How to write the tech CV that will later transform into a flight ticket to San Francisco

We often tell our candidates to tweak their resumes into a form that gives the essential information about them within 6 seconds.
That’s right. Six seconds. If you’re lucky.
That’s why, whatever it is you decide to focus on, keep in mind that the CV should be easily skimmable. We hope this post gives you a hint of what makes a kickass resume to aid you in scoring that startup interview.
 
Depending on your expertise, different positions call for tiny differences in the CV styles.
The most common format of CV would be the chronological one. In this format, you list your work history in a reverse chronological order (you place the latest work experience on top). The benefit of this format is that most employers are familiar with it and, hence, are able to read it fluently.
Should you have gaps in your working history or you don’t have much of it, consider building a functional CV that highlights your skills in work history. However, make sure you explain where you’ve gained the skills you list out!
 

Be brief. Be you.

 
A concise resume demonstrates an ability to prioritize. You need to take the time to properly go through and cut back on the irrelevant details. If you shove everything into your resume the recruiter/interviewer can be overwhelmed. They may end up skimming your resume and focusing on the less important parts meanwhile missing the important things you did. Pretty please, don’t fall into this mistake.
A developer has three main focuses to put the effort in: experience, side projects, and education. Whatever job it is you’re looking for, you should at least be able to show a strong case in two of them.
If you’re applying for a tech lead position, showing you have great relevant experience and a strong base education could be good enough to land you an interview. If you’re applying for a junior role and you still don’t have much hands-on experience, your education credentials along with side projects will help you here.
Nevertheless, a solid CV, as we see it, includes the following sections:
 
Summary
The summary should provide an overview of your most important credentials and a quick forecast of the information that the reader is about to learn in the other parts of the template.
Want a tip for writing the summary? Leave it as the last one when everything else is done so you’ll have plenty of material. After writing it, make it shorter. A good length of the summary would be 3 sentences or 50 words.
If you don’t have years of experience, are changing career (or in our candidates’ case, the field of study), rather than a long summary about what you’ve previously done, write an objective that only states the essential: who you are and what you’re looking for. For example:
Front-end developer looking to develop skills in JavaScript and React.
 
Work experience
Experience is the primary evidence that you’ve got what it takes to be successful at a certain job. Listing past roles isn’t mainly about showing you were employed in the past years, but instead about summarizing what you were specifically doing and how it has contributed to who you are today and your professional skills. Still, remember that your first goal is to make your resume easy to skim, so keep it on point.
 

Employers care more about the experience than education.

 
Titles don’t matter so much in the startup scene, so keep them short and focus on your achievements instead.
List your latest job first. Add 2–6 bullet points that match with the job you’d like to do next (as a Lifer) and that mediate your main contributions to the business you worked for. Try to use various keywords to spice up the points and make them stand out.
The experience section is also the best place to show evidence that you have the required skill set for the job. If you’re applying for a React developer position, for instance, indicating that you have previous experience working with React or highlighting JavaScript related roles will count in your favor.
Like this:
Job, Title, Company // mm/yy/start – mm/yy/end
Task 1: the most preeminent activities of your job
Task 2: other collateral activities you worked on
 
Achievements: relevant skills/projects/technologies that you successfully mastered
Technologies: list of technologies, tools, approaches, and methodologies you used
 
Side projects
Apply the same principles from the Experience section here. Be brief, be you. Side projects are your chance to shine on the skills and technology stack you chose to use. It’s also an excellent chance to express entrepreneurship talent or interests.
Many developers think they must have an open source project to have a good resume. That’s not true. You could include personal projects that are not open source if they’re relevant. Just make sure you include things that show your potential and help you build up your case.
Example:
Spice: change how a web page looks using voice commands
– User says things like “make background purple” and site styles change
– Chrome extension developed using vanillaJS and Wit.ai
RoboPizza: a slack bot for ordering pizza
– Slack bot developed using Go and Wit.ai
Other Projects:
Speakasso: web-based generative art based on speech or conversation.
Bubbles.js: open source generator of PNG images of bubbles
 
Education
There’s no need to be too specific here. It’s well enough to state the relevant degrees you have, along with the institution and graduation dates. As a general rule, degrees come in reverse chronological order and only include what’s relevant. If you have a university degree, for instance, it’s not relevant to mention where you attended High School.
Moreover, no one cares that much about your GPA, so don’t include it (unless the job description explicitly asks for it or if you just graduated and would like to demonstrate you did quite well).
 

