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Top 5 Reasons Why Your Tech CV Sucks (and How to Fix this)

October 01, 20186 min read

Hi guys, there’s something important I need to tell you. I will not beat around the bush. 4 times out of 5, your technical CV, well, for lack of a better word, sucks. And while some recruiters may not mind how your technical CVs look, others do. So, since no one ever tells you what’s wrong in your CVs, I’ve decided to play the nice guy and list here the 5 biggest and ugliest mistakes you can do in your CVs, and how to fix them. You’re welcome.

Yeah, I don’t mean little white lies, but bald-faced full-fledged works of fiction on your skills and experiences. Sometimes even I believe them.

“Developed two complete web platforms, plus an inventory system in 4 months time.” Wow!

Then eventually, you undergo the practical exam. And here comes the drama: you score 1/30 in the simplest programming exam ever. True story. Waste of time for everyone. You see, the truth always comes out.

How to fix it?

This one is easy... unless you are a mythomaniac. You know why it's easy? Because you can do it without spending any extra energy on it. Just tell the truth. If you answer an ad for a Junior Developer position, then just tell me you are a Junior. Admit that you don't have a lot of experience, but that you are eager to learn. And even better, show me what you have learned on your own. Trust me, I will love that!

You can’t reasonably rate your expertise level at 8/10 with just 3 months of experience with a technology. After 20 years of PHP, I would barely score myself 8/10 in the language. It’s not honest to give a rating out of the blue, without having measured your strengths against other people. Why? Because the message you’re sending to me with this is that you don’t have your feet on the ground, that you’re not a realistic person.

How to fix it?

Evaluating ourselves can be harsh because by doing so we expose ourselves to the truth. Maybe we’ve been lying to ourselves for the last 5 years. Or perhaps it's been 5 years or so that you've been using outdated technologies, you were given the title "senior developer" because of your seniority, but skill-wise it's far from realistic. So it's often hard to fall down to a lower level.

But now that you’ve decided to stop lying (see #1.), it's time to face yourself. To sincerely evaluate yourself, you can do any or all of the following:

  • Try to pass official certifications (e.g. AWS, PHP, Node, etc.)
  • Contribute to some open-source projects, just propose some small modifications or bug fixes at first and see how they are received
  • Follow the lessons given by some well-respected developers (Wes Bos, Todd Motto, John Papa, and more).
  • Compare your code with theirs, or even ask more experienced developers for a code review.

Identifying your strengths and weaknesses (in both hard and soft skills) helps not only me to understand your profile, but also for you to discern the areas you need to work on to become a more effective developer. If you really don't know where you are, you can check roadmap.sh and simply trace where you are.

I’ll just have one question here: Does Arcanys say it makes “reelly grate software”? No, it doesn’t. Typos and spelling mistakes are NOT ok, so are the 8 different fonts used in your CV. Period.

How to fix it?

Luckily, these kinds of errors are easily corrected. Simply turn on the "Spellcheck" feature on your Word or doc software. Even Google Docs has this feature. You can also refer to any online dictionaries (e.g., Merriam-Webster, Cambridge) if you're unsure about some words, or a grammar site (e.g., Grammarist) as a reference on their usage as well as sentence construction. You can also brush up on your English by doing some reading. And by reading, I mean actual books, not Tumblr, Facebook, or Twitter.

Another thing that can help is to ask a friend to proofread your CV. Just to be really certain your CV is all clean. You can even pay somebody to do it on platforms like papertrue.com or proofreading.org. Think about it. If you pay someone $50 to proofread your CV, then you get the job, and your first salary is $800... then don't you think the spend was well worth it?

You just downloaded your CV from LinkedIn or carelessly slapped on your work experience in Word, and promptly send it in, thinking that will do. Seriously? Wake up guys, the professional arena is not that forgiving. Your CV is how you present yourself to potential employers and is a reflection of how you work. Every time I see a poorly written and formatted CV, I can’t help thinking, "Is it... like CV, like code?" No, thanks!

How to fix it?

OK, this one is more tricky because we are not all born with some design skills and a discerning eye. But you do need to take that extra 15 minutes to make your CV presentable. Thanks to Google, you can simply type "free beautiful CV template," click on the "images" tab, and there you go. Easy as pie.

You can find other great free online resources for these in Behance and Canva. Simply type "free CV template," and you're good to go.

Most tech CVs I read are just a plain list of stuff with no degree of importance or sort of structure. You can write nearly 4 lines about your summer job in 2004, but just give me a super brief mention of a legit development project you did a few months ago? When the latter is precisely the project I want to know more about.

How to fix it?

Your CV is representative of who you are, particularly your skills and work ethic. And you may be tempted to spice things up a bit, to stand out and seem unique. However, for a potential employer like me, I'll only be interested in the things of value that you can bring to the table, so to speak. I may care about the extras, but the main points or highlights are way more important to me.

So when writing your CV, first, go to the website of your target employer and know what they do and what they’re in. Second, focus on the skills and experiences that are relevant to the position you're applying for and put emphasis on them. Don’t include things that even you don’t care about anymore. In the same way, don’t spill too much over skills you don’t want to use anymore—if you are a backend developer applying for such a position, then don’t say too much about how you’ve learned Photoshop.

When reading your CV, I need to get a simple, comprehensive understanding of your most meaningful achievements and the technologies you’ve used.

After reading all that, you may think it all a bit blunt ––and you’re right. But every day I hear people complaining about not having their dream job. And yet, they prefer to browse Facebook or passively watch YouTube videos instead of investing just an hour of their time to improve their CV and make it presentable and tailored according to what their target employer needs to see. I would say, they have what they deserve.

Wanna increase your chances of genuinely impressing your next employer? Fix those 5 terrible mistakes ASAP. When you’re done and ready, send us your awesome piece at hr@arcanys.com!

Eric Jeker

Eric Jeker

Software Architect

Eric Jeker

Software Architect

Eric has been working as a software engineer for more than 20 years. As a senior architect for Arcanys, he works closely with the developers to instill the habit of learning, clean coding, re-usability and testing with the goal of increasing the overall quality of the products delivered by the teams.