Alastair’s Place

Software development, Cocoa, Objective-C, life. Stuff like that.

A Few Notes on CVs

I’ve been getting a lot of CVs recently, some good and some bad. There’s plenty of advice out there already about CVs, but I thought I’d just list a few observations, both good and bad:

  1. When e-mailing a CV, rename the document first so it has your name in it. If someone receives 50 CVs all imaginatively titled “C.V.doc”, it’s a royal pain in the neck because they have to rename them separately when they copy them out of your e-mail.

  2. Don’t use text boxes and the like. There’s no need and the layout can screw up in various interesting ways for various reasons.

  3. Don’t use floating graphics drawn with Word. They’re unnecessary and, again, the layout can easily go wrong. If you want to put a line under or over something, use a paragraph style or (if you really must) a table.

  4. I don’t want to see your ugly mug. Keep photos in Flickr or iPhoto, where they belong.

  5. Make sure your paper size is set to A4. If you’re applying for a job in the U.K. or Europe, your CV is likely to get printed out on A4 paper.

    If your paper size setting is set to U.S. Letter, it’s annoying because the printer will either (a) refuse to print it until the size is changed (which will mess up your tables, frames, floating graphics and other unnecessary things), or (b) ask for confirmation before printing it (which is dead annoying if you just told it to print 20 CVs).

    A corrollary to this is that when applying for a job in the U.S., you should be using U.S. Letter paper. Using A4 will annoy them.

  6. If possible, send a PDF rather than a Word document. This guarantees that your document will look the way you intended (unlike Word), it’s safer to open, and it shows an awareness that not everyone in the world likes or has Microsoft Word.

  7. Do include your grades. If you just tell me that you have four A-levels, you could have an ‘E’ in all four for all I know.</li>

  8. Don’t tell me you have A-levels in Maths, Biology and Media Studies and then tell me that you have an ‘A’ and two ‘F’s. If you do that, I don’t know which subject you got the ‘A’ grade in!</li>

  9. For technical jobs, if you have a poor A-level grade in a technical subject (mathematics, for instance), it would be a good idea to explain why. Especially if you are also claiming to have (or to be about to receive) a first-class honours degree.

  10. The reason people ask for covering letters is that they’re expecting you to write a covering letter specific to the job for which you’re applying. In theory it saves updating your CV, because you can use the opportunity to point out which of your talents make you a good fit for the job.1 Even if you don’t tailor your CV, make sure you tailor your covering letter.

  11. One application is sufficient. Applying for the same job over and over again doesn’t increase your chances (indeed, it may be annoying, which would have the opposite effect).

  12. </ol>

    Oh, and if you apply for our job having read this, why not say so? It at least shows that you’ve made some effort to find out about us :-)

    1 And please try to avoid pointless clichés and horrible management newspeak. You may well be “a team player who gives everything 110% and attempts to utilise all available resources while leveraging the toolset to provide a business-focused response to any situation”, or, as we English speakers say, “full of sh*t”. Is that really something you want to advertise? </div>