How I made my CV

This is not regarding any techie thing or any project I have done. This is simply about how properly make a CV, in my point of view. The main cause is, I had the chance to review a bunch of CVs lately and I saw many of them don’t have any idea what a CV means. So, this article is not regarding “How to make a proper CV“, but rather “How I made my CV” which lead me to be hired by Millennium IT (part of London Stock Exchange Group). If you’d like to know what rules I followed, please spend a few minutes to read this.

Please note I’m a software engineer and some of these facts are related to that type of CVs. However, many of the points can be applicable for other domains as well. And please note this is “what I did“. It may differ what others do. Please feel free to post your ideas as comments. (I will update this accordingly.)

Following are some sample CVs.

  1. This is one I created earlier. (SE)
  2. This is the one I got selected for Millennium IT (SE)
  3. Single page CV. (SE)

What is a CV?

Many of you think that a CV is to list out your achievements. Even thought it should contain your achievements, it IS NOT. As I see, your CV should be able to reflect who you are. It should be able to represent you specially when you’re not around. That’s what it actually do. When a company sees your CV, they should get an idea about who you are. Whether it’s worthy to call you to an interview or not. So, your CV is THE key to the interview. As far as I know, from the CVs a company gets, more than 60% are directly rejected just by looking at the front page of the CV. Only 40% earn the fortune to be turned to the 2nd page. So you can imagine the probability of getting selected to an interview.

So create your CV in a way that is professionally attractive. Consider the CV as the key. And you need to market yourself through that.

Fun fact : Go to the end of the post to find some memes.

Template

Think of a good template for your CV. You have all the right to make your own template. Don’t copy someone else’s CV or it’s template. Even if you do, make sure they don’t look the same. Because, a single company may get hundreds of CVs per day, and there is a higher chance that they will get your CV along with it’s original CV. So, be creative. Because it reflects your creativity as well.

  • You may use Word, Photoshop or even LaTeX to create your CV
  • Make use of maximum area of the page.
    • You may use a thin page margin.
  • Try to limit your CV to 3 pages and 4 at max. 5+ pages are boring.
    • If you have a lot to say about yourself for pages, cut of non-related stuff and include the most significant things.
    • If you don’t have much to say (or even if you do), you can create a single page CV, but think of an attractive way of presenting the contents.
    • Mention the things, that worth and needs to be mentioned. No more, no less.
  • Don’t be afraid to use colors.
    • But don’t make it distractingly colorful. Use some primary colors.
    • You may even use a background image if you need to, but remember to let the text be visible.
  • Line spacing
    • Don’t leave a lots of space between lines. It leads your CV to be empty.
    • And don’t use too less spacing either. Then you CV will look like a scribble.
  • Alignments
    • Properly align your topics, sub-topics and descriptions. It will make your CV clean.
  • Columns
    • It is not recommended to use two columns if you have a lot of contents in your CV.
    • But again, it highly depends on your CV template.
  • Titles
    • Some people make the titles (Education, Projects etc) above the description, and some use them at the right side of the description. If you can come up with a new way, that’s awesome. 🙂
    • Maintain a consistent formatting among them. Use the same font, font size, colors, Capital/Simple
  • URLs
    • Always use the complete URL
    • NEVER add a URL as a hyperlink.
    • It’s always better to use non-shortened URLs for blogs

Language

This is a very critical aspect of any type of a formal document. Use formal language in your any report. Don’t use informal or offensive language.

Example :

“I’m self-driven and kind of a person who searching easy and effective paths to reach to the target without wasting time and strength.. “

This is a very bad usage of language. You can convey the same idea with different words, in a nicer way.

Fixed Example :

“I’m a self-motivated individual, looking for more effective and efficient solutions.”

  • Review your CV by several people. It may help to avoid lots of tiny errors.

 Contents

Many people follow different order of components in their CVs. My personal idea is that the order itself depends on the person. For example, I believe that you should order the sections according to the significance of them. If your most significant achievement is a academics, mention that. If it’s on projects, mention it. But if your most significant achievement is on Extra-Curricular activities, you most probably need to re-evaluate your significance criteria.

Here is the order I had in my CV.

  1. Personal details (as header)
  2. Objective
  3. Experience (Projects)
  4. Academic Qualifications
  5. Technical Skills
  6. Publications
  7. Extra-Curricular Activities
  8. Misc. Experience and Activities
  9. Interests
  10. Referees
  11. Declaration
    • What is the point of saying that the mentioned information is true? Is there any chance that it’s not? Remember, this is not a legal document. You’re NOT signing your CV (mostly).

