Response to my CV

My CV has been really well received. I was worried about it just before I started looking for work, but it seems be doing quite well for itself. In this post, I’m just going to brainstorm some reason why I think that was the case.

The biggest risk I was taking with it was the tone I wrote it in: it’s very chatty, and laid back. You can definitely sense the passion behind it, though. Trying your best to show your passion for your work is probably the most important aspect of a CV. It’s easy to keep passionate people motivated, and they’re often in it for the right reasons. This is your first contact with a potential employer – it might be your only opportunity to catch their attention.

At least two interviewers said “I knew I had to get you in as soon as I read your personal statement.” I couldn’t think of what to say about myself there, so I decided to just explain why I love programming. Again, showing passion. But also making it clear what type of job I want. I don’t want to be a heartless code monkey at a bank, I want to be working closely with customers and making sure I can be proud of the product.

I’d suggest trying to specialise early. Most of the companies that reached out to me did so because they saw my Symfony2 experience. A few of these companies were asking for three or more years experience (which I don’t have) but that was overlooked just because of how much time I’ve spent with Symfony. That’s a good area to specialise, there are lots of other niches in web development: get some healthy Rails or WordPress experience. It looks much more interesting when put aside some generic “web developers”.

I did end up adding a section about my life outside of work. I mentioned my interest in (trying) to develop and write ARGs. If nothing else, it made the CV reader curious and more likely to get in touch with me just to find out more about it. I didn’t want to mention extra circular activities just because I thought it added nothing to the CV, so I tried to link them to how they help me be better at my job: inventive uses of technology.

My point is that CVs don’t have to be dry lists, and when you don’t have much experience you can still have an impressive CV. Just explain why you’re excited about your profession. If you can’t do that, maybe you’re in the wrong profession.

What should go in my CV?

My situation probably isn’t all that rare. Since graduating university I’ve had only two jobs. This means I can’t show off a long list of roles, and how I was valuable in each one. That’d be a pretty short CV.

MyBuilder, June 2012 – January 2014

  • Was a key part of the team that migrated project to Symfony2
  • Designed and implemented voucher code system
  • Wrote hundreds of unit tests to ensure easy maintenance, now and in the future

BEA Solutions, June 2010 – June 2011

  • Wrote stock management system, for companies to track and sell stock
  • Integrated this with a custom e-commerce system
  • Created customer management portal

And it’s really boring.

Instead, I like to tell much more of a story. I have a tone in my writing which I know some people like. And surely I want to be working with people who enjoy the way I write? They’ll be reading an awful lot of my writing, so we best start off with it up front.

I really feel like this shows more about me than the above version.

MyBuilder.com – Software Engineer June 2012 – January 2014
Symfony2, intensive refactoring, Postgres, Varnish, TDD, DDD, JavaScript.

I joined MyBuilder just as they were migrating from Symfony 1.4 to Symfony2. So I was a core part of the team that rewrote the application from the ground up; Symfony2 and MVC architecture is second nature now.

Refactoring overly complex code was a key responsibility for me, and making a 200 line controller into a 5 line controller wouldn’t be possible without the hundreds tests I’d written.

As a true startup, MyBuilder allowed me to touch other areas of the business when I felt I could be of help. In my time there, I’ve helped with marketing activities, recruiting, product design, and leading a small project or two.

I entered this position as a junior developer, but definitely left with a wealth of experience with teams, project management, and most important being a cleaner coder.

It’s a good bit longer (which many people would see as a negative), but surely that shows a lot more about my personality. That’s what I want an employer to care about most. I’ve managed to get across where my experience lies, but also that I’m passionate. The last paragraph is pragmatically useless, it’s only there because it adds a bit of my personality and how much I care about progression.

I feel like there should be a ‘In my spare time’ section, but I’m not sure what to put in there. I’ve seen job advertisements saying "please don’t bother sending us you’re CV if you’ve written ‘I like going to the cinema’." But I do like going to the cinema! And I’m quite passionate about other mediocre things too: reading, podcasts, board games, photography. If employers look down on those things, I may as well just miss out that subject entirely.

So, I guess that’s my CV.

Confidently inexperienced.

I feel like there’s something I should be doing, but there really isn’t.

I just write up my CV, which I just need to get someone to check (I’ll probably email Paul, and ask him to take a look at the online version). It’s a paragraph over a page, so I’m not sure what to do with that. I read a post somewhere that the requirement for CVs to be only a page is silly now, since people have more roles within their jobs than before, so they take up more space explaining.

I have a list of job openings that I’m perfect for all printed off and ready for me to sort out. They’re based sort of around the West Midlands, which means I’ll be able to move out. I’m very nervous, and don’t feel like I have enough confidence to have other people relying on me yet. I suppose the only way to get that confidence is to do it; fake it till you make it.

I might actually start writing up a plug in for WordPress, for the competition, though I’m not sure when the deadline is. Either way, a useful plug in would still generate traffic, and hopefully donations! More importantly, it’d be something good to put on my CV as actual work experience. At the moment, I’ve had to really talk up what experience I do have.