Category Archives: Dreaded Europass

Why the Europass is bad for your career

Europass is a European Union (Directorate General for Education and Culture) initiative to increase transparency of qualification and mobility of citizens in Europe. It aims to be a “Lifelong Learning Portfolio” of documents containing the descriptions of all learning achievements, official qualifications, work experience, skills and competences, acquired over time, along with the related documentation.” (Wikipedia)

The Europass was invented by a European Commission directive in 2005 with the very best of good intentions. Unhappy with the prospect of there being a part of their citizens’ lives they were not intimately involved in, the bureaucrats decided they should re-invent the wheel and do their bit for cross-border mobility at the same time by creating the Europass CV. This is what it looks like:

We’ll be looking at the Europass in just a minute but right now I feel I should make something clear and state my political standpoint on Europe. I love Europe, I like its people, its culture (food) and generally enjoy meeting people from other European cultures and comparing how some things we do are the same and how some things are different. I see my European neighbours as distant cousins who I am always pleased to see. However I fundamentally disagree with some elements of the political construct that is the European Union, and for me the failure that is the Europass and the damaging effect it has on its user’s career chances in London only serves to increase my disenchantment.

The Europass is now common for developers from Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece. Interestingly the French largely ignore it, as do most other northern Europeans. It is also rare from Czech, Polish, Hungarian and Romanian developers.

So here are the reasons I have identified for why the Europass is bad for your career.

THE PROBLEMS

CV template wizard

The Europass is created by a CV template wizard that you add your details into it and it creates your Europass for you. The problem with this is that its takes responsibility for formatting away from the candidate, and as there does not seem to be an edit option (or rather people don’t use it) what you get is a badly formatted CV with the kind of mistakes you would never get in traditional CV. Take this example:

Here you can see that the education section – in this case as the candidate is a fresh graduate, the most important part of the CV – is split across the bottom of the first page and top of the second page.

Warped Priorities

Another sign that this is document was designed by someone who does not use a CV is that you get very warped priorities. Take the example of the graduate’s CV, surely their education should take up the majority of space on the page and be the most prominent part of the CV? Instead the education section is insufficient, and too much space is devoted to part-time jobs, often making it look like I’ve accidently received a waiter’s CV. With senior CV’s there is often not enough space dedicated to actual experience.

Here only the parts within the red boxes are useful information, as you can see about half of the page is wasted space. The whole left hand indentation thing is also completely pointless.

So not enough useful information, badly formatted and a document full of wasted space.

Poor quality job descriptions

The descriptions of the applications that you have built are the most interesting information that a developer’s CV should contain, yet invariably the Europass CV falls short in this requirement. Take this typical example of a job that this candidate had for 2 years:

Developer and analyst in a wide range of IT projects, typically application development projects. Functionally there projects were implemented through different industries, such as Government and Mail;

Requirements analysis, analysis, design and implementation of features;

Preparation of documentation”

Believe it or not, this doesn’t tell me anything about whether this candidate is going to be right for one of the roles I have. Each job you have had should be described in this format:

• Describe what the challenge was that the team was addressing,

• then describe what the solution to that challenge was (including main technologies) and then

• describe what part you played in that solution

So if the role of a CV is to show the reader that you meet the criteria for the role they are looking to fill and get you an interview, this document is a failure. If you think that just giving a tech stack and the relevant dates or that your CV just has to “look right” and you will get an interview on the basis that you “might be right” for the job you are mistaken. The London IT market is extremely competitive and candidates with ambiguous CVs get rejected because there plenty of better CVs to choose from.

Here is a list of other reasons why the Europass is poor quality document:

Career history often in the wrong order

The career history should start with the most recent job first, so that the reader can instantly tell what company you have most recently worked for.

Annoying boxes

A result of the template wizard is that when the document is converted to Word format you end up with a myriad of lines and boxes in the background which makes it harder to read.

Cr@p logo

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Seriously. Look at it. This is a professional document that might well determine the course of your career, do you really want that yellow man thing prancing about the top of your CV?

Passport photo

There is actually a lot of debate about whether a passport photo should be included on a CV. I don’t think it should, in my experience people look a bit silly in these photos and that will not help you get a job.

The language box at the end

It’s too big! Your CV should be written in English for the London market, and I’m guessing you can speak it fluently otherwise you’re going to really struggle get a job in London. I can also guess you speak the language of your mother country, and if you speak any other languages you can put that in a short sentence at the end (along with any qualifications you have in it). Too much space is taken up by something that can be covered by one or two sentences.

