What makes a developer CV stand out


The popularity of the IT industry has been and still is rising at a staggering rate. Given its global presence, it comes as no surprise to find an abundance of people working towards getting their first jobs in the industry. To many, this can be a rather frustrating process, particularly when it comes to never receiving a reply, or getting a vague/generic letter of rejection that gives no inclination of what they’re doing wrong.

In reality, it’s often difficult to give constructive feedback for a CV that looks correct but just doesn’t stand out in any way. Most junior-level CVs I’ve seen can be boiled down to the exact same substance:

  • Personal info (name, date of birth, contact info)
  • Formal education
  • A list of languages/frameworks/technologies used
  • Interests, hobbies and language proficiencies

By definition, a CV (Curriculum vitae) is a written overview of a person’s experience and other qualifications for a job opportunity. The above-listed information seems to fall into this category pretty well, so where’s the problem?

In a well-written CV, the crucial information such as your technical skills, previous work experience (if existent), accomplishments (things you’ve made with your technical skills) are all in the center of focus. Any information that is not directly relevant to the position you’re applying for, is information that takes away from your time in the spotlight and communicates very little of your value as a potential employee.

That said, a quick look at some basic psychology can go a long way. Prioritize the information you’re laying out. The most important information should be placed nearer to the top-left of the page, and the rest below it. Simplicity and ease of reading should be your goal, with unique and daring designs saved for your portfolio.

When listing technologies you’re proficient in, avoid the so-called “Technology Bingo”. Instead of providing a bulleted list of one liners, or even self-evaluating your proficiency (these seem to be popular nowadays, bar/pie charts, a grade on a 1-10 scale, etc.), list the specific things you’ve built. Instead of claiming to be a “8/10 React Native developer“, it makes more sense to describe something you’ve created, i.e. “Developed a digital keychain application in React Native that communicates with an external lock device via Bluetooth.” The latter gives more insight into the work you’ve done, while also allowing the person reading your CV to get a better picture of your skill set.

The guidelines mentioned earlier include “previous work experience”, but how does this apply to people who are still searching for their first jobs? Chances are, if you’re looking to land a developer job you have already written some code, are possibly being mentored, or following a tutorial and learning on your own. And this is where most people make the biggest mistake when it comes to writing up their CVs. Providing a link to a personal Github/Gitlab/Bitbucket profile can make the difference between standing out as a top candidate, or being forgotten on a pile of generic CVs with no proof of work.

Even if your experience is limited to a few tutorials you’ve completed along the way, giving your potential employers an insight into the code you’ve written allows them to see how you approach problems, write code and how much attention you pay to detail… A CV with proof of work is bound to catch someone’s attention, solely because it can paint a way better picture than any CV on its own can, regardless of how well it is written.

Your portfolio doesn’t have to be the next Facebook, HAL9000 or a cutting-edge algorithm you came up with, even a simple ToDo app can give some insight into how you approach problems, but ideally, the tutorials/books you’ve read will teach you how to use code as a tool; a tool you can wield and use to solve actual problems. Figure out an idea for a concrete project you want to work on and go for it.

In a real world scenario, the feature you’re working on will not exist as a finished snippet of code; rather you’ll have to try, hit a wall, do research and figure out how to break through the said wall. This is how you learn skills that are beyond the scope of courses or tutorials, and what better way to prove that you’re the right candidate than to demonstrate your ability to tackle problems you’re unfamiliar with.

The search for a job can be a rocky road for some, but if approached with the correct mindset, it can quickly become a motivator to improve yourself both as a developer and problem-solver in general. And who knows, on this path of enlightenment you might even end up making something that betters the lives of not just yourself, but people in general.


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Petar Saulić

Front-End Engineer @TradeCore

Petar is a software developer interested in all things functional. He primarily works with React, sometimes escaping the realm of JavaScript to write Haskell or Reason/OCaml. Having studied theoretical physics, he spends his free time writing numerical simulations of space and fluid-related phonomena, learning Mandarin and jumping around training parkour.

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