Are you looking to land your first job after several years of study? Perhaps, you are making a career change, eager to move to the next adventure of your professional life. Maybe, you are simply interested in following the job market trends and keeping an eye out for interesting opportunities. Either way, a successful job hunt requires a successful CV. One that captures and highlights your qualifications and experience. This begs for the question, ‘how to write the ultimate CV?’ Using the insights gathered from a decade of recruiting Nordic talent for the US tech industry, we put together a list of top tips. Let’s take a closer look.
1. Keep your CV concise and relevant
This might sound obvious and overstated, but it is key point applicants overlook commonly. Did you know that an average recruiter spends no more than 5-7 seconds skimming through a CV? This means you have an extremely tight window to get their attention and prove your case. Therefore, a perfect CV should not be longer than 2 A4 pages. Candidates often tell us, “but I have done many interesting jobs over the years and I want to showcase all of them”. Unfortunately, there simply isn’t enough space for this. So pick what’s most recent and relevant to the role you are applying, and leave out the rest.
2. Make it easy to read
To fit everything into 2 sides of an A4, have you crammed tons of information in micro-sized text? Have you used visuals that you thought were cool or catchy, but are just taking up space and making eyes water instead? Are the fonts and formatting all over the place, throwing consistency out the door? No matter how good the content is, if reading it is difficult and consumes too much energy, then it defeats the purpose. Keep things simple and clear. Individuality is important but make sure you stand out for the right reasons.
3. Don’t assume but always explain
Simply listing out the positions and companies you have previously worked in is not enough. The recruiter or hiring manager does not know you personally. Therefore, always explain concretely what you did under each role. What were your tasks and responsibilities? What are the technologies you used to perform them? Was it a junior or a senior role? Did you lead a team, product or project? What was the main outcome or key learning you gained? Please don’t say, “I made 100 calls in a week”. That’s basically saying you turned up for work. Instead, dig deeper and reflect on how you used your expertise, why you did it and what you achieved.
4. Include a profile summary
Beginning your CV with a solid profile summary sets the tone for the rest to come. This essentially gives the reader a bird’s eye view into your profile. A short and snappy writeup, maximum 50 words, of who you are and what you are looking for is a great way to capture the recruiter’s attention. Think of it as a 3 line pitch, on why you are the ideal candidate for this specific job.
5. Bring your work experience to the top
The most important thing a recruiter or a hiring manager looks for in a CV is previous work experience. This is the primary evidence as to if and how you have what it takes to do well in this specific job. Therefore, as a rule of thumb, bring your work experience to the top of your CV, right under the profile summary. Start with the most recent job and work your way down. Don’t worry if you haven’t done the exact same role as the one you are applying for. What’s important is that you demonstrate you have developed transferable skills and experience, and have the ability to learn quickly. Your education qualifications can be listed after this. It’s enough to mention the relevant qualification you have, the institution you received it from and the duration you studied it for.
6. Include side projects
Another thing that speaks for a candidate’s experience as well as motivation is the projects he or she has done. These can be school projects or ones you’ve done at home in your spare time. If they are relevant for the role you are applying, list them out as you did with work experience. Especially if you are a junior candidate with not much work experience under your belt, projects will help you to get an edge.
7. Add your LinkedIn and portfolio links
In today’s world, everyone looks up everything online. Which means your potential new employers will most likely look you up online too. Therefore, it’s really important to create a LinkedIn profile, and add the link to it on your CV. Moreover, particularly if you are a developer or a designer, make sure to add your GitHub and/or website links to your CV, as well. Keep them updated so it doesn’t look like you fell off the grid since 2015. By adding these links to your CV, you are controlling and guiding the online searches conducted on you.
8. Limit personal information
The only personal information you need to include in your CV, are your contact details. Essentially, your name, telephone number, and email address. Do not include your age or birthday, marital or relationship status, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, social security number, driver’s license, full address, immigration status, etc. Moreover, not including a picture is perfectly fine too, and even advisable. The bottom line is how old you are, where you come from, what you look like or believe in, should not impact your chances of getting selected for a job. The only things that matter are your expertise, motivation, and personality.
9. Save your CV in a readable PDF format
Is your CV saved as a MS docx file? Even worse, when you made it all fancy using photoshop did you save it as an image? Well, now it most likely has skewed formatting depending on which type of device is used to open it. Moreover, if it’s unreadable, it’s performing really poorly in keyword searches. After all the time and energy you spend perfecting your CV, it would be devastating if recruiters can’t open it or read it. And we know you can’t predict what device the person on the other side will use to access your CV. Therefore, saving it in a readable PDF format is your safest bet.
10. Keep it professional
Always remember your CV is how you package and present yourself in a professional context. No matter how cool and hip your potential employer may seem, there are lines you should not cross. For example, the picture you use on LinkedIn or your CV should not be a selfie from a bathroom mirror. No matter how interested you are in pub crawling don’t mention it. Pay attention to the language and tone you use. In the written form it’s quite easy for a statement you consider as passionate and funny, to come out as obsessive and rude.
Now that you’ve explored the fundamentals of creating the ultimate CV, we hope you’ll get right to it. If you need more information on this topic, you can find it in our blog post here.
Moreover, here is an exciting video from the tech recruiters we work closely with, sharing their top tips on CV writing. Keep an eye out on our blog for more posts on how you can shine on paper and in person, to land your dream job.