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How to build a competitive CV as a software engineer

March 11, 20206 min read

I was recently interviewing several software engineers on behalf of a programme that I am participating in (I will give you more details about that in the future) and I noticed some common CV mistakes that a lot of software engineers (and not) make. It’s a pity to see talented developers with a portfolio that anyone would envy about, to have a sloppy CV. Consequently, I am writing this post to share some tips on how to build your own CV that will stand out and separate you from your competitors.

Firstly, let me give you some common mistakes that I came across and you should never make:

  • using a word document (.doc) instead of a PDF one
  • bad choice of font used
  • inadequate information
  • broken links
  • wrong structure & order of the content

Having said that, let’s dive into the practical part of this guide. The recommended way to write your own CV is by using LaTeX. From the official website:

LaTeX is a high-quality typesetting system; it includes features designed for the production of technical and scientific documentation.

It is clearly that this technology will make your CV appeared more professional and will also prove your familiarity of using LaTeX as well. Consider it as a bonus 👏

In order to make my life easier and avoid installing extra programs on my computer I use an online LaTeX editor. The platform is named Overleaf. You can find amazing CV templates here. Personally, I use this template from Github which you can import it on Overleaf very easily.

As you’re now ready to build your own CV, let me elaborate more and break my CV down as pointed on the following images:

CV first page

CV second page

You can find the original CV here.

An ideal CV template should meet the following criteria to be competitive:

Emphasis on the full name of the candidate

Don’t be surprised with that. Your full name (1) should be at least two times bigger than the main text. This action shows confidence and helps the HR person who reviews the CV to memorize your personal identity. Therefore, don’t neglect this one.

Contact details & about you

The personal information (2) play more important role than we think on our CV. It is necessary to include your contact details (4) like your email, phone and your nationality.

On the other hand, it’s not equally necessary to include information like your address and your date of birth, even though I did so because I am an advocate of transparency. All of those information lead to the first impressions to your potential employer.

That being said, please do not use email that includes numbers or you still use the one that your university provided to you. Bad examples: peter72-liverpool@myuni.org. Many of you will probably laugh at that because it reminds your email 😛Go and change that now! It’s recommended to use your full name or part of it e.g theodoroskokosioulis@gmail.com or kokostheo@gmail.com

The most appropriate section to follow after your contact details is a mini description of who you are. This is the place to describe yourself in a nutshell and share your background in 4-5 sentences. This is used like the About section on LinkedIn. It’s a crucial part of your CV because it gives a clear image of who you are so don’t skip that part!

Emphasize on the sections & the structure of them

Categories that shouldn’t be absent from a CV are definitely the Professional Experience, Education and Skills.

We know that the design of a CV from scratch, requires both tech and design related knowledge. Therefore, I recommend that those three categories should be displayed in a prominent way. I mention Professional Experience (6) above Education (14) but this is up to you. It doesn’t make any difference.

Skills (15) is equally important section that actually points clearly which technologies and programming languages the candidate has already in his personal toolbox.

This is the section that will make you stand out and finally get that job. It’s your former professional experience and everything that is related to work whether it is freelancing or personal projects.

It’s crucial to structure it in a way that it is easily readable. Firstly, you should mention the company’s name and don’t forget to add the link (7) in order to be accessible for the HR person. The city (8) is worth mentioning as well. If the position was remote you could include it next to your job position (9) and mention the name of the city where you worked from that period. Job position should describe exactly what was your role about and shouldn’t be generic.

Personally, a mini job description (10) describing what you were working on and what the company was about is very informative giving the big picture to the HR person.

In addition, date (11) is super useful because it depicts the time you spent at that company/project. Be careful with this one and keep a descending order preferably starting from the present.

It would be unreasonable to miss the part of describing your tasks you took on and I recommend to do so using bullet list (12). Another idea to enhance this section is to mention some statistics and KPIs you’ve achieved. For example, if you managed to reduce the performance of a website by implementing this xyz strategy is worth mentioning.

Don’t forget to include the technologies (13) you used. Very useful when a recruiter searches for specific technologies. Including that it will make your CV appears to their results.

Miscellaneous

Finally, some minor details that I personally find very useful and I’d suggest to include them as well are: the date that you last updated your CV (3), the languages (not the programming ones 😛) that you speak (16) and the interests/hobbies (17) you have.

Some extra things that are not included on my CV but you could mention on your side if they are applicable are the following:

  1. Personal portfolio - you can include it on Professional Experience
  2. Volunteer experience
  3. Awards
  4. Links to social media platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram or GitHub but only if you have an active account and post systematically

I hope you found this guide helpful and looking forward to see your updated CVs!

Let me know on the comments if you have any questions or anything you’d like to discuss further 🍻