I am interested in CVs because I think as an engineer, I should be able to evaluate a good CV analytically and if I am writing my own, I should easily understand what is important and what is not. However, having read 5 CVs for Development Managers recently, I realise this is still not standard practice across the industry, which is disappointing. It is also worrying that recruiters do not coach their candidates to write effective CVs.

If I only get 1 CV, I might fight through the messy CV, ask some questions of the recruiter and then decide if I am still interested. If I get 10 or more CVs, it is not worth my time. Each CV can easily take 5 minutes to read, plus an email plus replies which might or might not include further conversations etc. all adds up to a lot of time. The truth is there are probably lots of people who are perfect for the role and the organisation but who quite simply cannot adequately describe themselves in a CV.

Also, in this day and age, I have only seen one candidate who had an online/web site for a CV.

So what are people getting wrong?

Too Long

Not too common but still some people who send a CV with 6 pages. Guess what? I Don't care what you did in IT in the 1990s it is 99.9% irrelevant. If you have been out of school for 10 years or more, I don't need every single job you did since then unless a) they are relevant and b) they are a 1-liner. What I do care about is the most recent 5 years and to a lesser extend the 5 years before that.

Not describing your personality

Not everybody will fit into every role or organisation due to culture: the culture of the organisation and the culture of the individual. You can save a lot of time by describing yourself in soft-terms, not just in technical terms. 
Are you the kind of person that is very careful and methodical to ensure quality is 100%? Great, you will fit in really well in some places and not in others. Are you the kind of person who can be trusted with free reign to produce an effective development environment or are you more likely a trusty steed who works hard and long and gets a lot of work out of the door as long as someone creates the work list for you?

Obviously, you should avoid negatives like "I sometimes struggle to get motivated" but also in yor introduction, it is useful to include some traits. Don't put too many in, otherwise you will sound unreasonable or proud.
  • Driven
  • Careful
  • Visionary
  • Efficiency-driven
  • Motivated
  • Innovative
  • Team enabler
  • High-level picture
  • Detail-oriented

Describing the Company and not your input

This is very common. Some describes a role like "Senior Developer, Acme Ltd. Worked on systems that are used by garages to handle inventory and other insurance applications...." In other words, you are describing what Acme does and not what you did. It might be nice to know that Acme works in insurance or the automatic industry for some context but I want to know what you did specifically e.g. "Worked on a team of 5 in all aspects of the design and development of the system. Took a lead in web application security and managed the training of junior developers"

Not picking out your headlines

Now this is also common but might actually be because you have never done anything of note! Hopefully not but make sure you include this to pick out what you are good at. e.g.
  • Migrated our app from web forms to dotnet core
  • Managed our offshore development team
  • Introduced a new deployment process to reduce times down from 2 hours to 5 minutes
  • Introduced Scrum to the development team

These are more than just individual topics, they speak to motivation, authority (decision-making), skillsets and experiences that not everyone will have. A good question for candidates is "what did you ever do that you were not asked to". You'd be surprised how many people would say, "nothing". 

Not accurately conveying your technical skillset

This comes in a number of forms. Some people simply record the "toolset" used in a particular role. Some list a set of tools, languages or processes at the top and some people don't put much at all except in the introduction, "experienced .Net developer".

Another form is when people record their skillset in terms of years.

None of this really conveys the skill level you think you are to me as an employer.

Your company used SQL Server? Irrelevant. You have experience with SQL Server? Not enough information. You have used SQL Server for 15 years? Again, says nothing. 

Instead, it is important that you give yourself a reasonably-based assessment, either using 1-5 or perhaps beginner, intermediate, advanced. It doesn't matter that these are not completely objective but if you claim to be an expert, it gives me the opportunity to ask you some advanced questions about that topic to see whether a) you are indeed that skilled and b) you are a good judge of your own skills.

It doesn't take long in an interview for me to ask people (as I have) "What makes you an expert in HTML then?". You can't bullshit the answer to someone who understands HTML (without being an expert).

Weasel words

These are words or phrases that are added to make something sound impressive even though they don't actually say anything. They are more common for people who have come from the corporate world.


  • Was responsible for ensuring stakeholder needs were met
  • Ensured a balanced set of priorities for resourcing projects

These might seem fair to start with but I would expect every single person in my organisation to ensure that stakeholders needs are met and that priorities are balanced, that is not a headline for a CV. A better way of saying something that might actually be genuine would be.

  • Managing a very large backlog of work that was produced by 20+ stakeholders for our product and effectively communicating how priorities can be agreed so that the most valuable work is done first.


Most people seem to find it hard to understand that the CV is a way of describing you to someone who has never met you and knows nothing about you. Knowing this as well as the fact they are looking for a developer and not a new best mate, you should be able to work out what sort of information is relevant to your CV and what adds nothing.

Secondly, people don't always realise that their CV is a competitive weapon to make them look better than the other candidates. It needs to have things that wow the reader, that make you look better than other developers with the same experience, this is by following the guidelines above and highlighting achievements as well as things you did that you were not asked to do but you wanted to in order to make your small slice of the world better.

Think like this and improve your CVs!