Thursday, 1 April 2010

So you want a job in IT?

Background: My company is looking for a software support engineer. I had cause to deal with some curriculums vitae before passing them along to my employers. Obviously I perused these little slices of life before actually forwarding them along.

What I saw therein made me die a little inside... I can understand that people write like this in everyday; they don't give a crap about their writing in everyday life because their teachers cared about it at school and they're being rebellious or something. In a CV though? Your employment, your very livelihood may depend on the person reading your CV. Do you really care so little about yourself that it doesn't matter how you're perceived?

On the one hand, I don't want to offend possibly prospective colleagues by criticising their CVs. On the other, a CV which fails to impress me will almost certainly fail to impress my bosses. I sent back lists of corrections and a suggestion to re-read their CVs very carefully. The corrected CVs still contained errors. Lots of errors.

Is it wrong of me to expect proper spelling, grammar, punctuation and formatting? I won't go into specifics here. Herewith, however, a few suggestions if you are updating your curriculum vitae with the purpose of actually landing a job:

1a. There is NO excuse for incorrect spelling. EVER.
1b. A word may be spelled correctly yet be the wrong word. Read your CV out loud.
1c. Get your spelling-and-grammar-Nazi friend to correct your CV. With a red pen.
2. The apostrophe indicates possession, not plurality.
3. A unified look: Your CV is not a collage, nor is it a ransom note. Jumping around between different fonts and font sizes makes your CV look like a tabloid "news" story.
4. Nobody cares what your first holiday job was unless you're applying for another holiday job.
5. Don't claim to have good attention to detail and yet miss more than half a dozen errors in your CV after being told to look for mistakes.
6. Smiley faces. Are you serious about getting a job? Then don't use a Unicode smiley face in the place of a period. A smiley face on a CV is what the interviewer draws if they like you very much.
7. Names and certain abbreviations are capitalised when appearing in the middle of a sentence; a regular  verb is not.
8a. No contractions under any circumstances. (don't, I'm, etc.)
8b. Never EVER use "etc." on a CV. If you do, however, then don't spell it "ect."
9. Call me picky, but a bullet list of statements about you tell me far less than a concise paragraph wherein you describe yourself.
10. We use the South African English dictionary in South Africa. US English is for when you're actually physically present on the North American continent. When in doubt, spell it like the British do. (Hint: We use far fewer Zs in our words and words like "colour" contain more letters.)
11. Underlining random lines in your CV is pointless and confusing. If it's that important, devote a page to it or turn it into a section heading or something.
12. Non-unified formatting bothers and confuses most people subconsciously. If you use a period at the end of list items in one section, use periods at the end of your list items in every section.
14. EDIT: Sentences start with capital letters.

If you want to suggest any more items, please do so in the comments below.