Now let’s see each of them descriptively.

Personal Details

This is not a marriage proposal that you’re submitting to a news paper! Or neither a legal document. No one expects a whole biography of yours. The reason is this is not a Bio Data, this is a Curriculum Vitae. I recommend the following fields to be mentioned.

There are two main ways of mentioning your personal information.

  1. At the header
    • This is the mostly used method. Since you’re mentioning only what is needed, it’s better to add them to the header.
  2. As a separate section
    This is the old-school version, but still many people use it. It’s not bad. But old.
    That also have two approaches considering the place you add that block.

    1. In the beginning
      • Well, this is not good as the previous one, but not bad as the next one.
    2. At the end
      • Nobody would know who you are until the end of your CV.
      • Many reviewers search your name on Google, hence, it’s always better to have these in the beginning.
  • Photo
    • Please please please. Use a clear photo to your CV if you do. Or else, don’t use any.
    • Don’t use the one you have on your NIC or university ID or any older one.
    • Use a recent (less than a year, preferably 6 months) photo.
    • And NO FUNKY POSES. Some people add photos like it is for a fashion show or a modelling competition. Well, this is for you to get a job. Use that type of a pic, if you think that it would help.
  • Name
    • Use the common name that you use. If you’re mentioning your full name below, it’s okay to display your first name in larger font (and again, it depends on your template).
      • Good Example : Praneeth Nilanga Peiris
      • Bad Example : Mudali Devage Praneeth Nilanga Peiris (Nobody cares)
    • You really don’t have to mention your full name. It is NOT expected, and sometimes it’s disturbing.
    • And don’t put both Name in full and Name with initials. Nobody cares.
  • Email
    • Use a working email.
    • It’s better if you can use an email address from a recognized organization.
      • Example : praneethnilanga@ieee.org
    • Try to avoid any funky emails you have. (Anyway, this is not a big deal nowadays)
      • KillTheDemon@gmail.com
    • If the email is changed in to a hyperlink, remove the hyperlink.
  • Mobile Number
    • Use a working and reachable mobile number. Don’t use your dad’s phone number.
    • If you have two numbers, it’s okay to mention them. But not 3 number. You may seems like a communication center.
  • Address
    • This is not compulsory nowadays since most of the communication is done via email or phone.
    • But no harm to add yours.
  • URL to your LinkedIn profile
    • This is more important than you think. Even though you had to remove some projects in CV (due to page limitations), you can add as many as you wish on LinkedIn.
    • And make sure to keep your LinkedIn profile clean and up-to-date.
      • LinkedIn is considered as the virtual CV.
      • Don’t use a funky profile pic to your LinkedIn profile.
    • When you’re adding the url, make sure you’re using the shortened version.
  • Birthday (Optional)
    • This is not to have birthday cakes from the company. But to show your age. It’s easier than directly mentioning your age.

And think again before adding these fields.

  • NIC number
    • I really don’t see any reason why would you need to mention your NIC number.
    • Not like in other countries like Sweden, in Sri Lanka NIC cannot be used to get your details.
    • So I don’t see a valid reason to mention that.
  • Gender
    • Well, they can read your name, that might convey your gender.
    • If you can have an ambiguous name, it’s okay to add this field.
    • If you had added a photo to your CV, this field is nearly useless.

Adding more unnecessary fields to your CV makes it consume a lot of valuable space. So think twice, if you really need to add anything.

Profile

I don’t know why it’s there as a separate section (or a sub-section). I’ve seen it in many CVs, which tries to explain what type of a person you are. Well, it’s not bad to mention who you are, if you write about who you really are.

Objective

This is the most trickiest thing in the CV. Many people ignore it. And most of the people just copy and paste it from someone else. Seriously? Don’t you have your own objective? If you can’t write an objective of yours, you’re not even ready for a job. Go home and think what is wrong with you (no offense).

If you do have one, make sure it is clearly written. Don’t write paragraphs about yourself. Reviewers know, if your objective is a genuine one, or just some random set of words which are organized in a grammatical way.

Write this in a polite way. Don’t be selfish when writing this, by just mentioning what you expect by doing a job. Mention what would the company get if they hire you.

