CV Advice

I’ve recently been involved in a number of interviews for our growing team at Betfair, and have been surprised to see some commonly occurring mistakes in some of the CV’s. Given the vast number of free resources online that advise job-seekers on how to write an effective CV, it’s somewhat disappointing to see some of these issues still plaguing us. This is not intended as a criticism of those that have submitted CV’s – in fact, a number of them have been very good! This is simply another one of those free resources that I’m hoping will be helpful to someone.

#1 Think like the interviewer

It’s very easy to get consumed with the stress of updating your CV and forget that someone else needs to read it. You should constantly try to read your CV as though you were the interviewer, and then fix anything that doesn’t make sense or appear to add value.

#2 Your CV is your personal brochure, not your biography

I can’t speak for anyone but myself on this point, but I generally tend to focus on the first two pages of any CV. That should typically include your skills, education, most recent work history (2 most recent positions/projects). Everything of value should be on those two pages. It’s not that the interviewer doesn’t care (we really do!) – it’s that we seldom have the time to read an extensive CV. Bullet points are always preferred over paragraphs… this can’t be emphasized enough.

#3 Acronyms… friend and foe

I’ve been amazed at the number of CV’s that include “private” acronyms – in other words, acronyms that only people in your own organisation will know. These are typically acronyms for systems that have been worked on, or internal tools that are used. While acronyms can make a CV much easier to read, you should be careful not to assume prior knowledge by the interviewer. If you need to use private acronyms, make sure you introduce them first… and only introduce them if you intend on using that acronym later. You don’t want to give the interviewer a StackOverflowException (sorry, lame programmer humour).

#4 Avoid technology shopping lists

Try to avoid listing an excessive number of technologies on your CV. It might be true that you’ve had some exposure to loads of different technologies, but try to describe those that are most applicable to the position you’re applying for. Admittedly, you may not always know which those are – but if your CV lists more technologies than some of the job postings on JobServe, you should probably cut it down a bit. Again, this is not to say that you should downplay your experience. But it’s highly unlikely that you’re an expert on everything. If you feel it is important to list them all, try order them for the interviewer. It’s nice to know what you consider your major strengths and what you’ve only dabbled in. It’s great when you see that someone has enough interest in their career that they’ve chosen to learn 10 different languages, but try let your CV demonstrate both the depth and breadth of your knowledge.

#5 Get someone to proofread it

Every interviewer will be looking for something different, but it’s almost certain that communication skills are high on their lists. With that in mind, you absolutely must get someone to proofread your CV before submitting it. Spelling mistakes, poor grammar, incomplete sentences and poor punctuation are all too common and they detract from creating a good first impression. This is not to say that you will be judged purely on these grounds, but getting them right will certainly help. But you’re a programmer, not an author… right? Wrong! You will be called on to explain your ideas and present your (or your team’s) work at some point, and you need to be able to convey it well. A CV that is poorly constructed and full of mistakes doesn’t inspire confidence in the candidate’s attention to detail. And that same attention to detail is often what helps make a great programmer.

These aren’t really ground-breaking revelations in the art of CV-writing, but I think they’re the common sense advice that we all need from time to time. I hope this has been helpful, and happy hunting.

And while I’m on the topic – if you’re a great developer, passionate about what you do, and keen to join an excellent team… check out the positions we have available!