“social skills and competences” section

There is a whole section dedicated to “social skills and competences” – was there ever a box so obviously contrived by someone who doesn’t understand how the real world works? Think about it, what objective information are you meant to put in here? I don’t think even the most honest socially-inept developer is going to come clean in this section, it just begs the question.

In summary the Europass does nothing positive for the individual and the poor quality of the document damages the candidates chances. If you want help with re-writing your Java developer CV get in touch and / or you can read my blog “how to write the perfect java developer CV” for more tips.

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My advice for Java developers considering moving to UK

The London UK market is currently fantastic for developers with extensive Java development experience. There are lots of jobs and therefore lots of opportunity to find a really good position with a good salary. Of course you will need a visa, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone come to the UK without the right to work in this country, but if you do have that visa, then there hasn’t been a better time all year than now.

Coming to work in the UK can be an exciting, challenging and rewarding career choice that will give you an international experience that can’t get anywhere else in the world, and will shape your career for the rest of your life; however if you aren’t properly prepared you will struggle to get what you want.

What you will need:

The right to work in the UK
It is still next to impossible to be sponsored by a company in the UK, as such if you do not have the right to work here, it is advisable to not relocate to the UK.

The technical skills
Check on the English job websites that you have the right technical skills for a role in the UK. Some countries tend to still be using the old “EJBs and app server” model which is generally (although not totally) defunct in the UK today. Unless you have extensive low level core Java (think writing your own threads, TCP/IP sockets etc) you will also need at least basic Spring. If you don’t have it, getting an online certification will be very useful. In general you should brush up on all your technical skills and make sure there is nothing on your CV that you would not be prepared to be grilled on in that first interview. One good tip is starting your own blog and posting some of your best bits of code / ideas on there, this can be very helpful to candidates without an established track record in the UK

The English
The London IT market, especially in finance, is probably the most international job market in the world – it is not simply that you will often find yourself in a team where everybody comes from different countries, but its not uncommon to find teams without a single British developer in the team. So communication skills are EXTREMELY important. Basically if you can’t understand spoken English and speak it easily and fluently, you will not find a programming job easily and if you do, it won’t be very good. A good rule of thumb is whether you can answer a set of technical Java questions reasonably easily. If the standard of your spoken English is poor, you should either take a course before you leave or one better – if you can afford it – relocate to the UK and don’t start your search until you have improved it.

A Curriculum Vitae
(The word Resume is American, and is best left on that side of the Atlantic) Globally there are roughly 2 types of CV, the Curriculum Vitae that many of us know and love and the “Europass” CV – hated by all in London. Hated of course because it is completely useless as a professional document in this country. As a recruiter I need to know what companies you have worked for, what dates you were there for, what you were doing for each company and which technologies you used. Instead the Europass is a hideous piece of bureau-bum designed EU-construct aren’t-we-so-different cr@p which is genuinely completely useless and many a good developer has been over-looked simply because their experience was delivered in the utterly indecipherable format of the dreaded Europass. If you have one AVOID, REWRITE or FORGET it

FLEXIBILITY TO RELOCATE
Most hiring managers can get through the first and often the second stage interview in their process on the telephone or through Skype. However no-one is going to employ someone they haven’t met and therefore an appetite for coming over to the UK for interviews and being flexible about it will be very helpful. Today it is rare occurrence that a British company will pay for a candidate to fly over to the UK for an interview. Any good recruiter should help to arrange the process to make it as easy and cost effective for you as possible but you have to realise you are competing with developers who are already in the UK – afterall what is the point of companies paying to see you when they don’t have to pay anyone who is already in the UK. You will also need to have made up your mind that you really do want to relocate to the UK and be prepared to move over as soon as possible once you secure that dream job. Talking it through with wives / girlfriends / Cuban-US-visa-seeking-lovers before hand will be a very good idea.

FINALLY: TENACITY AND PATIENCE
It is a good market in the UK for good Java developers and its rare that I hear of foreign candidates who have the right to work in the UK, the marketable technical skills, good English communication skills, a proper Curriculum Vitae and flexibility to attend interviews going home having failed to find a job. However, nothing good comes easy in this world, and no matter how active the market is you will always take a couple of weeks or maybe even months to find the right position for you. So be brave, be tenacious about your applications and have patience that the right role will come along.