that I promptly decided to abandon after negative feedback from my friends.

CV after 1.5 years of experience

Link

One of my friends informed me of the existence of the Awesome CV repository so I just went it that time.

This one contains the experience section and education has one more "member" since I'd already started my M. Sc. Eng. course.

Professional skills are divided in a more "sane" way - not by some arbitrary order of competence but by their origin.

I've dedicated almost a whole page for my projects this time since 1) I've had enough of them to do it, 2) I was aware of their importance this time - I might even overestimated it.

I was informed I should put "I have worked on a large project commercially" somewhere in the CV, so that it stands out for the HR by a senior dev.

What I've learned about CVs

TL;DR

  1. There is no golden standard for a CV, some HR might love what other would despise
  2. Readability is important. Try not to make your CV too cluttered :), it's better to have one page too many, than to make the entire thing unintelligible
  3. Projects are important (be it personal, academic, freelancing, or done in previous job)
  4. CV is not nearly as important as the rest of the recruitment process
  5. Having a photo in the CV doesn't seem important
  6. E-mail address placed in the CV should be at least semi-formal
  7. Having unique formatting doesn't matter (unless you want to be UX, a graphic designer, or anything graphic related), so just use some template

I've seen several CVs of my friends and colleges. They are formatted in various ways, most of them contain a photo, some are overextended over too many pages, some are laconic other detailed.

Despite being taught at school what are dos and don'ts of a CV I've come to the conclusion that there is no golden standard for a CV. People's tastes add to much entropy to the equation. Some people might value a photo in a CV more than some programming contest in a university, other may be impressed by the latter.

Moreover, no piece of advice about a CV is objectively good. What is common in the UK - not adding a photo, not age - is not a standard in Poland, where almost everybody includes them. What is important for a graphic designer CV may be completely irrelevant for a wannabe Software Engineer.

Readability is important. I've heard from multiple friends and seen it in the internet that a good HR glances at a CV for about 5 seconds and already has an opinion. Personally I do not believe it one bit. If the company in question gets so many CVs that they need to be pre-filtered they probably do it employing some algorithm. Evaluating a potential candidate is too important to allow such practices. I might be wrong though.

Despite the fact that HR probably takes more than 5 seconds to determine whether one is fit for the job doesn't mean that they enjoy reading a cluster of field-related keywords stuck together in a way that requires conscious effort to decipher. In my opinion it's better to have too much unused space than too little.

List as many projects as you have space for, however unimportant they may seem. There is no such thing as undesirable project as long as they are do not transcend common sense.

Despite the existence of this post CV are not really that important. As long as the company is recruiting and you meet the criteria they should contact you. It is not nearly as important as the rest of the recruitment process. In fact once you are contacted by the company they are virtually irrelevant unless they bring it up during interviews.

I have not seen any correlation between having a photo in CV and being accepted for the next stage of recruitment process. I might have too little data for that though. Just do not put a selfie in a bathing suit into your CV - my colleagues told me that it did happen.

E-mail address placed in the CV should be at least semi-formal. I advise going full-formal even if you need to setup a new e-mail address just for that. My colleagues still remember some inappropriate e-mail addresses in CVs and I think they did not help the candidates

Your CV doesn't really need an outstanding formatting to appeal to HR. It is enough to meet the job offer criteria and to have a neat layout that is achievable by using almost any template available online.

Links

First CV - Latex Code

CV after 1.5 years of experience - Latex Code

I welcome any critique of my writing and post structuring style. I've tried to make this clear and to make parts that might be boring easily omittable.

Discussion (1)

Collapse
pthacker profile image
Pratik thacker

I can't find the link to my latex CV right now...but your First CV is very much similar to mine..and thank you for sharing the latex code