13 tips on how to create a stellar resume
According to data, recruiters take around 7 seconds to screen a candidate’s resume for an available position. In over 58% of the CV’s submitted, there is inevitably a mistake — most often a grammatical error or a big spelling mistake — but still, that would be enough for an HR specialist to write out the candidate during a second screening of their resume.
Grammatical mistakes, untrue information, unprofessional email communication, and long paragraphs with unquantifiable information may not always be the reason for rejection but they do leave a certain impression.
With the purpose of helping you be among the 2% of candidates who get shortlisted for the interview stage, today we meet you with two HR experts — Slavka Andonova, an HR Consultant at BICA Services, and Irina Lilova — Senior Talent Specialist at Telerik Academy. The two professionals take the stage to give you 13 tips on how to create the perfect CV — from end to end.
Before you start creating your resume…
#1 Discover as much as possible about the company
“Company research is one of the most important steps towards creating an outstanding resume, as it will help the candidate personalize it as much as possible to match the position requirements,” shares Andonova. The website of the company that you would like to work for, as well as its social media pages can be useful for finding out its vertical specifics, its positioning in the market, as well as the most important projects the company is proud of, during the initial phases of your research. To explore the working environment, try to find connections with the current employees. Using LinkedIn research or personal references, you can quickly find an acquaintance who is willing to share details about the everyday work life at the place, the dynamics between colleagues, and team leads. Ask a lot of questions, to be able to decide whether or not you will fit in the place and proceed with your application.
“Blogs and social media posts in particular can give the candidate a great overview of the values of their desired company. This is an opportunity for him/her to find the commonalities between his personal beliefs and interests and those of the company,” Lilova states. Finding out that the company you are applying for is just as engaged with sustainable composting as you are is not only a happy coincidence, but also a powerful tool that you can use to make yourself stand out from the crowd. “Culturе fit is one of the most important factors recruiters and employers watch out for,” Lilova hints.
#2 Experiment with different formats
Can you demonstrate your technical abilities through your resume? “One of the most impressive CVs I have ever seen throughout my career was of a Data Scientist, who made their resume through a data visualisation tool, used by the company he was applying for. In this way, he managed not only to surprise and impress our team, but also to complete one of the technical tasks that were to come at the later stages of his recruitment,” Andonova shares. A video resume where the person talks about their experience is also an out-of-the-box solution, but might not be that practical and always has to be accompanied by a paper version from which a recruiter can quickly check the information, the HR expert says.
#3 Think of your design
When it comes to design, the Internet is an endless source of creative inspiration for how your resume can stand out. “I still see resumes made through the European CV format,” Andonova says, noting that a simple customized design can make a much more memorable impression on the recruiter team. Currently, there is a variety of online resume builders that enable users to choose from a template database or create their own design. For starters, you can check out Canva, Enhancv, or Indeed.
During the process of resume building
#4 About the length and structure
The maximum length of your resume should be between one and two pages, our guest HR specialists share. “Make sure to follow the standard structure — start with your basic information and education, technical stack and experience, and leave your personal interests for the last sections,” Andonova advises. She notes that for some companies, education and training are crucial filters for choosing candidates: “While you might not feel like it is relevant to include your university degree, keep in mind that there are employers who do not take candidates that have not completed a degree in computer sciences or programming, no matter what their other experience is,” she adds.
The optimal description for a candidate’s past jobs should not exceed 5 sentences. “The first screening of a resume lasts just a couple of seconds — what a recruiter needs to see is a well-structured document where a person gives just enough detail about his accomplishments at a particular position,” Lilova adds.
If a candidate has a lot of working experience in the field, the best strategy would be to choose the most recent and/or relevant job positions he has occupied for his resume. “It is a common misconception that one has to include all of his experience when applying for a job,” Lilova reassures.
In cases where one has irrelevant working experience, they should include the 2–3 positions that are most relevant.
Junior developers are often advised to include their internship and other work experience, as well as their freelance programming projects. Junior candidates should also note it if they study programming at university, or if they have acquired additional qualifications through software courses and professional academies, such as Telerik, shares Lilova.
