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How to get hired at Arcanys: Optimising Tech CVs and Portfolios

November 22, 202222 min read

In this latest episode of Arcanys Career Talks, we had a chat with longtime recruitment specialists Earl Fuentes and Normie Saavedra. Both experts at getting the best recruits for Arcanys, they shared their insights on the do's and don'ts of writing to CVs, whether portfolios are always important, if one really needs a friend to apply at Arcanys, and a whole lot more about what you should do as a tech candidate wanting a spot in a software development team. 

Curious? Proceed and find out

If you wanna watch the entire episode instead, click below to watch:

So today we're going to have a chat with two of our oldest Recruitment team members. And guys, can you please introduce yourself?

Normie: Okay. I guess ladies first. So I'm Normie and I have been with Arcanys for over five years.

Earl: Hi, everyone. My name is Earl. I have been with Arcanys for over five years now, as well. Well, turning six years this coming November.

Oooh! So does that mean that you're going to be joining the trip* next year?

Earl: Yes, actually this year.

[*Editorial Note: The trip being referred to is about the 5-year Club trip, which is an annual perk for Arcanytes who have been with the company for at least 5 years. For 2022, they went to Singapore.]

Oh, okay. Hello, Singapore! So let's get it on and let's tackle the first question for today. So you guys, you've seen a lot of tech CVs and recruited a lot of I think most of the members of our goodness today are recruits from you, too. 

So can you give us a glimpse of what is the first thing that you check in an application? And why do you check those first? Can you take it first, Earl?

Earl: Sure. All right. So, when I receive an application, the first thing I check is obviously their CV. So I would first look at their tech stack, if it's relevant to ours, to any of our positions. I would then look at their years of experience and see if it matches our requirements, and as well as their answers to the pre-screening questions.

Those three are probably the first few things I would look at in a CV.

Normie: So basically when I look at the CV, the first thing I would browse is the work experience, the number of years of experience. Because as you know, most of the candidates or most of the job openings that we have, we look for experienced candidates. So we first take a look at the number of years experience, just in a glance, and then the skills. Yeah, more or less the same.

So I'm also curious though, have you encountered people that you actually found out they lied in their CV?

Normie: Me personally, it's not really lying per se, but when you find out if the candidate or the applicant would put in their CV that they have this experience with this company… And then, they would indicate the inclusive dates when they were connected with that company, and then during the interview, I would find out that it was actually internship, their OJT, and then they would include it in their total number of years of experience.

So they would say, 'I have five years work experience.' But actually, the job experience, the total number of years is really just, let's say four years and six months, because six months was just an internship. So, it's not really lying but sort of, something like that. So that's the closest thing that popped up in my mind when you said if we've encountered a candidate that lied.

In your opinion, is it hard to lie in a tech CV? Have you encountered any of those, at all?

Earl: For me? Well, actually, it's not really more on their stint, whether they have gaps between employment. But you know, they would really lie on how long their experience is with certain technologies. So I probably have a recent experience. And this happened, I think, on a day wherein they had two applicants who, basically overestimated their years of experience with certain frameworks.

[It's] because they read in the ad the minimum years of experience. But then during the interview, we probe more about their experience. Instead of one year, we find out that they only have six months of experience. And it's pretty much basically during weekends. So they tend to overestimate their years of experience. So, we basically find out everything during the interview.

Nice. So any applicants out there that might be listening, our recruiters are sharp when it comes to spotting liars. So, don't even think about it, right?

The next question is what are the no-nos in a text CV or a portfolio of things that you see that makes you cringe or gives you bad vibes when you see it?

Normie: I’ll have Earl answer this first because he has really good eyes.

Oh, really?

Normie: Good attention to detail. Yes, he has.

Earl: So when I receive a CV… the first thing is it basically gives me an impression of who they are. I might be biased. Maybe they just don't know how to write the CV or how to make a beautiful one. But it actually says a lot about them, right?

So it's a big no-no if they have funky fonts, or unnecessary bold texts, or unnecessary spacing. And what's really annoying, for lack of a better word, is when they have really long CVs when they can just, trim it down to like a page or two. So that's actually a big no no.

Normie: And to add to those… CVs that do not reflect much on their duties and responsibilities. So they would just put their position and then, what company they worked with. And then sometimes they don't even include the dates when they were employed with the company. So that's a big no-no or for a CV. So your CV should contain details regarding your work experiences, your duties, your responsibilities, and most especially, the technologies that you have experience with.

I agree. And so, you mentioned something about funky fonts. I know that it's distracting to the eye to see a lot of letter orientations, right? But… Many people actually think that, that's being quirky and it might make their CV stand out. So what do you think about that rationalization about having 'funky fonts'?

