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Developer Careers Guide 8: Technical Skills

As a developer, it’s essential that your CV presents information about your technical skills in the right way.  Making a distinction between your ‘technology portfolio’ and your ‘ability’ as a programmer is crucial.

Ability’ is a term that describes who you are:  how you approach programming, what you value, your approach to development.

Technology portfolio’ is a term to describe what you have done: which technologies you have used and what level you consider yourself to be at with those technologies.

Ability

Your ability statement could be included in your personal statement, as described in a previous post, or at the beginning of your technical skills section. In it you should try to describe your coding personality or the area of development in which you specialise. Are you passionate about low-level problems, rapid development, performance improvement or fresh new projects? Do you love working in an agile way? Do you agree or disagree with TDD, BDD or DDD? Your ability statement should be kept to one or two sentences maximum, so it’s worth spending some time and thought to get the wording right.

Technology portfolio

The first question most recruiters will want answered when looking at your CV is “does this candidate have the right technical experience?”  Trying to get this across in a CV is not easy, as you need to condense a lot of information into as little space as possible:

  • Technology
  • Versions
  • Number of years’ experience
  • What level you are at

Your technology skills are one of the few elements of a CV that should be repeated, as I recommend including your technology portfolio at the beginning of your CV as well as in your career history. The reason for this is that CVs are reviewed by different people in the recruitment process. This will include recruiters and HR who will want to know if you have experience in a technology and also technical managers who need to understand how strong your skills are in that technology.

Many employers become frustrated with CVs that include a long list of technologies, as they cannot immediately see what the candidate’s strengths are. Even worse, if the list of technologies is too long they may assume that the developer is lying.  To avoid this it is important to separate the technology portfolio into two sections to make a clear distinction between technologies that you are at an advanced/expert level with and those that you have used once or twice.

In the technical portfolio section of your CV include every version (or at least the latest version) of each technology you are proficient with. Break down each technology to give an accurate picture. For example, J2EE comprises many different technologies such as EJB, JSPs etc. Many busy HR consultants will discard the CV if they do not quickly see the exact words they are looking for.

Here’s an example of how this information could be presented.

Skill Years Level Skill Years Level
Java J2SE (1.1-1.6) 5 Expert J2EE (EJB, JSP, JDBC, Servlets) 3 Expert
Spring Core, MVC 5 Advanced SQL Server 7/2000 1.5 Advanced

For technologies that you have come across but wouldn’t consider yourself to have advanced knowledge, include a list after the main table. For example:

“I have a basic level of skill using:

  • Frameworks such as: Hibernate, OSGi, JPA
  • Operating systems: Linux, Solaris, HP-UX, Shell Scripting
  • Languages: C++, C, Scala, Groovy Database: MySQL, Oracle, DB2”

If you help the recruiters by organising your technical skills in this way, you will make it easy for them to see if you are likely to have the skills they are looking for. If there is a good match, you have a much better chance of being short-listed for an interview.

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