Job applications are a vital step to getting a job. We’ve read a lot of applications this years and saw big differences in the way they are written. Especially if the person applying for a job is fresh out of college. Here is a short checklist of what to keep in mind when writing your CV and cover letter.
1. Send your documents in PDF format
People often forget this, but the best format to send your documents in is PDF since it is viewable on any device. If you save a Word document on a PC, it may not transfer visually to a mac.
2. Be consistent
Be sure to use the same font throughout the text. If you are being creative and using more, be sure it has a purpose.
Another thing to keep in mind when talking about consistency is that comma goes right after the word and then comes space. NOT space comma space and NOT space comma and then another word without a space in between. Same goes for some other punctuations. Still, this isn’t a big mistake if the person is consistent through the text. On the other hand, if you put space before punctuation somewhere and then don’t in other places, it doesn’t look good. In our case, we mostly hire people to write code and inconsistent writing makes us think the candidate is a sloppy coder.
3. Check, spell check, ask you friends to check
Your CV is a few pages of paper that are supposed to represent you. Resumes won’t tell us if someone is going to be a great fit for our company. The ONLY thing a resume does in the first step of a selection process is this: it gives recruiters a basis for eliminating candidates and narrowing down the number of applicants. Research says that experienced recruiters take a few minutes or even seconds to go through one resume. Don’t leave any space for them to judge you based on things you could have checked and improved before sending your CV. Go through those few sheets of paper multiple times and ask your friends for help in writing the best application you can write. Especially if you are writing it on a language you are not great at.
4. Highlight your technical skills
How to list your skills? Applicants can exaggerate and list programming languages they just read about. List only the things you know how to do. It would be good to differentiate between expert knowledge and information you’re just familiar with. You can do this by using a scale or years of experience developing a certain skill. For example a scale that goes from 1 – ‘I’ve just learned what that is’ to 10 – ‘god in this field’, where you would be somewhere in between. Although, most recruiters probably won’t have a clue what knowledge of 7 in Angular means, so you can just keep it simple and differentiate between being a beginner, intermediate or expert at a certain skill.
You can put different technical skills into categories and write them in a list form, that can give an employer a quick overview. Do this by separating technologies and frameworks and programming languages you are experienced in using. Start with the things you are better at. If you are just starting and applying for internship you are probably not an expert in any programming language and it would be best to highlight your education and internship experiences. If you are mentioning your skills try to back them up with evidence.
5. Show your code
You must have at least one project that you are proud of before applying. Show it! And show your Git repo. Don’t just describe projects you did and technologies you used. We want to see your code. Leave an informative readme in the projects repositories. If you can’t show projects you worked on on your job, James Y Rauhut gives great advice to make your own projects in same tech you use at work. In his opinion, this allows the reviewer to see where your skills are but also helps you train for your current role.
You can use the cove letter to highlight your greatest project, but…
6. Don’t just write about yourself in your cover letter
While it is great to Introduce yourself, talk about your accomplishments, abilities, knowledge, interests and goals, try not to talk about yourself in just a general manner. Tell us what you can offer us and try thinking about it from our point of view. Think about the job description and in which ways you could contribute to our team. That being said…
7. Write personalized cover letters
Google the company you’re applying to. Use your cover letter to show them you understand what they are looking for, the company and culture, and prove that you’ve got what they want.
8. Try not to repeat yourself
Instead of just repeating things from your CV, use your cover letter to describe items that you weren’t able to put in your resume. Like what you learnt doing your previous job, besides the things mentioned. Did you fight for some innovations on your previous position. Did you help make things faster, easier etc. Did you resolve conflicts other employees had? What skills did you gain by doing so?
9. Be genuine
Be honest. DO highlight your accomplishments, DON’T highlight yourself. Writing that you are talented and highly skilled is a weird way to start a CV. Especially if it is not followed by examples of your work and proof of your talent.
10. Don’t go off point
It is great you have hobbies and doing sports says that you have at least one outlet for dealing with stress. Knowing that you did a lot of student jobs or heavy work before applying to a company makes me think you are a hardworking and dedicated person. Knowing you finished a college for another profession and then re-educated yourself for programming is amazing. BUT writing too much about your accomplishments in another field can leave a recruiter thinking you are not really motivated to work in the profession you are applying for. Don’t use a lot of space to mention jobs that aren’t relevant for the position. Also, you don’t really need to write about your hobbies, but if you do – keep it short. No employer needs to know you spend your weekends walking in the park with your girlfriend, or all the places where you sang karaoke at.
11. Picture, don’t need it
You don’t need it. You could save yourself a lot of trouble if you just don’t put it in. If you don’t have a professional or well-made profile picture, with which you are a 100 percent satisfied – you don’t need to put it in your resume. A recruiter will remember you by your accomplishments.
12. Deal with your fears
If you are not sure how to write a resume, ask your friends who went through a selection process or ask Google. You can always ask Google (or DuckDuckGo). There are a lot of great detailed advices and examples on the internet. But I am sure you already know how to use the internet.
We don’t believe sloppy written applications necessarily mean people writing them wouldn’t be good employees or that they don’t need the job. We would rather say they need it and just don’t know what to do exactly, as a person looking for a job. Fear makes people postpone writing applications. It can make them rush through the process too quickly, in an effort to minimize the stress. It can make them hesitant to ask friends for help, out of fear they will get embarrassed or rejected.
It might seem that it is hard to write a good application or that it is stressful. Which, truth be told, it is. It can be annoying and unpleasant to search through companies and personalize every application. You might write something wrong or funny in your first draft. But you can work on it.
Keep your goal in mind and deal with your fears. Imagine getting rejected or even laughed at and surviving it. Telling yourself „Well, boy, this is unpleasant and embarrassing, but I can survive it and it’s not the end of the world.“ It doesn’t mean you’re not ‘good enough’ or that you will never find your fit. Keep in mind that you might end up sending 50 applications before landing the right job. Keep working on your skills and practice writing your applications. Stay determined.
13. Think about your motivation
On the other hand, making a sloppy application might mean that you are really not up for the job and are applying for the wrong reasons. Try not to apply for jobs you can’t imagine yourself doing. Lack of motivation will most likely show on your application, in the interview or worse, when you start working and will just messy up your life.