Why I deleted your CV

I’ve been doing some hiring over the past few weeks and the amount of applications I discarded after 2 minutes of just scanning a CV shocked me. Probably 90% went straight to trash.

It’s a running joke in the tech community that most recruiters are spamming everyone who matches a keyword they are looking for. So if you mention JavaScript as one of your skills, you would still get called about Java, something completely different. I’m going to go out on a limb and claim that we got to this point because most CVs are a bunch of random keywords. So it’s more likely to find a match by searching for a keyword, than it actually is reading the CV. I don’t have the stats to prove it, but that’s my gut feeling.

To this day I still have no idea what people mean when they write that they have experience with “XML”. Doing what exactly? Replace the obsession with keywords with your actual experience. For any job you’ve done before tell me: what was the size of your team, what was the size of the company, what was the role of you in that team, what was your best achievement, how did your process go, what did you like? Etc. There are so many interesting questions to answer which shed a lot of light on your experience.

For example, if you worked as a “senior developer” at a company, how many other developers were there? If zero, then your seniority is just in the title. If 5, I expect you also did some management and training. If 100, clearly you were amongst other seniors and had someone above you, etc.

Context matters a lot, titles and technologies not as much. I want to understand the sort of work environment you were in, and what your part in it was. Technical skills are important, but they are trainable, while team work and communication are much harder to teach. Let’s not forget about scale too — were you building a website barely anyone visits or worked on a viral mobile app?

Something I personally care a lot about are people who are self-starters. People who can join any team or project and figure out how to get it going. That’s what small companies need. But it’s hard to tell the role someone had in the company if you are not explaining what you actually did. Not everyone looks for the same qualities, so try to cover all bases.

If your experience says you’ve been working in semiconductor companies before and are now applying for a mobile developer job…why? I can guess that you want to pivot to a different field, but it’s also possible that you are sending your CV to any job that matches your search. It’s a simple matter of adding a sentence explaining why you want this job. When changing technology stacks, or especially industries, it helps to know why. For example, anyone wanting to be a mobile developer probably doesn’t have the right skills yet, but have other skills which are much more valuable.

Whenever you are applying for junior positions you probably need to spend 10x the effort. Since your CV has little to show, you will have a hard time getting even looked at. It’s too time consuming to schedule interviews with everyone who emails an application. Make yours stand out and make your email on point. Applying for an ecommerce job? Show me what you know about the field.

Some people don’t even have a CV, that’s fine, but then you better introduce yourself and make me interested. I’m not going to crawl through everyone’s GitHub profiles just to figure out what makes you special. Open source work is a great example of coding skills, but shows nothing about how one would act in a team environment.

Luckily, it has become fairly easy for most people to find a job in tech, so I feel like the amount of work people put into their applications has decreased. It’s a fair reaction to market conditions, but my advice would be to still go out of your way and work on the CV. Most companies receive hundreds of them, and even if you are very good, and they might even see that during an interview, you won’t have a chance if I just deleted your CV after looking at it for a minute.

Don’t be lazy. It takes a few extra minutes of effort to get your foot through the door, which will lead to better jobs and better salaries. I think you should care more and put in a little extra effort, even if you have a great track record. Always overdo it.

*all illustrations done by Frits from hikingartist.com

I first published this on my blog https://juokaz.com/blog/why-i-deleted-your-cv.html