When in the middle of radical career shift, people usually get frustrated about how to tell a prospective employer that they have little or no experience. The same thing happens when looking for a first-time job. We asked our recruiters about the most common mistakes of entry-level CVs to help you avoid them. Use this article to fix your CV or make it good-looking from scratch!
Our recruiters pointed to a set of common errors, including:
- Not following the structure of a CV;
- Sending their CVs in .doc format (egads!);
- Using boring template phrases;
- Exaggerating their merits;
- Being odd instead of creative (especially with photos);
- Writing “I have no experience”;
- Taking offense at being rejected;
- Spamming recruiters with identical CVs.
The common mistake is to write your life story instead of writing a CV. Do not confuse CV with an autobiographical essay (like the one you’ve done at school) – these two styles of self-presentation are for different purposes.
Do not overload your CV with information: the recruiter is looking for candidates with specific skill sets and goals. Highlight these qualities and prove you’re the right person for the job. The structure will help you do it even better.
Classic CV usually consists of seven sections (try to fit this information into one sheet of paper):
- Name and Surname
city of residence
- 2-3 lines about your key skills, points of interest within the project and motivation to determine your readiness for this job.
- Hobbies (if relevant)
- Contact information
You can compile personal data for a CV using one of Canva’s templates or other web-resources: it will help keep the info organized, good-looking and easy-to-read.
Yes, in the XXI century you still can use a regular text editor for writing your CV, but really why would you? Formatting sometimes crashes and turns your resume into chaos. If you still want to work in a text file save it as .pdf after you finish. Please, forget about PowerPoint presentations. There are better ways to show your design skills. If you do programming too (or someone can give you a hand with that), stand out from other candidates by creating a presentational web page.
Just don’t forget to add a “Download my CV” button somewhere – the recruiter will thank you for that.
The filename is another important detail. “Junior-designer Ivan Popov CV”, “Ira Kruchko Ruby CV” – writing your full name, the position you want to have or your core skill will help you to be identified among the dozens of files named “2.txt”, “cv.pdf”, or “resume.docx”.
Imagine how many “communicable”, “stress-resistant” and “responsible” candidates the recruiter sees every day? These clichés are a total waste unless you’ll support the statements with specific data. We mean you can mention “I’m attentive and pedantic” but if double spaces, autocorrect fails, extra commas will pop up in your CV here and there, it’s going to be a fiasco.
Instead of describing yourself with clichés tell about your experience. If you want to point out your reliability and conscientious, don’t say “I am a responsible person”, let the facts tell more: maybe you were a class president, volunteer or some kind of event-manager?
Look through the required skills. If there is anything on that list you are not happy about, don’t pretend to be a 100% match for the job. Tell the truth, or do not mention skills you do not have at all. There is no point in exaggeration: you can’t even imagine how simple it is to catch the candidate on blabbing. Bad English is the classic case. “One candidate wrote that he has advanced English,” says HR-contractor at Beetroot Halyna Vorona. “But at the interview, he refused to speak it without preparation, which is suspicious, you know.” Another one rated his English at 4 out of 5 stars, but it turned out he was too shy and insecure to mention his excellent TOEFL!
HR specialist Natasha Dmytrenko believes that if there is a 50-60% relevance to the requirements, you can try to submit for the vacancy: “Send the CV even before you are totally ready for the job, otherwise you can lose time on waiting for the result. Do not be too critical to yourself – employers don’t expect professionalism from an entry-level candidate.”
If you can think outside the box, make a good design or smashingly code, let the examples of your work speak for themselves. Natalia Dmitrenko advises: “It is better not to go from one extreme to another: candidates sometimes write that they are ready to work for food, or “your company is so lucky to have me!” – and it pushes me away.”
If you want to express yourself – add a cover letter to the resume. This is an informal text, a short story about your motivation for working in this company or project. Take up to 200-300 words to tell smth relevant and good-to-know about you. Keep a neutral tone of voice and not get too comfortable talking about yourself: recruiter is not your best fella (at least for now) and familiarity is not a good choice for making the first impression.