  • In my point of view, two lines (12pt) is enough. 3 line at max. But not 4.
  • And you don’t really need to have a separate topic as “Objective”. Think of a creative way of mentioning it.
  • DON’T EXAGGERATE. Just be humble & honest.
    • Bad Example : “my effective and easy paths makes me more accurate and faster”
    • If you need money as priority by doing this job (that’s obvious), mention it (if it’s needed to), but choose the words carefully.
      • Bad Example : “I need to earn money”
      • Better Example : “I need to be financially stable”
  • Check the linguistic correctness and clarity of your objective by several people.

In the next sections, think of the following things before even writing them.

  • DON’T LIE.
    • Never ever, lie on what you did.
    • Don’t say that you did something, that you actually didn’t.
    • Don’t say that you know something, that you actually don’t.
    • Just mention, what you’re confident of. You should be able to explain what you did/know.
  • Ordering
    • Many people order the events (projects, achievements etc.) using the significance level. Well it’s not bad.
    • But the most appreciated way is to order them in the reverse chronological order.
      • Most recent thing at first.
      • Add the year along with the entry.
  • Think before you add something.
    • Evaluate the significance, not how much it means to you, but how much it is important to the job that you’re applying.
      • Example :
        If you’re applying for a software engineer position, mentioning that you won the class price at grade 11 sounds very much stupid.
        May be even you were a prefect (but of course, it may display some leadership qualities 😛 ).

Experience

  • Add what is ONLY relevant to the post you’re applying.
    • Don’t write everything you did. Just mention the most important ones.
  • This is where you should actually show your potential.
  • Add the descriptions about your work experience, researches, projects/applications, websites etc.
  • Winning competitions is NOT a part of this section.
  • You can use sub sections for each of those, if you have enough to mention.
  • Use the reverse chronological order to mention them along with the time period.
  • Work
    • Mention the last position you held and the respective company.
    • If you had any significant achievements, mention them as well.
    • Consider about the non-disclosure agreement with those companies before mentioning any sensitive information.
  • Researches
    • Well, you don’t need to explain it, and I know it can’t be explained with several lines. Hence, just add the title(s) of your research(es).
  •  Projects
    • Write a small description about the project (what it does). Limit it to 3-4 lines at max.
    • Mention the technologies you have used. No need to mention your role unless it is a HUGE project.
    • Add if there are any URLs which these projects can be found.
      • Never use hyperlink texts. How would someone click when it’s printed?
      • If you have a GitHub account, that would be the best way to do that.
    • If you work as a freelancer, no need to mention all the projects you did over your lifetime. Just add the most significant ones.

Academic Qualifications

Many companies really don’t care much what your GPA is, if you have done good projects. Anyway, it’s always good to say something about your academics.

  • Again, order them in reverse chronological order.
  • University
    • If you have specialized a domain, mention it.
    • Mention the current year that you’re in and the GPA.
    • DO NOT mention all the subjects that you did and the grades. Nobody cares.
  • GCE A/L
    • Well, it’s better to mention the subject stream you sat for AL. May be the grades and the Z-Score.
    • If you got a significant island or district rank, go ahead and mention it.
  • GCE O/L
    • Well, nobody really cares.!!
    • If you really want to say something, then mention the summarized results.
      • Example : 9 As (including Electronics)
  • BCS, CIMA, CIM, AAT or anything else.
    • Give a brief highlight.
    • Any ranks you got.
  • And any academic related awards you got
    • Not the ones you got at the school’s prize giving as the best score for Mathematics.

Technical Skills

This is another important section that many companies look in your CV. So it’s always better to add it right after Experience. (But I did want them to see that I got a scholarship to Sweden, that’s why my academic section was there before technical skills)

