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How to write a programmer CV
Like most CVs, a programmer CV MUST have a few core sections which are:
- Name and contact details
- Work history (in reverse chronological order, i.e. most recent first)
- Qualifications / Education section (highest to lowest)
In addition, most people will include:
- Social media profiles (Twitter/LinkedIn)
- Objective or personal statement
- Hobbies / interests
Optionally, these sections may be relevant to you:
Your personal statement is a concise professional summary of why you’re right for your target role. It is typically the first thing (and sometimes the only thing) that the hiring manager will read. Prepare this by looking at the job advert, picking out the most important requirements and setting out in no more than 3 – 4 lines how you meet them. It will likely include how many years of experience you have and your main specialisms.
Your skills section should provide more detail on which programming languages, software solutions, frameworks and packages you’re familiar with and to what level. If there are quite a few, you may want to give these their own section.
Before you set out to write each of these sections, study the job advert carefully. Every employer has different priorities, so it’s important to tailor your CV to each role you apply for. Use the same keywords as the job advert so employers can quickly see that you’re a good prospect for the role.
If the job advert is light on detail, try studying other similar programmer job adverts to see what skills employers typically want to see for this type of position. You could also look at job profiles (e.g. Games Developer on Prospects.ac.uk).
Above: Giving details of your social media profiles can be a great way to show an employer you’re involved in and passionate about the industry in which you’re working (credit: l_wiltshire). LinkedIn also allows you to create a more comprehensive work profile to complement your CV.
Highlight relevant work experience
Employers would prefer a candidate with relevant work experience so they can rest a little easier and let the new employee showcase their skills with little support. So the key to writing a fantastic work experience section is to focus upon what matters to THIS employer.
Cut out all the tasks and responsibilities for irrelevant roles, unless they demonstrate transferable skills. Only go into more detail for roles which will be of interest to the employer. Although this may seem obvious, we still see applications that list an entire career history in great detail. Often this will lead to a three or even four page CV, which is a nightmare for any hiring manager. The employer doesn’t want to see a candidate’s entire life story – they want to be able to get straight to the relevant information, shortlist the candidate and move onto the next CV.
Look back over every role and pick out the most relevant, and only go into more detail on those. Keep the tasks and responsibilities to a bare minimum for the other roles, and just state a few details. You only need to give a brief summary for the less important roles.
For the most relevant roles, let prospective employers know how you performed, what you achieved and details of any promotions and awards. Where possible, provide stats and results, such as work that exceeded a target, saved revenue or improved a process.
Use conventional job titles – if the recruiter is advertising for a ‘C++ computer programmer’, don’t use any fancy modernised titles that your past employers might have given you, such as ‘Awesome Solutions Developer’.
Keep your programmer CV on point and focused
You should never be in the position of having to pad out your CV to complete two pages. Even school leavers should be able to adequately complete a CV that contains no waffle, gets straight to the point and stays on track.
The employer will try to quickly pick out the important details, and this can only be done if you write a CV that’s short and to the point. Remain focused on what they are looking for – don’t write a generic CV and always tailor it to the role!
Using bullet points is a great way to do this as the spacing is easier on the eye than a paragraph. You can focus on ensuring each point is kept to just one line. Typically this would work well for when you list your tasks in the employment history section, but could also be used for skills and other sections.
Expand out with alternative types of work experience
If you’re an entry level programmer, consider including other types of experience to help boost your credibility. You could, for example, include details of:
- Personal programming projects
- Contributions you’ve made online (e.g. code snippets)
- Freelancing work
Use the references section to your advantage
Some people leave off references altogether and this is fine – the employer will ask for them if they offer you the job anyway. However, references aren’t typically requested until the employer is ready to offer a job which means an employer may never see your shining commendations at all!
A great way to get around this is to include a snippet from each of your references on your CV itself. We all love a good testimonial and the references section is a great place to showcase some testimonials about you! Look at the sample content in our programmer CV to see how your ‘testimonials’ can be incorporated into the references section, giving employers a powerful endorsement of your skills up front.
Originally published 16th November 2018.
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