We have had some job openings lately online, and quite some people applied for them. Given the diversity of quality in these applications I thought I give everyone an inside look about how we handle such email.

First Impressions

When you send out your CV it will land in the mailbox of someone. Mail clients nowadays have a large preview pane and even if you don’t open the email the preview pane shows much of the actual text. This is the right place and time to introduce yourself. In fact while the typical attached file is important, a strong first impressions, some sincere words why you actually would like to fill this position are equally important. Keep following in mind:

  • At our company (and I guess this applies for most small to medium companies) the management is looking into the CV’s. This means that time isn’t abundant, so be brief and to the point.
  • Use the body section of the email for the introduction. The first page of the attached CV is ok but you are loosing out on the chance to make a good first impression early on.
  • You can use the introduction to explain and smoothen out parts of your CV. For example if you don’t have much experience on the subject, but would love to learn, SAY SO.
  • Try to write the introduction in your language and style. This gives us a good overview about what kind of person we are dealing with. Strict, funny, formal whatever describes you as a person should shine through.

CV File Format

The biggest mistake when you are sending out your CV is to assume that everyone has MS Word installed on their PC/Mac. An even bigger mistake is to assume that everyone has the latest version of MS Word installed (.docx). In fact sending in a .docx CV is a sure way to gather negative points before we even open it. If you are applying for a position that is related to the www, where interoperability is a primary concern for everyone and everything, try to use non editable well supported formats. Either convert it to a PDF document (reader software is freely available and most OSes have a bundled pdf viewer) or setup a personal site and make your CV available online. This way you have a worksample and a CV on the same page!

CV Setup and content

Regarding the CV itself and what you mention once again put yourself in the shoes of the one who is likely to read it. If you apply to more then one jobs this is likely not going to be the same person, so why try to write one-size-fits-it-all CV?

In fact I strongly encourage everyone to have a base format but to adapt each CV she or he sends out to the specific job opening. Emphasise the parts of your previous experience or education that are very specific to the job. Guide the reviewers eyes to the points you think you excel at.

The size of the CV itself should not be larger the three pages. This is a very strict rule and there are cases where CV can be longer, but in general you should choose your top attributes/experiences that fit into 3 pages. By simply dumping every little detail about yourself into a long CV you loose out on a first class chance to point out your very best.

CV Language

There are a plethora of CV layouts available that do a very good job in providing an easy to read layout. If you use any extra markup in your CV remember:

  • Don’t overuse bold/strong/em: The words and phrases you highlight should be carefully selected and once again apply formatting to highlight specific-to-the-job-posting attributes.
  • I remember a specific CV (she now works with us) where the applicant did only highlight the names of the professors that did review her diploma thesis. Such small details showing extra respect to people and the time they offered form a very nice first impression.
  • Be careful about your expertise levels. Be extra careful about how you express this expertise levels of yours. If you write you are an excellent photoshop user and during the interview you can’t answer some questions, the reviewer will obviously start doubting more parts of your CV. The nicest expression I did read was “friend to git”, which I translated into “I appreciate and respect it” which is exactly the way I feel about it. :)