“It turns out it doesn’t matter where you learned to code, it just matters how good you are at writing code.”–President Barack Obama

 
Well-known degrees and programs are fairly similar across institutions, so a one-liner should be enough to summarize your studies at a high level:
 
2017 B.Sc. in Computer Science, Aalto University
 
However, further details about your education is considerable if they are exceptionally interesting or relevant to the position. For instance, if you’re applying for a data analyst position and your university thesis was about an innovative data mining technique, consider including a couple lines that describe your thesis, findings, or project:
 
2017 B.Sc. in Computer Science, Aalto University
Conducted a project on comparative analysis of 10 predictive data-mining techniques and authored 2 papers on the topic.
 

Not the years of experience but the experience in years.

 
Worried about not having too much work experience in years? It depends on the way you look at it. What have you learned during the years you spent at school? What projects did you implement and what did you learn from them?
We’ve got good news for you: it’s really easy to get some programming projects for your resume. They will take you no more than a couple of days and you’ll be able to show your future employers that you’ve got relevant job experience.
Have a look at some coding project ideas:

  • Do freelance projects
  • Post your code on Github
  • Contribute to open source and freeware initiatives
  • Participate in Hackathons (check out Junction – it’s your best shot in Scandinavia!)

In case you haven’t got too much to show off in your work experience section, consider moving it after Side Projects – as long as the CV serves the job you want to get in the best way possible!
 

Final words: a CV writers checklist

 
✔️Wrote the truth
✔️Kept resume concise and easy to skim
✔️Built strong cases for at least two of the following considering the job position:

????????Experience
????????Side Projects
????????Education

✔️Kept experience on point, listing only a few recent relevant positions, briefly including roles and skills
✔️Kept side projects on point, listing only a few important and relevant projects that I contributed heavily to, including my roles and skills
✔️Briefly noted my educational credentials, without including GPAs
✔️If technical skills were listed, did not include:

❌redundant or irrelevant skills
❌skills that I’m not familiar with or knowledgeable in


✔️Did not list my programming skills using:

❌progress bars
❌various levels of proficiency
❌years of experience

Personal information
✔️Kept it simple, stating only the necessary contact information, and did not exceed a few words if introducing myself
✔️ Did not include any of the following personal information:

❌full name if too long
❌age or birthday
❌marital or relationship status
❌gender
❌sexual orientation
❌ethnicity
❌nationality
❌social security number
❌driver’s license
❌full address
❌immigration status

Presentation
✔️
Layout is simple and beautiful
✔️If there’s a picture: it’s nice, professional, and good quality. Not required.
✔️There is plenty of white space and the text is not cluttered. It’s easy to read my resume. It just flows ☁️
✔️Used nice and modern fonts
✔️Used nice and pleasant colors

For a good example CV, see here!
 
Great. Now we can start to work!
 


Got feedback? We’d love to hear your thoughts on a perfect CV. You can drop us a line here or simply apply to our program and see how far you get (probably pretty far if you’re reading this blog all the way here)!
Startuplifers is a student-run nonprofit and internship program that sends the brightest minds in the Nordics to learn by doing as interns at startups in California and Asia. After getting accepted to the talent pool, we help you to improve your application, coach you to the interviews, take care of the flights and visas and include you to a tight-knit network of Lifers and alumni! 

 

 
 

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