Talking about your professional strengths when writing a CV can feel very difficult for many. After all, Software Engineers are multi-faceted individuals with lots of excellent characteristics and skills.
But, how do we know what to highlight when tailoring ourselves to our dream role in tech? What captures an employer's eye, and separates our CV from our peers?
Fear not! We’ve laid out a step-by-step route to writing a perfect CV for your first tech job. We hope this blog will give you inspiration, tips, good guidance and good practice for those of you graduating from the Northcoders bootcamp.
1. Dedicating sections to technical skills / programming knowledge, any tools and technology you're familiar with or use regularly.
Start by jotting down in sections, any programming knowledge, tools and technology that you use regularly. If you’re a student on our course, consider writing a journey blog to keep a record on what you’ve learned or are currently learning so you can reflect back on it at the end of your journey.
Catch their eye with keywords. This will help employers check off any skills they need from a candidate to fill their role. Avoid adding too much information as it can easily dilute your message, but include enough to get the relevant information across. After all, the employer doesn't need to know all the finer details yet, but do consider how you will talk around these points if you are asked to do an interview. Can you prove everything that you have talked about? Can you discuss your experience with any potential employers with confidence?
Focusing on your strengths in relation to the role you’re applying for can be the best thing you can do for yourself. For example, if you have limited experience with SQL but have listed it as a skill, then be aware that this is a topic you could easily be asked about - Write more about the things you know and feel more confident in talking about, and making sure you’re applying for those roles that play into your strengths rather than your weaknesses. It’s certainly something you can discuss with an employer on the tail end of an interview, you never know what some employers might do for you in regards to extra training or upskilling even after graduating from Northcoders.
2. Talk about any relevant accomplishments you may have had, and/or personal skills that work to your advantage.
Keep the most relevant parts of your CV on the first half of the page. This way your employer is hit with the most applicable information immediately, and it also encourages them to keep reading to learn more about you!
What do you do in your spare time? Perhaps you have a passion for creating websites, or contributing to open source. Do you volunteer with an organisation or attend any extra-curricular activities? Perhaps you have some certifications.
These are all things that should be shouted about in a ‘Projects’ section on your CV, personal or professional. It’s also a perfect opportunity to link your Github or any of your websites in your CV. Anything you can link that demonstrates your skills and knowledge will make any employer interested in you willing to look into you further, and having something like a working app you’ve made that’s easily accessible for your potential employer will surely increase your chances of landing that desired job role.
3. The key to a strong CV is having it structured in a way that is easy for any potential employer to follow.
The majority of employers are quick to read through any CVs sent in by applicants. On average, an employer will spend anywhere between as little as 6 – 30 seconds reading through one person’s CV.
The best thing you can do to increase your chances of grabbing your potential employer's interest is to make the information on your CV readable at a glance. This will make it so that each second your potential employer spends reviewing your application counts, so make sure to keep a good balance between being concise enough to make their job easier but to also contain enough information to get as much about yourself across as possible.
- Limiting the page count on your CV to 1, 2 if you feel it’s absolutely necessary. Employers and hiring partners can get through tens or even hundreds of CVs every single day. Keeping your CV short and sweet saves them precious time and very well may work in your favour.
- Bullet points. Instead of writing several long winded paragraphs, keep it to a set of succinct bullet points listing anything from your unique skill sets and knowledge to hobbies and interests. Deliver as much info in as few words as you can.
- Avoid long winded paragraphs. Employers are likely not interested in spending their time reading lengthy paragraphs. If you decide to include a personal profile then it can work as an introduction to yourself, but after that you don’t want to bury any important information in a long paragraph as it will likely get skimmed over and potentially missed completely. Instead, use bullet points as discussed before, or separate important information into categories. For example, write three sentences for any particular experience you have and categorise them; One for programming languages, use of databases and any other applications and softwares you use.
Adding onto this, you can also consider stating how you did something, by using action words.
For example, instead of writing:
- I created an app.
You could say:
- Built a full-stack app, optimised for mobile devices. This would allow users to simulate the outcomes of pokemon battles against opponents of different gaming styles by utilising open source cards.js on the front end.
It’s worthwhile describing accurate statistics to structure your points too, ‘I increased client interaction on my app by 45% within a 3-month period.’ It shows that you’re aware and takes your potential employer on a journey of what you’ve done, how you’ve done it and what came from it as a result of your work.
4. Tailor your CV to each application you make.
The odds of you getting an interview with any role you apply for will increase if you tailor your application to that role. We don’t suggest that you rewrite your CV every time you send an application off, but maybe consider emphasising other aspects of your skill set that are relevant to the various roles you would apply for.
5. You must make sure to update your CV regularly!
As the tech world continues to grow year after year, you definitely need to keep an eye on your CV and keep any skills, tools and knowledge you may have up to date and relevant with the current times.
This can be tough as the tech sector is constantly growing and changing and some technologies that you might have included on an old CV last year could be outdated by the next. Look over your CV at least once a year and make any changes as needed so then you can avoid looking ‘out-of-touch’ to any potential employers.
There's no such thing as cookie-cutter CV perfection.
What constitutes a 'perfect' CV for you depends on your writing style, your experience and the job you're applying for. If you are on our Northcoders bootcamp, we have dedicated staff that are happy to give you any extra support you need creating your CV, as well as answering any questions you may have.
If you manage to follow these guidelines and stay on top of it all, you will definitely be one big step closer to landing your first role as a Junior Developer! You can also read about our other students who were in this situation and how they managed to onboard into their first
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