Creating a CV for tech jobs? Don't make these 6 mistakes
min video //
min read //
June 23, 2023
A CV for tech jobs may be slightly different from any other CV or resume you've made before. And undoubtedly, you'll make mistakes that you'll be able to fix and refine as you become more experienced and familiar with the tech industry in your country.
But there are a few mistakes that you can certainly avoid on day one. So let's knock those off to get you one step closer to landing your dream job in your new tech career.
1. Sending the same CV to every job
No matter what industry you're coming from or whether or not this is your first time entering the job market, you will spend a lot of time crafting your CV. So it's natural once you get to the application stage, you'll want to use that CV as much as possible.
Sadly, this doesn't always work and may earn you many rejections.
Why you should customize your CV?
Sending the same core CV out to every role that you apply to doesn't work for a few reasons.
- Doesn't fit the job description: You want to make it easy for a recruiter or hiring manager to see you in the role. And you only have your CV initially to communicate this. Your CV may share precisely what you'd like to be known for, but that may not be what the employer wants.
- Misses out on keywords: Hiring managers and recruiters alike may scan (or use a tool like an ATS) to scan CVs for keywords related to the job description. If your core CV misses out on these, it may not reach the following hiring stage.
- Inconsistent messaging: Your core CV may be built for a specific kind of role or position, and any variation on that will render your CV incompatible. It doesn't look great if you're applying to a QA engineer position when your CV reflects more of a programming background.
How to customize your CV for tech jobs quickly
So what can you do to customize your CV per application (relatively) quickly?
- Match your experiences to the role description: You might consider tailoring your work descriptions to fit the tasks and responsibilities in the job description. Review the job description carefully and try to identify commonalities between what they're looking for and your experience. For example, if a role requires project management, mention and highlight project management experience in your listed work experience.
- Change your mission statement to reflect the role you're applying for: This is of the easiest ways for employers to identify you as relevant for their open position. For example, if you are a recent graduate with basic frontend skills applying to your first frontend development position, you might consider adding a title below your name as "Aspiring frontend developer." Or, if you were a graphic designer and transitioning to a career in UX/UI, you might consider concisely detailing your desire to apply your keen eye for visuals to the product design space.
- Consider creating multiple CVs: If you're applying to multiple kinds of roles (like graphic design roles and UX/UI roles), consider creating multiple CVs that you can keep on file. This way, you can pull out the most relevant one and customize only the basics when it comes time to hit apply.
Are you new to mission statements? Consider checking out a few examples of mission statements for CVs here.
2. Overloading your CV for tech jobs with technical language
When you're starting, you'll want to sound like a professional. And while you'll want to drop the "ums," "maybes," and "whatevers," it's easy to switch to overly technical language.
Remember, not everyone looking at your CV will be a technical expert. Definitely include core tools and programming languages you've worked with. But avoid dropping concepts like blockchain, APIs, machine learning, or quantum computing on every other line.
Use your technical language selectively and when it supports your professional story and matches the job description.
How can you keep your CV easy to read?
Simple: try reading your CV out loud. If there are words that don't roll off the tongue, words you find difficult to pronounce, or sentences you couldn't imagine saying out loud, it may be a good indicator that they're not right for your CV. Try simplifying your language. Otherwise, you could find yourself in an awkward position when asked about specific items on your CV.
3. Poor formatting or layout
One of the most common mistakes Re:Coded's Career team sees with first-time tech professionals is formatting. Even if the content is excellent, if the presentation falls short, it may not get read.
What do we mean by poor formatting? Here are a few examples of bad CVs, many of them a result of formatting. But as some general guidance, look out for the following:
- Too much color: Adding more than one color can be a real risk, especially if they clash. If you feel you must add color, stick to something muted and consider the audience that you'll be sending this out to.
- Tight margins: If you have a lot of experience, it can be tough to choose just a few. But avoid making the margins smaller to fit more content. Stick to at least 0.5 cm on all sides.
- Not enough space between paragraphs or lines: Similar to the margins, avoid crowding your lines together. Stick to at least single spacing.
- Too many design elements: You only have a limited amount of space, avoid adding too many design elements like icons or backgrounds. These can distract from your overall message.
There are lots of ways to format your CV. The Harvard CV is a solid foundation, even though it definitely is on the plain side of things. Alternatively, Canva has many CV templates but use these cautiously, observing all of the warnings above— and remember, don't go too crazy on the design.
4. Focusing only on technical skills
If you're new to tech, it's great to highlight your newfound technical skills. But technical skills are not the only thing hiring managers are looking for.
“75 percent of long-term job success depends on people skills, while only 25 percent on technical knowledge.”
- Peggy Klaus, The Hard Truth About Soft Skills: Workplace Lessons Smart People Wish They'd Learned Sooner
What soft skills do hiring managers look for?
Many managers are looking for critical soft skills besides your tech skills (which is why every Re:Coded bootcamp takes the time to teach soft skills, too).
Here are some core soft skills for tech professionals:
- Communication: Tech professionals need strong communication skills to convey ideas effectively, explain technical concepts, and collaborate with team members, stakeholders, and clients.