Earl: Yeah, I think it does stand out, but not just in a good way. We would want our CVs to look clean as well. I mean, again, as I've shared earlier, it's like a representation of ourselves. So we don't want to give the recruiter a bad impression towards us.

So the best way to give them this impression is actually to write a very clean tech CV.

Normie: And also, we forgot to mention sometimes we encounter applicants who would say, how do you say this? For lack of a better word, an unprofessional photo on their CV. So it's like… I have this one applicant who uploaded a couple photo or a photo where he was in a wedding pictorial, things like that.

So it’s just… not really an advice, but just a tip. If you want to put a picture on your CV, just put presentable, decent pictures, not something like you would put on social media… or something you got from social media.

Earl: Yeah. Please don't make us guess who among you two is the applicant?

I've never heard of a couple photo or like a group photo before. 

Normie: We get that.

Earl: So might as well not upload one.

Mentioning photos... Is it like a deduction or minus points if they don't have a photo in their CV?

Earl: Not at all, no.

Normie: Yeah.

Okay. So that clarifies it. To all applicants out there, if you don't have a decent photo, then don't put anything at all. 

Next question. Has anyone submitted a Web portfolio? Does this get plus points? Because I've seen people have websites as their portfolios. Does that have more weight? Does that get plus points?

Normie: Roles or positions like UI/UX designers… It's really required for them to submit their portfolios because it's part of the screening process. So before they get to the technical interview… Well, actually, before they get to the HR interview, we first have to take a look at their portfolio. And then once the tech reviewers like their works or their designs, that's when we progress their application to the next stage, which is first, the HR interview. And then, followed by the technical interview. 

So yeah, they get plus points for that because they won’t progress to the next stage if their portfolios or their designs will not pass the screening stage. And we just forward it to the tech reviewers because they are the ones who are really familiar with checking the output of the candidates.

So basically, we just give them to the tech reviewers and they provide us the feedback.

Okay, so these tech reviewers are like senior members of the Arcanys team, right? 

Normie: Right? Like, for example, for the UX designer, we would forward it to the senior UX designer for review and he would give us feedback on what he thinks about the candidate's portfolio. So if he thinks it's nice, and it's done well, it’s clean and the candidate really knows how to do his thing. So yeah, we progress the application to the next stage. But not all positions have this stage.

So aside from UX and UI, what are the other tech or positions that [require portfolios]?

Normie: Graphic designers.

Usually, only the creatives have portfolios? I've heard of software engineers having a GitHub/[software] engineering portfolio. You don't check those?

Normie: Sometimes for candidates that we would want to dig deeper on how they work, or how involved they are, or how active they are in their work. But again, it's not really us who does the checking, it's the technical guys. So sometimes our candidates would give us, like, the link to their Git repository. So we would give them to our tech guys so they can check on the candidate’s works.

Okay. So that's the right term, Git repository. 

Next question. Do you give different weights or values to different sources of applicants? Like if an employee, an Arcanyte, refers to you an applicant, would it have more weight than the ones that you receive in emails, for example?

Earl: Actually, not. So we basically give the same effort or attention to all our applicants, regardless of the source. However, referring employees are also expected to provide a bit of information about the applicant, such as their work ethics, performance, and personality. But basically, regardless of the source, you come from a referring employee or you submitted your application via LinkedIn, it's just basically the same.

Okay. It's sort of a thing here in our culture that there's like a 'Padrino' system… so I think this is a nice clarification for some people because if they have friends that they could get in. And if they don't have a friend, they will not have a chance. So as long as you have the right tech stack and the right number of experience and you pass the other stages of the recruitment process, then you have a chance, right?

Earl: Yes, exactly. So everyone goes through the same process - upon submission of their CV up until they're interviewed by the boss and (given) the job offer. So everyone goes through a series of assessments.

Normie: Right, right. We treat all applicants fairly.

That's a great assurance to everyone out there. Do you also get web CVs, by the way?

Earl: Yeah.

Normie: Sometimes, yeah, sometimes.

Earl: But we would actually prefer for them to submit their CV in a PDF so that we can then upload it in our own database.

Oh, okay, I get it. So how about soft skills? Do you check for soft skills or does that come later in the application process?

Earl: We definitely check soft skills and it comes at the start of the process, actually, during the initial interview. So some of the soft skills that we check are their communication, their adaptability. What else? Their initiative as well as their problem solving skills. So yes, these are actually very important for the job. So it's not just because one applicant codes really well, doesn’t mean you would get the job right away since we also check for these soft skills., an applicant could be really good, but might have some difficulty when it comes to communication, which is also essential considering that we work with foreign nationals. So we want our applicants to also excel in those areas.

Right. So speaking of initiative, how would you check that in the interview?