  • Golden Rule
    • If you don’t know, DO NOT LIE.
      • It ruins the reputation of you as well as your institute you represent.
  • It’s better to categorize your technical knowledge.
    • Example : Programming Languages, IDEs, Testing tools, Frameworks, Platforms, Methodologies etc.
  • Never mention the category names as a skill.
    • Example : NoSQL
      NoSQL is NOT a specific tool.
    • Fixed Example : MongoDB
    • And don’t mention “NoSQL databases like MongoDB”
      • Everyone’s knowledge is bounded. What is mentioned above is open-ended.
      • Then the reviewer would think, “Okay, so you only know MongoDB. But you could have simply say that”.
      • Specify your expertise.
    • Some more bad examples.
      • Experience in web technologies, Graphic designing, Mobile development
      • Knows Windows, Linux
  • Mention the platforms you can work with
    • Example : Windows, Linux, Android, Windows Phone, iOS
    • These are NOT tools.
  • If you have more (not much related) tools, just mention them as Misc. or Other.
    • Example : Netbeans, Eclipse, Visual Studio, Visio
    • Because, being able to use an IDE is NOT a skill. It’s like saying “asking to write the alphabet in an English exam
  • Rank your own knowledge
    • Don’t just say that you know. The CV surely is the ticket to your interview. But you can’t change it when you go there. They will run after you with lots of questions of what you have said.
    • So rank your knowledge. You can use the following terms.
      • Experience in (for the things you can answer without cramming)
      • Familiar with (for the things that you’ve done, but needs a revisit)

Publications

This originally supposed to contain any research based publications. But blogs are also eligible for this category.

  • Add the title, and small description if needed.
  • If there is a URL, mention it. (remember? no hyperlinks!)

Extra-Curricular Activities

Everything which are not into previous sections, end up here. And this is another section that the companies are interested in. The reason is, this shows the sociability of the applicant as well as how much of a dynamic character (s)he is.

This is “extra” curricular or “co-curricular” activities. These things should have a some type of a relationship with your career path.

You can mention,

  • Any titles you hold
    • Example : Microsoft Student Ambassador, Google Student Ambassador etc.
  • Any societies you are/were in.
    • If you held any executive positions, mention the last(highest) one.
    • If people don’t know about those societies, give a one line description what you did.
  • Any achievements, along with the specific ranks
    • If you have a good rank, the significance goes higher
  • Any domain related forums that you’re active in.
    • Not the ones you only have a profile, but the ones you actively collaborate.
    • Example : Stack Overflow, Qt Forum, Code Project
    • It’s even okay to add a URL to your profile.

Misc. Experience

This where all the other rubbish go. If you still have anything else to say, go for it. But remember, you’re de-prioritizing the contents here. So there is a higher change that the reviewer won’t even see this.

You can mention,

  • If you do an part time job.
  • Any social service societies that you’re a part of.
  • Any of your school-time achievements.
    • Yes, they all should ideally go in here. The reason is, nobody cares if you were a prefect or took part in competitions in school…!

Interests/Personal Traits

Another useless section. This is only mentioned to mention what type of things you do as a human (not as a software engineer).

But don’t write whatever you want. Always be tricky, mention what brings you attention (in a good way). Nobody cares if sew, collect stamps. But music, games and sports are accepted. Better if you can mention some field related interests. But don’t lie. You need proof to whatever you say!

Not recommended

  • Logical thinking
  • Counseling (seriously ? )
  • Hacking (no way! )
  • Good listener
  • Understanding people (ooohhh! )
  • Team Player (didn’t you have any other way to say this? )

“Okay” things

It’s better to divide this into “Field Related” and “Other” sections.

  • Software designing, Database design
  • Image processing, Artificial Intelligence
  • Blogging
  • Games, Music
  • Swimming, Badminton, Chess

Referees

You need to mention two non-related referees and their contact information.

  • NEVER EVER say “Available on request”
    • Do you really think that they will “request” ? It is your duty to provide all the needed information. Not theirs to ask.
  • Mention the details of reputed people.
    • It’s okay if you mention some manager of some company you know.
    • But better them to be known. Make sure that they know you too.
    • Inform them that you’re putting them as referees. Otherwise, they’ll be lost if the company calls them to ask about you.
    • Add the following information
      • Name + Company/Institute + Designation
      • DON’T mention their qualifications (i.e. MSc, Phd etc.)
        • You can add Dr. as the prefix, if the referee has a Phd.
      • Telephone numbers (mobile + land)
      • Address (just in case)
      • A working email (under the company domain they work)
        • Example : sda@ucsc.lk, but not shiromia@gmail.com

Bottom-line

CV is an advertisement. You’re the trader. The reviewer is the client. So market yourself using a paper, even without you physically being there.!

  • Feel free to make your own CV. It’s yours anyway.
  • Think of a good, attractive, professional template.
  • Mention only what is really really important.
  • Don’t lie. Because, you can’t lie in the interview anyway.
  • Format your CV well.
  • Get it reviewed by other people.

Sarcasm

Here are some memes from me, regarding CVs and interviews.

 

OL Nobody cares

1st world projects

c++

referees

dancing

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