Screening technical CVs

· 517 words · 3 minute read

Recently I’ve been spending a great deal of time screening technical CVs. What struck me during this process is generally how bad engineering CVs are.

There are some great candidates with fantastic, concise and to the point CVs, yet these are few and far between. In the main, I’ve found that I’m faced with a multi-page document, which, despite it’s size, tells me little about the candidate. Perhaps most importantly, it doesn’t make me want to pick up the phone.

Curriculum Vitae can be roughly translated as “the course of my life”. As such, it should tell me something about you, something that makes you unique. Something that makes me want to talk to you.

The typical format of a CV is a reverse chronological list of previous employment. It might also include your academic qualifications. Some chose to include interests and personal projects.

I want to focus on the way people describe their employment history, as it’s become one of my major bugbears. That and CV length (please keep it short - I don’t have time to read your memoir). The rest will have to wait for another day.

Most engineers describe their employment history in the same way.

“Engineer on the mickey-mouse team. I contributed to the foobar project, writing xyz widget.

Technologies: Java, Javascript, XML, JSON, Spring MVC, Hibernate, Agile, Scrum”.

What does this tell me about you as a candidate?

Well, I know that you’ve worked with some Java code, you’ve used some frameworks and that you might had a stand-up.

It doesn’t tell me what you achieved. What was your specific contribution to the project? What did you do to make the project a success? How did you work? What specific agile practices to do partake in?

It also doesn’t give me a hook for the interview. I want to know about some problem you encountered and the way that you managed to find a solution. I want to see that you are smart.

More over, it doesn’t tell me how or what you want to do with your career. Were you using Java, Spring and Hibernate because that’s what you want to work with, or is the technology the reason you want to leave.

How about working practices? Do you like to Pair-program? Do you practice TDD? How did you manage quality? What does agile development mean to you? How do you want to work?

All these things are more important to me than a list of languages, frameworks or technologies. Even more so when the candidate repeats for in each placement. If you want to emphasise your skill in a particular language or technology, give me a link to Github.

Most smart people can pick up new languages or technologies, so what you’ve worked with in the past isn’t as important to me. The problems you’ve solved, the things you’ve achieved and the way that you achieved is.

So, let your CV tell me what you want to work on, how you want to do it, and why you want to work this way. Make me pick up the phone.