Normie: For checking soft skills… for example, the one you mentioned, 'initiative'? We usually ask situational questions, so we would ask them to tell us about a time… or share with us about a time when they encountered this and that. So we basically ask them situational questions... And then, from there we would gauge their responses or how they respond to that specific situation.

[Maybe] do a bit of probing as well. That's when sort of a bit of behavioral interviewing would come in. So when you start asking them about their experiences, specific situational experiences, that's when you would find out because that's when you would see how they would react to specific situations. And that's how you gauge. Let's say, do they have initiative? Or are they able to adapt easily? Things like that.

Yeah, I guess that would give you some clue, right? So who else, aside from people in the recruitment team, who else checks the CVs?

Earl: So in some positions, there are also designated tech reviewers who are also part of the interviewing team, who will check the CV as part of the screening stage.

Oh, okay. So you forward to them the tech CV. And if there are portfolios, also the portfolio. Okay.

Now, I know that this is one of the things that graduating college students actually are given as a tip when they go to job interviews for the first time or when they go to apply for a job internship or OJT. That introduction letters are very important, that their applications should have introduction letters. Does that still apply?

Normie: To be really honest, for me personally, it doesn't matter much anymore because we focus more on the content of the CV, so mainly the applicant’s work experience and other relevant information.

Earl: And just to add to that, as well. In a day, we don't just review one or two CVs. We probably read around 50 CVs on a good day. So we don't pretty much have all the time in the world to read all of these cover letters. So we just basically check their CV straightaway, see if they have enough years of experience as well as the tech stack needed for the job.

Okay… That's good to know.

So, okay, how about the next question? What's one thing you wish you'd see more often in tech CVs?

Normie: I wish I would see more CVs that are properly crafted… like it's really clean. So the experiences are there, arranged properly. Because there are really candidates who would write or who would do their CVs, like, the dates of their employment is topsy-turvy. So, yes There are really candidates or applicants who would not care much about the content of their CV.

But I really get impressed with applicants who write CVs properly. CVs that are properly written for me would be something like… on this part, you would have your experiences. I mean, I know it's difficult to like picture out. But it's like things that are arranged. So in this part you have here your experiences and then after that maybe you would write your skills and then after that would be…

And then, as Earl has mentioned earlier, during the start of our talk. Do not use, as much as possible, different fonts, different font styles, different font sizes because it's an eyesore. For me, personally, it’s an eyesore.

Yes, yes, exactly. Because even on the web and even in blogging, that's an eyesore. It's one of the techniques in writing for the web that you do not have too many styles and too many different fonts in an article or in a page. So yes, it's an eyesore.

Earl: So just to add to what Normie has shared. Basically, that leaves a good impression to us recruiters [is that] the CVs are well-crafted. Now I know for a fact that not everyone has the skill or probably the patience or the time to really create a well-crafted CV. 

But there are also a lot of tools out there that they can use. Canva, for example. I think they really have a lot of good CV templates out there. So, they just have to be resourceful as well. If creating one would be something that would be difficult for them. It's just out there.

I agree about Canva. It has really good templates for CVs.

Normie mentioned something about a properly or well-written CV. Do you mean the layouts?  Like it has to be consistent?

Normie: Yes, that matters, as well.. the layout. Because it's one of the things that… It's not really such a big issue but we would appreciate it if, for example, we would prefer a CV that's just three pages, than reading a very wordy and lengthy CV that's over five pages. So as Earl has mentioned, we don't only review like 1 to 5 CVs per day. We review a lot of CVs. So it's very important that they make it as concise but as detailed as possible. 

How about the minor information in a tech CV? Do they still count? Like some people put the height, weight, eye color, hair color, and stuff.

Normie: I think Earl can answer that.

Earl: It's alreadyc2022. I think we're past that stage already. So we don't have to know how tall you are. What’s your weight? So yeah, you can probably skip that part already.

So that's a great clarification right from the mouth of recruiters. You don't need those minor information anymore. 

Earl: So, we would really appreciate it if the applicant would write down all their relevant experience. And so yeah, the term is 'relevant'. If they have some jobs before their career now that's not really relevant for their application, they can just not include it on the CV. But if it's relevant, we would really appreciate it to be listed on the CV.

Now, as for the gaps, we can't expect everyone to have really straight employment, no gaps. But there are stories behind those. We don't just judge quickly. Like [saying], This guy has a six-month gap. It's probably like a manifestation of his commitment.' No, it doesn't work like that, okay? So during the interview, we would ask them 'What happened during this time?' Or for example, what's keeping them busy during the time that they were not working. So, I think it's pretty much something that can also be explained during the interview process.

I agree that they may have some personal things that they had to go through, hence the gaps. Because I had those myself and it doesn’t actually automatically mean that their work experience is diminished or expertise has less value, right?

