How To Write a Great Tech CV Part I: Work History
Part I: Work History
You know your code is tight. You’ve built some amazing features for world-class apps. But how do you get your CV spotted amongst dozens or even hundreds of others when you’re searching for a new role?
It’s an important question, not least because of one complicating factor: for most jobs you apply to, the first person who reviews your CV won’t be technical. They probably won’t be jumping into your Github, and even if they did, they probably won’t know what makes your code better than anyone else’s. To even get in front of the dev team, you’ll need to impress a (probably-not-code-savvy) recruiter.
This series of guides — written by an ex-agency and in-house recruiter of software developers — will tell you everything you need to know about how to write a great Developer CV that hits all the right notes for the non-technical gatekeepers you need to impress.
This week, we’re looking at, probably, the most important part of your CV — your work history — and explaining how to present it as intuitively as possible while making your skills clear.
Unless you’re very junior — a fresh grad, or perhaps up to one job / two years into your career — this should be at the top of your CV, before your academic background.
Start with the most recent experience and work backwards, like LinkedIn. You also want to devote more space to your most recent roles, as these are likely to be the most relevant to your next job. The exception is if you are hoping to switch lanes, for example, from back end into front end. In that case, devote a little more space to any previous roles that have included more of what you’re looking for next (especially if relevant to the job you’re applying to) at the expense of more recent but less relevant positions.
Hitting all the required info while keeping it concise is an art in its own right. For each of your previous positions, recruiters need to know:
The name of the company.
A short sentence on its product / market, if it isn’t a household name (you can safely assume that any tech recruiter knows what Airbnb is)
The dates you worked there. These don’t need to be exact; September 2020 – November 2022 is specific enough. Years (i,e, 2020 – 2022) is a little too vague.
What you did there, besides the obvious implied by your job title. Back end developers don’t need to explain that they wrote server-side code, but some information on the team size, methodologies followed, and any non-standard duties you performed (like acting as a Scrum Master) are well worth including.
Overall, this should be a single paragraph of no more than five lines or so for the more recent roles, and can be briefer for those further back in time.
Again, there’s a balance between getting the relevant information across and oversharing here. For recruitment’s-equivalent-of-SEO purposes, you need to include some very basic information. Front end developers who don’t include HTML/CSS may, sadly, be missed from some recruiter searches, so basics like this should be included even if they’re implied by the job title.
However, lots of CVs end up reading as long, exhaustive lists of every tool or language the owner has ever heard of, and this is off-putting to recruiters because that amount of information becomes, essentially, meaningless. Fundamentally, you want to provide a solid, meaningful picture of the tech stack you worked with most days in any given job, in no more than one line. A good example would be:
Stack: Node.JS, Python, Docker, Docker Hub, Kubernetes, AWS, MongoDB, NoSQL.
It’s safe to assume that most recruiters will know what acronyms like MEAN mean, or at least whether or not they’re relevant to the role.
You can, of course, incorporate these technical skills into a paragraph or bullet points in the job description, but you make it slightly easier for the right recruiter to single you out by summarising the stack concisely at the end of each position in addition to this.
Wherever possible, including links to Github projects and sample code is a great way to add substance to your technical descriptions. Bear in mind that, even if a recruiter without specific technical knowledge may not be able to assess your code themselves, it will give them greater confidence in showing your CV to a tech lead who will help decide who to take through to interview.
In summary, make sure that the tech skills you list on your CV paint a clear, concise and specific picture of the stack you predominantly used in each role.
What if I’m Looking for My First Job?
The tips above will make most sense to people with several work experiences already under their belt. Less experienced developers can, however, apply the same principles to demonstrating the technical knowledge they’ve acquired elsewhere.
For example, think about university projects that included a coding element. These can be described as above in your academic background section, or alternatively (especially if they were long-term projects) can have their own separate section in your CV. Include descriptions of anything you’ve built in your spare time that follow the same format — and include links to any online repositories, so that recruiters can see there’s some code for their hiring managers to review.
Need More Support?
Our team of expert consultants at Oho Group are more than happy to provide bespoke advice to anyone looking for a technical role.
Speak to us today to find out how we can help you land your next job with one of technology’s greatest innovators.