5 ways you can improve your CV as a developer

Prior to working in web development, I worked as a IT recruiter for two years — specifically recruiting for PHP developers for businesses across the UK. As I’m sure you can imagine, I’ve seen my fair share of developers CVs. Some great, others not so much.

Now that I have moved into programming, I wanted to share some easy tips programmers can use to help improve your profile and aid your job search.

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Highlight your niche

Tailor your CV to a specific technology or stack.

For example, if your front end skills are nothing special and you won’t be looking for a font end position anytime soon, then re-brand your CV as a back end developer and tailor your experience to emphasize this. You can do this in a few ways:

  • Revisit your job titles (e.g. Back end developer → PHP Developer)
  • List the range of technologies you used within each job role and prioritize them accordingly
  • Include your current and preferred tech stack in your Profile section

Hiring managers/recruiters search for CVs by running Boolean searches into job boards to bring up relevant candidates. By including more ‘keywords’ in your CV, you’ll be listed higher in the searches and have an all-round stronger profile. Here’s one I used frequently as a recruiter:

(“PHP”) and (“laravel” or “codeigniter” or “symfony” or “zend” or “yii” or “cakePHP” or “cake PHP” or “Phalcon”)

Do not rate your skills

Every now and again, I’d come across a CV from a candidate who rates their skills. This is usually displayed as a star rating or percentage across a loading bar. Something to this effect:

The problem with this rating system is that it can be interpreted in too many different ways.

Does the higher the rating mean you’re more skilled in that technology? Or simply more confident? What differs 4 stars from 5 stars? Does the max rating mean you know everything there is to know about the skill? Who are you to judge your skills are worthy of a whole 5 stars?

You don’t need to rate your own skills, the interviewer will do this later.

Keep the format and layout clean

It’s a short and simple tip but I can’t stress it enough. If the layout of your CV is messy, riddled with poor grammar and spelling mistakes, it can give a hesitant impression of the quality of your code.

If you want to show off your creative skills, then leave the artsy colors and fancy design to your portfolio website.

Keep your CV clean and easy to read. Simple.

List your technology stack

Employers and recruiters look for a specific technology stack on a candidates profile. If the technologies you’ve used are not listed on your CV, those looking at your profile won’t know you have exposure that technology. You’ll be missing from Boolean searches too.

To avoid this, dedicate a section of your CV to list all the languages, frameworks and tools you’ve used on both professional and personal projects. Aside from your employment history, this is the most important part of your CV, so this section should be placed near the top of the document.

It’s not often a hiring manager/recruiter finds a CV who matches the exact tech stack they’re looking for, especially when they’re recruiting for a junior to mid-weight developer. Because of this, employers usually end up ‘flexing the spec’ — i.e. they’ll settle for something close to what they’re looking for because they can’t find their preference e.g. they’ll take someone with Angular.js experience instead of the preferred React.js. That’s why it’s important you list everything.

It’s not about lying or over-selling your experience. When interviewed you should be upfront and honest about your skills.

If the hiring manager/recruiter is doing their job properly, they will ask around your skills before any interviews even take place. There’s no harm in listing them on your CV in the meantime, even if you are still learning.

Just be sure not to rate them.

Link your portfolio

Adding freelance or personal projects to your CV does two things:

  1. Highlights your passion for programming
  2. Put you ahead of the competition

This is particularly important for junior developers looking to secure their first commercial role. A simple link to your website or Github account at the top of your CV does just fine.

And that’s it! Thank you for reading. I’m always happy to hear from like minded people, so feel free to drop me an email or leave a comment below.