Why your Resume/CV sucks, and what to do about it

Most people don’t know what the purpose of a Resume (also called CV) is. It is not to tell your life’s story, it’s not to list everything you’ve done on any project whatsoever in the last fifty years, and it certainly isn’t enough to get you a job.

The only purpose of a CV is to get you an interview. That’s it. Your average recruiter / hiring manager will have a stack of 50-60 CVs in front of them. The recruiter will only send those forward that s/he thinks will have a chance of getting the job. If you put them to sleep, they will bin your resume.

Similarly, the hiring manager will also  get a hundred CVs from ten different recruiters. They too have to make a quick decision on who to call for an interview. And to make it worse, most will have other responsibilities, which means your CV will only be read in coffee breaks.
Now here is your challenge: Is your CV interesting enough so that a bored manager, who really has to go to the loo as soon as he finishes his coffee, will spend more than 60 seconds looking at it? Cause that’s how long you will get. That’s the maximum figure by the way. You may only get fifteen seconds if your resume is a big block of boring text.


Things which make your Resume suck

This is only a short list, as it depends on the job and your experience. If you are a young graduate, the problems you face will be different, as instead of a long CV, you will have a very short one. But you may still have fluff and empty words.

It is boring and filled with empty words

“My mission in life is to optimize my strategy and become a domain specific team player. TCP IP Facebook Twitter.”

We make fun of the MBA types who use pretentious and complicated words. Yet when it comes to building our own resume, we start using the same empty words.

I have seen far too many CVs with empty personal statements. If it doesn’t add to the bottom line, get rid of it. People hire you because you can make them money; not because they want to admire your fancy English, or because they want to help you fulfill your personal goals.

Not targeted

Your resume contains everything under the sun . Too long, pages and pages of blah blah blah.  If twenty two years ago you worked as an intern for a cheese factory, that is not relevant to your application for a vice president.

The CV must be targeted at the job. If the job is for a Linux developer, all those 20 paragraphs about the time you created that killer webpage are useless.

Your resume must not be more than 1-2 pages in length, no matter how much experience you have.

Doesn’t answer the question “What’s in it for me?”

The only thing the company cares about is what you can do for them, and not vice versa. It must be immediately clear, by looking at your resume and cover letter, that you are useful to them.  The manager must look at your CV and go “Yup, this guy/gal looks like the sort of person who can fix my problem.”

So how do you do that?  By following all the other advice in this blog. Make your CV short, targeted and relevant. That’s it.

You write your whole biography

One thing I’ve seen a lot is that the person’s whole life history is put in the resume. “Well, I was born back in the 60s, when men were men, and the women were women. And then I joined BigSoft….”

Everything you ever did does not need to go on your resume. If it isn’t relevant, take it out.

Too much fluff 

All interesting bit is hidden beneath tonnes of garbage, which is usually of the form blah blah blah. If it isn’t relevant take it out. If it adds nothing, take it out. Don’t make your CV boring- you are not trying to win the Man Booker prize!

Too many sentences

Thick blobs of text make it hard to read. Remember the manager who has to go to the loo? You have to hold his attention. Which one of these versions do you prefer:

Version A

I have worked as a senior software developer. My job was to write great code, while working under tight deadlines. We used mainly C and C++. In C++, we used the C11 features, as well as Boost libraries when required. Many design patterns like Composite, Factory and Decorator were used. We also wrote web frameworks in Python.

Version B

  • Senior engineer, used to working with tight deadlines
  • C/C++11, with design patterns like Composite, Factory and Decorator
  • Python was used for web development.

Version B will win every time. Version A may not even be read.

Not qualified for the job 

Your put everything you ever touched on in the CV, but you really aren’t qualified for the job. Even if you get the interview, you won’t get the job.


Example of a bad CV

Okay, enough theory. Here’s a bad CV I created. There’s only one job, as I grew bored of just typing it. Try to read through it, and see what’s wrong:



Boring: Tell me honestly, did you read through the big blob of test in the middle? Neither did I, and I typed it. Look carefully, I’ve put garbage text in the middle. But the chances are, you didn’t even notice it. So why would an employer?

Pretentious: The personal goals section is nothing but empty fluff that has been thrown in to impress interviewers (it fails).

Filled with useless info: Like he was responsible for coffee machine.

Useful info is hidden beneath a ton of garbage: No manager will read that big paragraph. You have to wade through piles of useless information, like he has five kids and his email address is stud_muffin @ aol.com.

The knowledge of the software he knows should be at the top, as it will allow the manager to quickly skim his CV and see if he’s worth calling for an interview.

The hobbies section is also useless. Does anyone really care you know gardening, unless you are applying for a gardener’s job?

Fixed CV

Okay, here is the fixed CV.

I have moved the software section to the top. The experience section has had all fluff removed, and I’ve added bullet points to make skimming easy. Anything not directly related to the job has been deleted. In the hobbies section, I have kept the C# blog mention, as it shows he has interest in learning new stuff.

Now tell me honestly: Wasn’t it a damn sight easier reading this CV?

Your challenge

Your challenge is to do the same for your CV. Stuck? Contact me, and I’ll help, no charge. Even if you think your CV is perfect, it doesn’t hurt to get second opinion, does it?

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