Iʼve reviewed lots of CVs recently. Hereʼs how to improve yours

A solid CV is crucial to get that first interview. It is a good summary of what you can offer, and if that’s not obvious after a few seconds, hiring managers might just discard it without reading, no matter how good you are.

So what does an ideal CV look like? Quite simply, it enables hiring managers to decide in 3–5 seconds whether a call with the candidate is worth their time or not. They might also refer to it during the interview.

Because of the way they are used, CVs should have two layers: one that allows the reader to deduct a few key facts in a couple of seconds, and another one that provides more details. Both formatting and content should be adapted to serve this purpose.

Format

As a ground rule, PDF CVs are best. They look the same on all devices, can be printed or shared via email easily, and keep their formatting across all operating systems. I’ve seen web-only CVs as well (a CV page on a personal or portfolio website). This is not a bad solution, although it may look like the candidate is trying too hard to be unique by not bothering to prepare and update a PDF. By all means link to your online CV, but make sure there’s a PDF version (and they match).

No CV, Europass, LinkedIn only, and other formats are not really convincing.

Length

Keep it short.1 A good CV is one or two pages, and well structured (more on that later). Any longer than that, and the hiring manager might not read it at all. At this stage, you really just have a couple seconds of their time.

Aesthetics

A CV should look pleasant and readable, no matter the position. This is even more important when you are a frontend developer. The essence of the job you are applying to is to make stuff on the screen look good and serve its purpose. This is your first chance to prove you are good at it. A CV is not simply an intention of applying for the job, it is part of the assessment.

Content

It’s helpful to include your relevant work experience (from latest to earliest), with a few bullet points about responsibilities and/or key results. No need to list your experience as a shop assistant if that’s not what you are applying for — but it’s ok to mention it in one line at the end if you’d like to explain a gap between studies and developer jobs.

One more thing: thereʼs no such thing as 5+ years experience. A company can look for someone with 5+ years, thatʼs different, but you either have 5 or 6, but not 5+. If I see 5+, I immediately know itʼs not more, because then you would write 6 or 7 or 12, right?

tl;dr

Make a nice one-pager PDF including your name and contact, link to GitHub or portfolio site, relevant positions with responsibilities and/or key results in bullet points, and a mention of education, and you’ll be fine. Remember: you have five seconds of the reader’s attention.


Notes


  1. The longest Iʼve received for a mid-level frontend position was 11 pages. ELEVEN. PAGES. What on Earth can span 11 pages in a non-academic CV?