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Developer Careers Guide 5: Make sure your CV is read and not rejected

Your CV is the first impression that a prospective employer will have of you. In about 90% of cases the CV is the reason why candidates do not get invited in for an interview, even those candidates who would excel at the job if given a chance.

It’s easy to understand how this happens, when you think about it.

Depending on how many different avenues employers use to recruit, most vacancies have over 50 CVs submitted. Of course, it’s not feasible for companies to run 50 interviews for each position, so they make a shortlist and will usually interview a maximum of five candidates. So far, so straightforward, but you may not have thought about the implications of this on the next step.

When they are reducing a shortlist of CVs from 50 to 5 or less, most employers don’t look for the CVs that are the most impressive and the best fit for the job. It is easiest for them if they look for CVs that are wrong somehow, as this way they can rapidly reduce the pile. It follows that about 90% of candidates are rejected simply because their CV doesn’t work in their favour.

The main focus you should keep when writing your CV is to give the prospective employer no reason to discard it and every reason to want to find out more about you – to interview you. We’ve reviewed thousands of CVs and worked with many hiring managers and have learned the keys to successful CV writing.

These fall into two categories:

Content. In the rest of the Developer Careers Guide, we’ll explain what information you should put into a CV.

Visual impact / look.
 Perfect presentation ensures the vital first impression is positive.

The look to aim for can be summed up in one word – professional!

The CV has to be easy to read, look clean and allow the reader to focus on the content, without being distracted by style and formatting.

Many people include graphics, logos, pictures, stylish fonts and different colours on their CV to make it stand out. It can’t be denied that this does make the CV stand out, but almost always for all the wrong reasons. Preferences for style are very personal, and going all out to impress in this way is just as likely to alienate recruiters as to attract them. When a recruiter has to look at 50 CVs, the simple clean approach works best.

Here are some basic guidelines:

Length

  • This point links to content, which we cover in a separate post. We don’t recommend a maximum length, as the CV simply needs to be long enough to cover everything you need to include. However, no hiring manager wants to wade through pages of waffle, so keep it concise and focused on the key points.

Typeface

  • Use a common, simple font such as Times New Roman, Calibri or Arial.
  • Use the same font through the entire CV. Do not use multiple fonts.

Size

  • Use font size 10-12
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  • Keep the same size for all information. Do not vary size for more important information.
  • Do not try to reduce the size of the font to squeeze more information onto the page – it is always obvious and gives a terrible impression.

Bold/Underlining

  • Use Bold or Underlining effects very sparingly. Sub-headings, company names are good examples of suitable use of Bold. However when used in the middle of sentences to highlight things, it can give a messy effect and is unnecessary.

Margins

  • It’s common for people to change the margins on a page so that they can fit more information on to a page. All CVs will be formatted by recruitment agencies (and have a logo and agency address added). The margins are normally changed back to normal, which generally creates problems and your CV will almost definitely not look quite right.

Tables

  • Avoid putting your CV/education/work history into tables. They have the opposite effect to margins and can restrict large areas of space. They are also difficult to update or add/remove data to/from. You should ensure your CV is freely written to allow for maximum flexibility and visual effect.

Use of capitals

  • It’s easy to get into the habit of starting almost every noun with a capital, but the overall effect is that the CV is harder to read. And it’s grammatically incorrect. So, in general use graduate, university, software etc. rather than Graduate, University, Software.

Follow this advice and most recruiters and hiring managers will at least read your CV in full, giving you the chance of an interview and a job offer.

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