How to write a perfect Java developer CV

This is it boys and girls… the real thing, all you need to know about writing a good CV.

What is a CV for?

To get you the first interview. And nothing more. When you are writing (or re-writing) your CV, bear in mind that Java developer CVs are reviewed on the following criteria:
– does this candidate have the necessary intelligence?
– do they have the necessary skills?
– how have they applied those skills?
– have they done anything interesting with their career that makes them stand out?
– what is the ratio of achievement / career progression to years of experience?
– are they going to stay in my team for enough time to make it worth me hiring them? (minimum 2 years)
– are there any warning signs on this CV?
Hiring managers value one thing above all at this stage: honesty. So if it looks like you are trying to hide something or can’t get the dates right, that is an instant reject.

Writing the perfect CV for a Java developer comes down to two things: Format and Content. I like to start with the Format first, because it gives you a skeleton to hang the rest of the CV on.

Formatting, believe it or not, is probably one of the most important things about your CV and one of the most consistently ignored by developers. Most of all your CV has to be easy to read and a well formatted CV will deliver the most important information in the most accessible way. The trick is to keep the formatting logical, uniform and simple.

At the CV weeding stage hiring managers will have somewhere between 20 and 50 CVs to get through. At this stage they are actively looking for a reason to reject your CV, so if your CV is not clear and easy to read you put a question mark above your name. Any question marks get put in the same pile as the rejected CVs after all what is the point of following up on a strange CV if you already have 5 good CVs you want to interview.

So it needs to be easy to read and answer all of the questions above.

When ordering your CV I suggest you stick to the following section headings:
– Introductory Paragraph
– Education (with training and certifications as a sub heading)
– Technical Skills box
– Career history
– Interests
Both the introductory paragraph and the Personal headings can often be deleted.

No automatic spacing. No text in boxes. No boxes at all. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES use any colour other than black. No italics. No boxes. No Certification badges at the top. No underlining. No dividing lines. No highlighting of key words in sentences. No random use of font sizes. No different use of fonts. No random paragraph alignments. No photos and no banner pictures at the top. No hyperlinks to or descriptions of companies that are household names.

You can convey everything you need to using Arial, font size ten, bold for section headings, justify all paragraphs, bullet points and good use of the English language.

If you fill your CV up with all the word processing cr@p that Word has to offer what you have got to say about yourself will be lost on the intended audience as their eyes struggle to negotiate the kaleidoscope of diversion you have hidden your experience in. Many hiring mangers tell me that they purposely don’t even read the keywords that have been highlighted with bold or underlined.

What to write:
– only the truth
– no hyperbole (don’t bulk it out with waffle, less is more).
– try to repeat yourself as little as possible. Does it make any difference if you send the same letter twice? The message only needs to come home once
– try to describe each job in this format: Say what challenge was that the team was addressing, then say what the solution to that challenge was (including main technologies) and then say what part you played in that solution.
– Gaps in your experience – explain them! Don’t leave question marks on your CV, just explain any gaps.

How to write it:
– write in a professional tone but keep it in normal English, don’t get flowery or rely too much on jargon. Use the first person. If you are struggling to find the right tone, try writing your experience down as if you were explaining it to a friend in the pub
– write your CV in the best English you can – if you want a job in an English speaking city you are going to need good English communication skills.

How to stand out:
– examples of when you have taken some initiative
– facts and figures (latencies achieves, volumes handled, deadlines hit, impact of solution on the market, etc.)
– what you did that you are proud of and explain why
– examples of programming in your spare time, including details of any web and mobile applications built
– events, conferences, meetups attended. Competitions you came pole position in

How many pages should it be? If you can get it down to one page, great, if not 2 or 3 is average. To justify writing any more than 3 you should have quite a lot to say. So if you have 10 years experience and a PhD, then I can see all of your skills, experience and work academia possibly justifying 4 pages. But no more. Remember the more you pages you have less chance you have of anyone actually reading them!


3 responses to “How to write a perfect Java developer CV

  1. Well said Martin

  2. Nice article,
    Always good to know other side’s advices!

  3. did it for fun and had an amazing CV 😀 thanks and keep up the good work

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