The job experience and tech stack description
#5 Stress on your accomplishments
When listing your job experience, always strive to include your achievements and the recognition you received from colleagues and employers. This shows the recruiters and your prospective employer that you have a goal-achieving mindset and motivation to develop and scale. “In a company, you can be at the same position as a dozen other people — what makes you stand out are your professional and personal victories — they ring a bell in your employers’ heads that you can achieve a lot,” Lilova explains. When sorting out which successes to list, choose those that will make you look the most suitable for the role you are applying for. A well-working approach is to try to quantify your achievements by using numbers and percentages — how many developers did you lead, how much faster did you complete a task, compared to your colleagues — according to TalentWorks, a candidate can perform 40% better, when using this approach.
#6 Be well-prepared and objective
“No matter if you are listing your past achievements or outlining the technologies you have good knowledge of, be confident in the authenticity of the professional claims you are making,” Andonova advises. If you are uncertain about a skill or knowledge or have very vaguely familiarized with a particular technology, leave it out of the resume. “Listing too many technologies in your resume makes it look unrealistic in the eyes of recruiters. Also, the HR recruitment steps are always followed by a technical interview, meaning that you can sabotage your application through lying on the resume,” Lilova says.
A good strategy is to include the relevant to the position technologies you know you are good at. Here, the rule is simple: be objective and do your best to be modest.
HR Note: How graphs can be a double edged sword — You might have seen or used different graphs to rate your knowledge and level of understanding for a particular technology. If you choose such a strategy, make sure to prepare a self-justification, drawing on your strengths and some of your weaknesses. “Very often, when I see that a candidate has rated their knowledge of technology stack X with a 3 out of 5, I ask him to explain why — what is his understanding, what knowledge and experience does a 5 out of 5 mark require,’’ shares Andonova. In such a case, justifying your self-assessment in a reasonable way makes a very good impression and has the potential to help you reach the next stage in your recruitment process.
#7 The values and interests section… your secret icebreaker
According to Lilova, employers and HR specialists want to see both the professional and the human being in each candidate. “A lot of the information that helps them understand whether you will be a good fit for the company is found in the sections where you describe your experience, soft skills, hobbies, and interests. If you reach the next step during the recruitment process, your values and interests are also the channel that HRs will use to connect with you on a personal level and make you feel more comfortable during the conversation, something which can only benefit you,” Andonova adds.
In the cases when recruiters are looking for a candidate for an entry level position, personality traits and shared values can play a more crucial role than one’s experience. “If you see that a company values the fighting spirit and you can demonstrate that through personal examples or relevant experience, there is quite the chance that employers will be more willing to invest in your education as they would understand that you are looking in the same direction,” Lilova says.
After you are done with your CV…
#8 Always double check
Go through all the information included in the resume at least twice to ensure you have correctly spelled your previous companies and job positions. It is a good idea to run your text through a grammar checker tool or give it to a third person to validate.
#9 Ask yourself whether the experience and expertise included are relevant to the job requirements listed by the employer.
#10 Write a professional email when sending your resume
Make sure to come up with a short and polite message to the recruitment team of the company and include it when you send your resume attachment. In case you are wondering for ideas, you can always present yourself, specify once more your telephone coordinates, and express your gratitude for the application opportunity.
#11 Be careful what file you attach
“Instead of a CV, I have had cases in which I received other documents, containing all the personal information of the candidate — this is not only unprofessional, but can also do a lot of harm to the person, if their data gets in the wrong hands,” Andonova shares.
#12 Be ready for a phone call
It is a common practice for HR recruiters to call some of the candidates to ask them an additional question and provide further information about the position — be ready to take the call and indicate that you are ready for an interview. “One of the most unprofessional things to hear from a candidate is an excuse that they are off on a vacation. Once they send their resume, applicants become part of a process, during which they have to demonstrate flexibility, seriousness, and desire to become part of the company,” Andonova adds.
#13 The final advice: Learn to ask for help
The vocation of every member of the BICA team is to advise candidates on how to best prepare for the next step in their interview process. Learn to ask your consultant for help — he/she is among the people who can give you the best advice for your next job, as well as for a position in another company. Be polite and friendly and show them that you want to communicate, as this can open many doors for you.