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CV Success for IT Professionals

11 Dec 2019

Sean McNeill

When it comes to CVs - One size doesn’t fit all!

IT professionals are in high demand. With skills shortages in the industry, there’s never been a better time to be working in software development, security, testing or support so getting your dream job should be a breeze. Well, perhaps it’s not quite that simple!  We look at thousands of CVs every year and it is still quite shocking how many people miss the target.

Before you hit the send button for any job application, ask yourself some basic questions…

1. Who am I sending this to?

Different companies, particularly within IT and creative industries, have hugely varying requirements as well as culture. So the standard, “here’s one I prepared earlier”, approach won’t work. In a start-up company for example, the process is likely to be less formal than in a multinational software company.

2. Who is going to look at this email first?

The person who receives your CV first is likely to be from a different background in these companies so talking completely in “tech talk” is not the answer – make sure that either a HR professional  is equally going to be able to understand your CV as well as a CTO or head of development would.

3. Am I their solution?

Look at the job description! If the spec asks for essential and/or desirable skills, at the very least ensure that each is clearly addressed on your CV.  People can’t read between the lines!

You play paintball at the weekend and enjoy movies. Great!! But this isn’t going to be enough to get you the job. On the other hand, you’ve been published in a journal, volunteer at your local CoderDojo, speak at tech meet ups or have developed your own app. All potential differentiators so why do so many people fail to mention these great selling points? 

Make a judgement call on what information is pertinent to the job and culture of the company rather than just filler content!

Most importantly, always remember that companies are hiring because they have a problem to solve.  Your CV is your chance to be their Solution!

4. Back to Basics

You only get one chance to make a good first impression.  When you’re job hunting, your CV is your first impression.  Here are some basic tips to make sure you don’t make some of the most common blunders we see!

  • Don't include a photograph – it’s not a beauty parade
  • Use a modern sans serif font such as Calibri 12 or Arial 11 & keep the same font throughout!
  • Use punctuation as visual indicatorsi.e. if the reader sees something highlighted in bold, they should know that they’re looking at a job title/employer etc. If they’re looking at bullet points, they should know they’re reading responsduties/achievements etc. Pay attention to detail – are all the indents matching throughout?
  • Spell check!I cannot overemphasize this enough.Sadly, IT CVs are frequently littered with spelling and grammatical errors.You may have expert knowledge in a programming language but if you can’t demonstrate good grammar or at least how to use the spell check tool, you’re not representing yourself well.
  • Don’t send in pdf format.Many companies use AI software that scans CVs for essential & desirable criteria & some of these don’t recognise pdf content.
  • We’re increasingly seeing CVs from candidates using an infographic / visual representation of their skills.These are great when done well as they grab the attention and cut through the filler but make sure you have a traditional Word version as well!

5. Content is King

Ok so the basics are out of the way in terms of presentation but what about the content?

Here’s my guide to the best layout:

  • Need to know details – name and any letters that go with it e.g. PhD / MBA
  • Attention grabbing reason to read on – 2 or 3 lines should pique the interest of the reader be they a HR manager or a CTO.Remember, you need to be the best possible solution to their specific problem!
  • Contact details – you’d be surprised how often people don’t include these basic details.Use your personal email NOT your work one, include home and mobile numbers and why not include a link to your LinkedIn public profile? Prior to doing this, try and ensure that you have a personalised URL.
  • Academic qualifications – use your common sense here.If you’ve been working for a considerable time or you have post graduate qualifications, your Leaving Cert won’t be that relevant! However, if you’re starting out, do include your degree / certificate/diploma results, final year marks for modules taken and details of your final year project as well as what you did in your placement year, if you had one, and any academic awards.Always work in reverse chronological order.
  • Add in an easy to read snapshot of your tech expertise e.g. RDMS, programming languages, methodologies, project management tools. Make sure you are able to back this up later.
  • Career history – again, go in reverse chronological order. Employer, dates (include months), job title. Main responsibilities in bullet points; achievements; managerial responsibilities; special projects. Always start with your biggest achievement and leave out any fillers!
  • Referee details – mark as confidential if you include references.If you’re not going to include their contact details at all, leave it out!

Pick me!

So we’ve covered the basics and some common mistakes but ultimately your goal is to be the solution to your target employer’s problem.  Any job description will list a number of essential and desirable criteria from both a technical and soft skills point of view.

You need to look at the job description as a technical specification and treat your CV as the project plan which addresses the job in hand.

  • Firstly, make sure your 2-3 lines at the beginning of your CV basically sum up what the job ad says and that you have the actual skills to back this up.
  • Make sure all the essential criteria are clearly covered in your CV. Ask someone to read over it and the job spec before you send it. E.g. the spec asks for 5 years’ experience of managing a team of developers in a .NET environment. Don’t rely on “Lead .NET Developer” as a job title necessarily translating to this. Include brief information on managing a team of 4 junior developers utilising named technologies.
  • Ensure that as many as possible of the desirable criteria are clearly addressed in your CV. If the spec asks for strong interpersonal skills, don’t just put that down as a skill. The skill here is in showing how you’ve used those interpersonal skills.E.g. managing multiple stakeholder relationships (internal / external, onsite / offshore, technical / operational)

If you can manage this successfully, then you will become the solution and more importantly, you will land your dream job!

For further information and a confidential discussion about your career please contact Sean McNeillConsultant within our IT division on 01 662 1000 or email [email protected]