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What does a perfect CV look like?

The goes and no-goes of CV writing

A question that job applicants ask us pretty often is “What does a perfect CV look like?” Recently, we asked Konstanty and Ionut this question once again. They shared their opinions, observations, and concerns, which we’ve summarised in Qs and As.

A little bonus: you will find a link to the downloadable CV template at the bottom of the article.

What is the first thing recruiters/hiring managers look at in a CV?

It depends on who is viewing your CV.

Still, it’s either the latest few items of your employment history, your tech skills, or both.

The first page of your CV. Make sure it has your contact details, an overview of tech skills, and employment history starting with the most recent job. Don’t forget to include links to your professional profiles. The use of colours is optional :)

What are the things that turn recruiters off in a CV?

The first red flag is blatant lies.

Here is an example: An applicant puts “Berlin” as his/her location. At the same time, their phone number suggests a different country (outside of the EU). A few questions arise:

  • Why does an applicant lie about their location?
  • What else does he or she hide?

The second warning sign is typos and spelling mistakes. If you didn’t bother to check your CV before sending it, maybe you’re not that into the job?

Another reason for concern is short stays in the last 2–3 roles. There is an HR-jargon word “jumper”, which describes a person who stays with companies no more than 6–7 months.

What are the no-goes in terms of structure, format, and use of words?

The first no-go is the Europass format. When it comes to showcasing your skills, a Europass CV prioritises breadth over depth. Besides, it usually is too long.

Say no to putting each section into a separate box. Draw the hiring manager’s attention to the text, not to the frame that surrounds it.

Another no-go is naming every single technology you’ve worked with. As an extreme example, there is absolutely no need to mention Microsoft Office.

Avoid high-flying words and fancy titles. Don’t call yourself a rockstar, ninja or guru. Do not say that you are an expert or a specialist unless you can back it by numbers and experience.

Also, don’t use inspirational quotes. They serve no purpose, are distracting, and can be easily misinterpreted.

Does the size matter?

While 1 page is often too little, your résumé should not exceed 3 pages.

To make your CV more concise, avoid long sentences and don’t list every single tool you have worked with (or every single project you’ve done).

What is the right format? What are the necessary parts of a CV?

Everybody agrees that a CV should contain the following sections:

  • Your name and contact details
  • The set of skills
  • Detailed information about your previous roles (with exact dates, only years won’t do)
  • Education
  • Languages

You can also add your hobbies at the end of the CV.

Also, ask your recruiter if you need to mention your visa status/right to work in the EU.

Don’t list all your experience, include only what’s relevant for this particular job.

Should I do a summary of my skills & technologies? Where should I put it?

We advise you to list your core skills and technologies at the very beginning of a CV.

There are several ways you can do it:

  • You group your skills and technologies in categories and make an expanded list.
  • You list your core skills and technologies and self-rate how well you’ve mastered them. Konstanty says, although self-ratings might not be that accurate, they are a good indicator of what a job applicant is interested in.

Should I list all my job experience or only relevant experience? To which extent should it be relevant?

Keep in mind that the purpose of your résumé is to get you an interview appointment. That’s why every piece of information in your CV should be most relevant to a particular job.

Here are some of our tips:

  • Make sure the most relevant info is on the first page of your CV.
  • Don’t include your odd jobs. For example, if you worked as a barista for 3 months last summer, leave it out. If the company has something to do with coffee, you can mention it in the “Interests” section at the end.
  • Say, you are applying for a React.js Developer position. If you want to mention your pet iOS project to show you are interested in different technologies, you can do it in the “Other experience” section. But do not go into details about it. Just the title, core technologies you used, and a link to the project will do.
  • You don’t need to go back more than 15 years.
  • Try to fit everything into 3 pages max.

How detailed should my CV be?

Make it as detailed as it needs to be. Provide enough information so that the hiring manager gets curious about your skills and experience. Inspire him or her ask you the right questions during the interview.

In Ionut’s experience, 3–4 bullet points or a paragraph of text is enough within each job summary. This normally includes your major tasks and responsibilities, and also key results.

Put all the extra information onto the last page.

Should I include my photo when I’m applying for a job in Berlin?

No client of ours has ever rejected a CV because it didn’t have a photo. After all, if a hiring manager wants to see what you look like before the interview, he or she can check your LinkedIn profile.

Still, if you’ve decided to include a photo, make sure it’s a professional one. No cut-outs, no wedding pics, no photos with other people, no bad-quality images ;)

Should I use “creative” CV templates (like the ones I can find on Canva or Etsy)?

Unless you are a UX/UI designer, a simple template will be better. If you are a Frontend Developer with UX experience, a good layout and some flair is expected from your résumé. Just don’t overdo it :)

What about online CVs?

As Konstanty said, online CVs “are fine as long as they are downloadable”. Keep in mind that recruiters and HR’s are required to store applicants’ CVs in their system. That’s why a PDF is the best option.

Do recruiters help change applicants’ CVs before sending to the hiring company?

Of course, we won’t edit your résumé with our own hands. But, after a call with you, we will know what relevant and important information is missing. So, yes, we can help you improve your CV.

A final thought…

“A CV is a way to get through the door” (Lily, our Tech Recruiter)

When you start making your CV, keep in mind that its purpose is to get you a job interview. So, before adding each new detail, ask yourself:

“How will it help me get an interview for the position Y with the company Z?”

A CV template to use

We’ve made a CV template that you can download and fill in. Be sure to save it as a PDF before sending to a recruiter or hiring manager, so that it’s not editable anymore.

Download a CV template here.

And once you have your CV ready, feel free to check out and apply for the open positions:

Happy job hunting!