It’s not that long ago that I was adding the finishing touches to my own CV when applying to work at Akeero. Now here I am as a Senior Backend Developer and - as we’re looking to hire Backend Developers - suddenly I find myself spending time reviewing the many CVs that land on my desk every day.
Now I’m sure most of us have read lots of nice articles with titles like "The 14 Best-Kept Secrets of a Successful CV (Number 9 will TRULY AMAZE you)". They’re fine, but I have to admit, having not been on the hiring side of the desk before, what’s actually TRULY AMAZED me is just how quickly I have developed the ability to filter though job applications and classify them into categories like "irrelevant", "not our profile", "relevant", "promising" and "perfect match".
It didn’t take me too long to develop a process, identify positive and negative triggers, and essentially learn what to look for as quickly as possible. So I thought I’d write about this experience and suggest a few tips of my own - and who knows, maybe it can help you to ensure your CV is one that demands serious consideration for the kinds of positions that would best suit you.
Read the role description
I mean, this is an obvious one, right? But clearly not everyone does it. So if it says in the role description that our stack is based on Python, and in your CV you state you’re "not interested in Python", then I'll just assume that you applied by mistake! I won’t even read the rest. I wish you all the luck with your job search, but let's not waste each other's time!
Your cover letter matters
So you've done everything… you’ve been an aerospace engineer… you’ve managed billion-dollar financial projects… you've devoted yourself to speech recognition and written a sentient AI… oh yeah and database engines and 4k-demos and… and…and…. And your CV is ten pages long! Bear in mind that I will take a maximum of 60 seconds to make my first decision, so please help yourself by using your cover letter to point out those few important things that you think make you the best candidate for this particular position. Do that well, and I promise I'll read your whole CV thoroughly. And it's a nice human touch that you’ve taken the time to write a message to your prospective future colleagues.
Formal or casual?
Think about the company you’re applying to and match your level of formality to suit! A startup is a lot less formal than a big multi-national. We have no necktie fetish at Akeero, nor do we have a formal HR stage that you need to navigate with buzzwords like “I was responsible for coordinating the architectural development of a groundbreaking technological solution". So just cut the B.S. (I mean "Business Speak"). I'm not an HR specialist who's putting you through an exam, we're just two developers who might end up talking over coffee. And if all goes well, we'll be colleagues!
Our position calls for Python skills and yet a lot of applicants spend a lot of time going into detail about their JS skill and expertise. It's great, but it's relevant for some other position. Also, if the position mentions AWS skills, and you have them, then don't be shy and name them all, so I can see you stand out!
If you've used Python for Postgres or for Mongo, but not for DynamoDB, then it's perfectly OK. We're both developers and we learn new things hands-on every day, and there is no such thing as a perfect match. But if you touched Python only for a `HelloWorld.py`, then it'll become obvious during the technical interview. By then we will all have just wasted each other's time.
Less is more
I still remember when every CV started with a photo, then with all the academic qualifications (each with a well-formed one-paragraph introduction to various academic institutions), then the same for former employment… And really, it was just a waste of paper. I'm glad that this approach is in the past and it'll never return. So if you have some relevant qualifications, please list them, but no need to get too specific. If we really need to know, a web search will tell us the details. As for your former employment, just a line on where and when, what you did there, and what technologies/methodologies you've used there. Really though, I'm interested in reading about you, not about your former employers.
I believe if you follow these simple tips, you will probably end up doing fewer interviews. You should certainly end up applying for fewer jobs. And this is a good thing! Instead of doing 50 interviews and finding out during 40 of them that the position is just not right for you, you get to focus your energy on the 10 that are really relevant. This will give you a better chance to secure the best possible role for you!
By the way, did I mention that we're actively hiring? If you're interested, just send your application, especially now you know how to get past my filter…