- Problem-solving: Problem-solving is at the core of much tech work. You'll need to analyze complex issues, break them into manageable parts, and develop effective solutions.
- Adaptability: The technology field is constantly evolving, and tech professionals must be adaptable to keep up with new tools, languages, frameworks, and methodologies. They need to embrace change and quickly learn new skills.
- Teamwork: Tech professionals rarely work entirely alone. That means you'll collaborate with other developers, designers, project managers, and stakeholders. The ability to work well in a team, contribute ideas, and resolve conflicts is crucial.
- Time management: In tech, you'll frequently work on multiple projects with competing deadlines. Effective time management skills helps prioritize tasks, meet deadlines, and maintain productivity.
- Attention to detail: In many tech roles, even a small error can lead to significant issues. Attention to detail is crucial.
- Creativity: While many tech roles require logical thinking, creativity is also valuable. Tech professionals who can think outside the box and develop innovative solutions tend to excel.
- Growth mindset: Technology is ever-evolving, and you'll need a constant desire to learn and improve your skills. They should be open to new ideas, seek out learning opportunities, and stay up to date with industry trends.
- Empathy: Understanding end-users needs and experiences is important for anyone working in tech. Empathy helps you design user-friendly solutions that truly meet user requirements.
Make sure to work a few of these skills into your work experience section instead of exclusively focusing on your technical skills.
5. Lack of concrete achievements
It's easy to misunderstand that your CV should be a chronological record of where you've worked. But it's more about what you've done, rather than where you've been. Hiring managers will look for how you've contributed to the success of previous organizations and teams.
What kind of achievements can you add to your CV?
- Completed projects: Highlight any projects you've completed, whether as part of your academic coursework, personal projects, or internships. Include details about the project's goals, your role, the technologies used, and the outcomes achieved.
- Contributions to team projects: If you've collaborated on team projects, mention specific contributions you made that had a positive impact on the project's success. For example, mention if you introduced an innovative idea, solved a challenging problem, or implemented a crucial feature.
- Technical skills development: Showcase your efforts in learning and developing technical skills. This can include completing online courses, certifications, or workshops related to programming languages, frameworks, or tools. Mention any notable achievements or projects completed during these learning experiences.
- Troubleshooting and bug fixing: For more technical roles, highlight instances where you successfully identified and resolved technical issues or bugs in software or systems. This demonstrates your problem-solving skills and attention to detail.
- Process improvements: If you've contributed to improving development processes or workflows, mention it on your CV. For example, if you implemented a more efficient method for code review, version control, or testing, that resulted in time or cost savings.
- Collaboration and communication: Showcase examples of your effective collaboration and communication skills within a team. If you facilitated productive discussions, actively contributed ideas, or helped resolve conflicts, mention these experiences as they demonstrate your ability to work well with others.
- Positive feedback or recognition: If you've received positive feedback or recognition from colleagues, clients, or supervisors, include it on your CV. This can be in testimonials, performance evaluations, or appreciation emails.
- Participation in tech communities: If you're actively engaged with the tech community, such as contributing to open-source projects, attending meetups or conferences, or participating in hackathons, mention these experiences. They highlight your enthusiasm and dedication to the field.
If you look at that list, we're sure there will be something there for you that you can point to on your CV. Remember to keep the experiences relevant to the roles you are applying to.
6. Leaving out past career experiences
We've talked a lot about including the most relevant experience for the job. And while you should 100% do that, there's one exception to the rule: past careers.
At Re:Coded, we have a lot of students who transition from careers as salespeople, nurses, or architects (for example) to careers in tech. And when it comes to putting together a CV, many hesitate:
What do I include on my CV if I've never worked in tech?
Let's get rid of this misconception once and for all: just because your past work experience wasn't in tech doesn't mean that it's not relevant to a career in tech. Your past experiences tell a story and may demonstrate transferable skills.
How do you include past non-tech experience on your tech CV?
- Bio or mission statement: Include a mention of your previous career and (briefly) some of the applicable lessons you learned that you'd be bringing with you into the tech industry. Focus on essential skills that are shared between your past career and your new tech career.
- Work experience: Depending on the space you have on your CV, you can consider adding a consolidated (one item) summary of the work experience from your previous career. Remember to focus on accomplishments or responsibilities that share some similarity to your future career goals.
- Skills: Focus on the transferable skills that you acquired in your previous career and, space allowing, briefly detail applications to your future tech career.
- Highlight continuous learning: Switching careers require reskilling, and your CV is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate this. Make sure to include where and how you reskilled to a career in tech.
Practice, practice, practice
Let's take a moment to remind you that crafting an outstanding CV is like coding a masterpiece—it takes time, effort, and a sprinkle of creativity. If you're feeling discouraged or uncertain, remember that every tech rockstar started somewhere. And practice is the key to success.
Don't lose hope. Take this opportunity to refine your CV, showcasing your skills, passion, and potential. And trust us, that perfect opportunity will come knocking, and when it does, you'll be armed with a stellar CV that shines like a bug-free code.