So, next… CVs or resumes? What's the difference and which do Arcanys recruiters expect from tech applicants? If there's any difference between the two?

Normie: CVs contain more details compared to resumé. And we would prefer, actually, applicants to include their projects, the technology that they have experience with as well as their roles and responsibilities. And then, also writing down their certification is a plus, too. Because there are some positions that would require certifications. Like, for example, previously we hired an AWS guy. So we preferred applicants or candidates who were AWS certified. So it's a plus that they would indicate that already on their CV.

So as to the question ‘CV vs Resume’, which do we prefer? The more detailed ones. So we would prefer CVs.

Do you check anything else about the applicants? How about their online presence, such as social media, when you're checking their CV or resume? A friend of mine, she teaches in college, and she actually told her students to ‘be careful of your social media presence because a lot of recruiters now are checking your social media presence and how you behave in public, on the web’. So, is it true?

Normie: Go, Earl. 

Earl: Yes. So at times, we as recruiters, we are also curious as to how active the applicant is in social media. We would also want to know how involved you are in tech communities, for example. So, we can’t help it but search for their names at times online and then basically see more information from there.

And a lot of times as well, we would actually, resort to going through their LinkedIn page. So since some of these applicants don't really put much details on their CV. So let's say, for example, we wanted to clarify something about the gaps maybe, or their tech stack, or their experience. Sometimes we get this information out of their LinkedIn profiles. So, yes.

So how about CV writing tips? What can you give our applicants out there? Tips on how to write their CVs, especially if they're planning to apply in Arcanys or maybe in other tech companies.

Normie: What we could probably say is that they have to be specific and detailed in providing work experiences, including their tech stack, most importantly, their duties and responsibilities, and then, the inclusive dates of their employment. So from what date until what date. So it's also important because from the start of their application, when we screen their CV, we already take a look at those details.

And then, not only when they write their CVs, but during the initial interview, it's very important that they are very specific with sharing to the HR interviewers. Let's say, for example… because some applicants, they would say, 'Well, we have this project and we did this and that.' But they did not really say specifically what was their role, what was their involvement, specifically.

So it's very important that when we ask them that during the interview, they should tell us specifically what their role was, what they did. So their specific duties, their specific responsibilities per project that they did or per company, in general, that they worked with. 

How about you, Earl? Do you have any CV writing tips? I know that you wrote an article for us a while back about how to write your tech CV. So can you give us a recap or like the top three or five?

Earl: Wow, that was actually five years ago. So I'm not sure if I still remember the details. But I think it's still the same case? They just basically need their CVs to be specific and concise, to be clean, as much as possible, with all the details. You may want to write down the projects. If it's too many to mention, probably just the highlights, maybe the project’s technologies involved.

And please don't forget to write down your contact information. I basically see a lot of CVs that would have their email address, which is really nice. But they're unresponsive to my email. So, I want to call them as well, but not all of them since they don't have the numbers in them. So, it's pretty much a basic thing. Just write down your mobile number and email address. And that's pretty much it.

Again, when you submit your application or CV to a recruiter, take note that it's not just you who's submitting an application. So the challenge next is for you to stand out among the rest of the applications. At least you have your CV as your representation. So make it something that would really get the attention of the recruiter and leave a good impression… at first glance.

Yeah, but leave off the funky fonts.

Earl: Please, leave it off.

How about you, Normie, do you have other top tips?

Normie: We talked about this earlier, so do not put things on your CV that are not true, because we would really find out during the HR interview. Because we would throw out probing questions. So just be honest. Yeah, be honest.

Nice. Those are nuggets of wisdom straight from our Arcanys recruiters. And [I] hope you guys got something valuable for your tech CVs out there, for applicants out there. Thank you so very much, Earl and Normie, for joining me today, this afternoon.

Earl: Thank you for having us, Line.

Normie: And thank you for having us. We had fun.

Hope you had a great afternoon.

Your tech CV and portfolio represent your professional life. If you want recruiters to even consider your application, be mindful of how you represent yourself in print. As Earl and Normie said… Be honest. Make it clean and concise. And put only relevant information that could best show off your expertise and work ethic. 

If you wanna check out previous episodes of Arcanys Career Talks, check our YouTube channel.

Or if you’re interested in joining the Arcanys family, check out our vacancies here.

So long and see you in the next episode. 

Line Arias

Line Arias

Content Writer

Line Arias

Content Writer

Line is a Content Writer at Arcanys. She's also an editor, a bibliophile, a collector of pretty knickknacks, and a versatile doer with serious OC tendencies. She loves the written word undoubtedly, reads creepy stories by Poe, and shows great enthusiasm for every project like an eager beaver.