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3 suggestions after 1 year collecting CVs

Sergio Panagia

Partner, Technical Director

During the last year Moze — the design studio I co-founded — experienced a huge growth, so we had to start an aggressive and continiuos recruitment activity targeted mostly to web developers.

After one year spent as “the guy” who gets candidates applications, I wanted to share some quick&dirty suggestions to people willing to apply to job posts.

My personal experience was related mainly to developers but I kept the post generic in a way that its common-sense suggestions might be applied to any kind of job positions.

# 1 Write a concise, remarkable Cover Letter

Cover letter is not outdated. It’s the first thing I get when I open a new candidate’s application just after his name; it gives me a clear idea of what kind of human being I could have in front of me and how smart he could be.

While this is a very basic concept I still receive a lot of CVs that have no cover letter of any kind.

In my work it is very hard to judge a candidate only looking for self-declared skills or a few past job experiences.

What I’m looking for in a cover letter is usually the following:

  • Presentation: give a very little story about you and what you achieved so far.
  • You: which are your desire and ambitions? What do like to do and why you think you’re different from any other candidate?
  • Us: why you decided to apply specifically for this company? — while from a candidate point of view this might seem trivial, it is not for a recruiter (especially in case of a startup); while it happened a few times, I do not encourage to write “money” as the main motivation ☺.

# 2 Tangible facts before fancy skills list

In my experience it’s so much valuable when I have the chance the review what’s been done by a candidate with real-world projects: they don’t need to be complex: even personal or open source or hobby stuff that you have done and that can speak for you suit great.

There is a lot of things to see even in a simple personal project: the attention to details, the logic behind design choices or the attitude to problem solving of any kind.

When finally you have to list your skills, try to avoid at all costs those graphs with absurd percentage of knowledge related to a specific subject: what should I get by 90% HTML or 85% CSS? What is the real value of this information?

Let me get your skills from what you did, before writing a list of them.

# 3 Europass CV. Don’t do that. Seriously.

I remember those annoying high-school and university seminars about «entering the job market» but most of all I remember the suggestion to use a standardized CV format (Europass was one of those, but don’t try to use it with Chrome…).

My personal opinion is that those “standardized” formats, that should make a CV more readable, often do empty candidates from any distinctiveness.

While I’m not saying standardized formats are always a mistake (probably sometimes they are even required) I believe you have to carefully consider who’s going to read your CV and the best way to catch her attention.

I’m not a big fan neither of the “creative” CV unless you’re really awesome in doing them (because it’s so hard to make it readable and cool at the same time).

So show your past experiences and skills with a CV which is full of references or endorsements (think how much powerful is a LinkedIn profile with recommendations from your connections).

Wrapping up

  • Be distinctive: write a smart cover letter.
  • Be honest: provide tangible reference upfront — also do not apply if you are clearly under-qualified.
  • Be really motivated: try to get info about the company, its history, try to learn about the people involved and demonstrate them why you would like to get involved with them.

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