Being responsible for hiring developers in almost every position I landed, I’ve screened probably a few hundreds of developers CVs through out my career. Following is the list of mistakes I often found in CVs.
- First and most common mistakes: the CV lists too many skills. In fact, I’ve seen many CVs with roughly a dozen lines mentioning about many dozens of technologies and tools. In many cases as the on-site interviews revealed, these developers just possessed superficial or absolutely no knowledge about the things they listed. One can only go so far (to the on-site interview) being untruthful. On the other hand, even if these developers really know about these things, among the too many things they list, I can hardly find the ones that should really stand out (i.e. the things that the candidates have expertise in.) Now, there are those of you who really have extensive set of skills under your belt and want to list them all, it’s still better if you can highlight the top skills that you master so that they can stand out from the rest. Most of the time, employers don’t care about the skills you are not really good at. Think about it, would I hire a top .NET developer to write Java code just because the guy happens to know a bit about Java?
- Some candidates describe what they were supposed to do instead of what they actually did in their previous positions. If one implemented the security module of a software using Spring Security or used Struts 2.0 to implement a web module of another software then I would want to know about that. On the other hand, I don’t want to read a some general job description stating the obvious and of little interest (to me) such as “designed and implemented the application”, “worked with QA to resolve defects”, and “participated in code review” etc. (Guess what, if you’re not doing these things, you are not developers.) On the other hand, some candidates went so far quoting text from the job description while they have not actually carried out such responsibilities and that has resulted in quite a couple of embarrassing on-site interviews. Be very specific about the things that you did is the key to avoid this mistake.
- Mention too much about the clients and products. As a matter of fact, I’ve seen some CVs in which every project is accompanied with a lengthy paragraph describing the product and its client. Much of this information is pulled out of the marketing information provided in the client’s or product’s website. Keep this in mind: most employers don’t care about the vision of your client organization and the greatness of the product. For the software that you built, only 2 things should be mentioned in the CV: what problem the software solves and what technologies it is built with. Anything other than that is noise and should go away. For the client, the name and a link to their website are more than enough. For the really rare case that I want to learn more about the client, I will find more information through the provided link (or Google, for heaven’s sake).
- Some CVs mention too trivial projects. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to demonstrate how much passionate you are about this software engineering by listing things like, say, personal projects but there’s no point mentioning some trivial toy or university projects in your CVs. Think about it, how much value the employer gains knowing that a developer can code a Tic Tac Toe game or a shopping cart? Absolutely nothing unless you expect us to say to ourselves “Look, that guy is really cool – he can code Tic Tac Toe.” Save the space for more valuable things instead. If there’s no such thing, better save us some reading time by removing them from the CV.
- Spelling and grammar mistakes in CVs. I am constantly surprised that many developers don’t even care to do a quick check to make sure no grammatical and spelling mistakes in their CVs. After all, it only takes a few minutes for this check to be done with any word processing software. Without doing this, one risks leaving a bad impression to the recruiter; the impression that the author of this CV is either lazy, doesn’t care about getting the job, about doing the right things, or about going the last mile to get the work done. That might be a harsh conclusion one can come up with given just a few spelling mistakes, but given the sheer amount of CVs recruiters have to screen for any particular position, they are not supposed to be very patient and tolerant of poorly written ones.
- A bonus tip: don’t be afraid to list your certifications if you have any. This is actually not a common mistake, but since there is a rising number of people who suggest that developers should not include certifications in their CVs, I think it’s worth setting an alarm. Anyone who have under their belt a few certifications know that it’s not the papers themselves that have a lot of value but the actual studying process that one usually gets through to get those papers is valuable. Plus, if one spends the time that would otherwise be spent on vacation or gaming to study and achieve some certifications relevant to her work, it means that she cares, if is not passionate, about her job. And that is never a bad thing. Finally, with all things being equal, some companies would prefer to hire developers with one or more certifications than others because that would help with the partnership process with vendors like, say, Microsoft (like it or not, there are obvious benefits to become partner of the big vendors).
That’s it, the top CV mistakes. Am I missing anything?