Candidates are not required to attach photos from ID’s (sometimes it’s better not to show them to anybody at all, agreed?). However, if there is an option to add a photo of you to the resume, be wise. Natalia received quite strange pictures with the CV: “One candidate was in a T-shirt on a photo, with his hands raised above his head and crowded train on the background. Another time I get a photo of a girl, she’s bent over the keyboard, so you see only the top of her head, with the signature: “This is how I look almost always because I’m a workaholic!”. Catchy idea but not a 100% good decision.”
If you have no commercial experience in a new specialty (didn’t have previous official employment in IT), it does not mean that you have nothing to tell. Inna Chernova, an HR consultant at Beetroot Academy, advises never to say: “I do not have a CV because I have not worked anywhere yet.”
Maybe you were attending conferences, studying at art school, taking part in FLEX or AIESEC, were volunteering somewhere? If just graduated from IT courses, show your graduation project – that’s already something!
Another mistake is to write all your jobs and activities in a row. Even if they do not relate to IT. Recall two or three recent or most revealing of them: where you worked for the longest, what position did you had, what duties performed, what results achieved.
Here’s a good example from HR Consultant (Full-Stack), Beetroot, Volodymyr Vovk:
Software Engineer at ***. August 2016 – present. Technologies research and developing new functionality.
Achievements: designed and developed completed microservice, implemented a set of build scripts, made infrastructure wrappers for 3AWS services.
Environment: Scala, Finagle, AWS, Guice, Git, Akka, Docker, Flatbuffers, SBT, CircleCIand IntelliJ IDEA.
Replace “Software Engineer” with “accountant”, “manager”, “decorator” – or what you’ve been doing before – and describe your experience and competencies using this scheme.
If your hobbies are somehow related to the vacancy, give a few words about them. Better to be brief about embroidery, singing karaoke, collecting postcards and other irrelevant to your new occupation activities.
Dialogue with the recruiter
Even if you wrote an amazingly brilliant CV, it’s still unlikely that someone will send you a contract for signing right away. The whole employment process takes about a month: ~ 2 weeks for reviewing the resume, then the interview with the recruiter, fulfilling the test task, a few more technical or client interviews. The point is do not expect that the recruiter will answer you immediately.
The rule of good manners in HR is to answer all the CVs. Even if the candidate does not meet the requirements and must get a negative response. Only after two weeks, if your mail is still empty, tactfully recap: ask if they did get your CV and read it. It’s better to send the request in the same thread.
If you received a negative response, you might still benefit from it: ask the recruiter the reason for the refusal and what skills should you improve to get the job next time. It’s totally OK, as well as asking HR-manager to contact you when a new vacancy opens.
Juniors have a sneaky tendency to send the same CV to all the companies, thinking that this increases their chances of getting the job! Well, it’s not the wisest thing to do: a recruiter can determine if the person is motivated to work on this particular project, or just looking for any kind of work anywhere. Even if you have to pay the bills for the apartment, spamming a template-like CV to every IT company out there is not an option. Do not be too lazy to write a new CV for each vacancy that interests you (or re-write yours considering project characteristics). At least you can try to find a temporary work so you’d have resources for waiting for your dream job to come up.
To sum up
Don’t write a CV in a rush. Give yourself some time: sit in a quiet place and make a plan, structure the resume today, add some extra information tomorrow and give the text to someone the day after. When you’re working on smth for a long time you can miss obvious mistakes, it’s easier to find and correct them just asking another person to look through the text.
Remember, when a company opens an entry-level vacancy, they do not expect you to be an extraordinary professional. Most likely, they are looking for a flexible candidate with a good basis in technologies and good soft-skills to become such a pro inside the team or particular project. Look through the requirements: if you have at least 60% of the core skill set, apply! If not, look through the list once again: it is a right vector for self-development and future learning!