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I've seen enough

Once upon the time I posted about a job opportunity here, in MessageLabs. Now, after dozen or so interviews I can say I've seen enough to post some reflections. I hope that this post will help one to get most-dream job.

Let's get started from the very first thing that recruiter will see which is CV. Since we started hiring I have seen a lot of CVs. Some of them were good, some were bad and some were terrible. So terrible that I even didn't read them in whole and today I would like to focus on that.

How long is your CV? Two pages, three, maybe even four? What about 11 (that's eleven, it's not a typo)? How one could expect any recruiter will read that? And yes, I've got one CV that was so long. Why is that important? Well, CVs are usually coming in batches of 8-10 or more. Some statistics says that average time spend on reading is about 30 seconds per CV and I have to agree with that. Your job as a candidate is to find a way to hold recruiter longer and encourage him to read your CV in details. You have just 30 seconds to say something interesting. Why then I'm talking about number of pages and not about design or visual excellence? When CV is two or three pages long I can scan through is in 30 seconds but I can't do that with ten pages. This quick scan is the very first thing recruiter will do. Just put yourself into his skin. You are sitting 7th hour of a day, you are hungry and tired and in one moment new CV arrived. What you will do when you will open it and see that it has eight pages? Will you read all of that? Will you even look onto that? I don't really think so. You will just look onto the very first page or two when you expect to see some kind of summary. For that you need just a quick look. When I'm looking onto CV (I'm not a professional) the very first thing I'm looking for is a summary. Then I will do a very quick look onto career history, looking for some key words. What if I will find that too long, too boring? I will throw it out.

Usually they are the clearest sample for those bad practices are contractors. For reason I can't fully understand they tend to write details of every project they were working on. I will analyse one example to show you what I'm talking about. From obvious reason I can't say whose CV it was. It was extreme, eleven pages long monster that I dug out from my trash by risking my life and consciousness. Let's then look what we have here. First two pages are a summary. Normally I would say summary is a good thing but two pages long? Then there are two pages of career history. Most recent, which is most important is just a name and dates. Then there are five other which some of them are just names and some has full description, responsibilities and so on. Then there are a few lines about education and hobbies. Not that bad so far? Not really because a monster is just right there – seven pages with projects descriptions without any headlines, highlight and other things that could help with killing that beast. What the hell is that? It's just seven pages of flow written in 11pt Arial. I wish no one to get that CV.

Talking about bad things would be just cruelty without showing good ones. There is good practice that CV should be two pages long and I think that makes a lot of sense. Some people will argue that they have a lot of experience and need more pages to cover everything. Let's say you are applying for .NET developer role. Technology is changing so fast, that, except some extreme cases, all experience older than 5 years is not worth anything more than being mentioned in a summary. I had CV from a candidate that spent over 10 years writing in some odd languages such as Perl and only a year in .NET. What is the point of spending four pages on full history when from .Net point of view he is junior developer with one year experience? Neither I care of Perl nor I'm going to ask him questions about that. Instead of that he should write very long experience software development, engineering or whatever. There is no need to place more than last two jobs on your CV. Everything else should be in a summary.

As for a summary, there are thousands of guides and books about how to write CV and all they are talking about how to write the summary. It should be short, clear and on the subject. There is no need to list all operating systems you know when you are applying for developer role. Take a moment to think which of your skills are relevant to the job. Don't just write everything hoping that this will impress a recruiter because it will not. The only effect you will gain will be a trash bin. Think also how to show which skills are stronger than other. You can order them but don't put years or months of experience. That is not readable. Personally I solved that problem by using "skill cloud" in the same way as we have tag clouds on our blogs.

It's the time for some summary. Your CV is your business card. People leveraged business cards to art and we should do that with our CVs. It's about how other people will see us. In the same way we will not go for interview in dirty and ragged suit why we are sending dirty and ragged CVs? I could say now that my CV is great and show it as an example but I don't want for I know it's not perfect. However I spent over 3 years polishing it and making in nice and clean. I have nice skill cloud, short objective, logos from certifications and so on. I've managed to place my whole career experience which is nearly 10 years long onto two pages. I'm proud of my CV, are you?

Disclaimer: This post strictly represents my personal views and don't reflect any policy from MessageLabs.


Posted 10-21-2008 3:04 PM by Jimmy
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