Hello again, friends. Welcome back to my blog. In today’s post I’m going to be running through my top CV/Resume tips that helped me land a role at Google - but are also just great practices for elevating your CV to that next level. If you’re going for a new role in tech, revitalising your existing CV or just curious how you’re measuring up now, this is the article for you.
Design - make sure yours is the one that visually stands out.
Profile - make sure it’s concise and gives a key introduction to who you are
Work experience - Concise, add SMART outcomes, use numbers, mention personal impact, dates, titles, company names
Personal information - include contact info and LinkedIn in the footer
Side section - add skills interests and achievements (this is what makes you unique)
First and foremost, the CV is so important because Google, like many employers, will not look at cover letters! This is why it has to encapsulate everything you’ve done in short-form, without needing a lengthy additional document to justify it. Google roles will have literally thousands of applicants, they’re not poring over every letter they receive. With this in mind, my CV was designed in Photoshop. As opposed to using a word processor, this avenue forces you to focus on the visual design element of the document. To be honest, for most situations this is going to be overly complicated, but if you want to take the time it can yield superior visual results. Taking a different approach, software-wise, is a great way to set yourself apart from the thousands of other applicants that will be going for most roles.
Photoshop allowed me to include a bit of design flare, dividing the page slightly more aesthetically and including some subtle colour touches that liven up the document a bit (I used gold for my name). Anything that makes you want to look at two pages of boring text about your life is going to be a massive benefit to whoever is sifting through the pile. Don’t go overboard and remember to keep it professional.
Structurally, the CV is set out with my name and ‘Profile’ at the top - telling you who I am and giving a brief introduction to my background and persona. This is followed by my work experience, which is perhaps the most important (and certainly largest) portion of the document. This section is flanked by my skills, interests, achievements and education, which are informative but potentially less central to the application. In the footer of both pages is my LinkedIn profile and personal contact details.
There is some debate as to whether a CV should be one or two pages (definitely not more). My philosophy is that if your front page is strong enough to stand alone, anything on the second page is a bonus. If the employer only reads the first page they should know enough to make a decision, then be pleasantly surprised by the cherry on top in the second page. Looking back at my CV now I would likely bring ‘achievements’ up in place of ‘interests’ for this exact reason.
Finally, remember to keep your LinkedIn up to date - they may cross reference the info on your page when hiring. Tell the truth in both places and you’ll never be caught out in an interview setting. Find someone on LinkedIn who is going to be working in the team you’re applying for and see if they’re up for a call or message! They may be able to give some guidance on what skills they have and any tips or insights they can give.
This section comes first and as such should encapsulate you. Especially in larger companies and tech companies a robot may scan your CV. Whilst making sure it reads well and is compelling in selling you, make sure you’re also tailoring this section so keywords match the company and role you’re applying for. Think of SEO’ing your CV for a job algorithm, what is important? I used interest in tech, leadership and pitching for Google, because the role I was originally working in was largely sales-based. I also included a recent achievement: my non-profit, People of the Streets, which I started and ran throughout uni. Keep this succinct! Include applicable summary information and some nice words about yourself. No one needs an essay on your unwavering strength of character and killer tennis serve.
Google cares much less about your education than many other companies. They are more focused on your skills, experience and talent. Other places will differ, but if you don’t have the most amazing academic record, highlight other parts of your experience. If you do, state it clearly and pick out some academic highlights to include in the achievements section. Additionally, if you give your education a date (i.e. Cambridge Uni Sept ‘17- ‘21) there is a theory that you’re liable to reduce your potential earnings. This is because it gives unnecessary insight into your age and how recently you left Uni - if you have all the necessary experience when applying to a senior role, but the employer has an implicit bias against your age, you may miss out. You don’t need to include it, there is no advantage to doing so.
Work Experience Tips
So, when it comes to filling out your work experience, unfortunately the most important thing is the experience itself. If you don’t have the applicable experience, or something you can convincingly sell as applicable experience, you may struggle in applying to senior positions. Fortunately, how you present this information is second most important. Even if you don’t have swathes of prior similar roles, you can optimally present what you do have.
The key things to include are: the role title, the years worked, the name of the company and a one or two line summary of the role. Be as specific as possible with the outcomes you worked toward and include them. These can be broken down as SMART outcomes: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time constrained. Make your contribution to whatever prior roles you held as concrete and specific as possible. For example, in nine months working as a research assistant I contributed to 15 articles, increasing CTR by 15% and overall subscription to the platform by 20,000.
Add in any traceable information you can - did your efforts attract any media? Did you use a hashtag that a recruiter could follow to see your impact? It’s very important to pull out the personal contribution that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t been there. What value did you specifically add?
There is some debate as to whether you should include the fact that previous roles were internships. You can simply list these as short term positions you held within one department of a company. It’s fine to include that information, but it does imply that you might be looking more for graduate roles, following recent university graduation and unpaid work. If you’re looking for a senior position, having prominent internships on your CV might make you less eligible. As with the education dates, if it doesn’t help your case and isn’t disingenuous then you may want to omit it.
In this same vein, make sure to include the experiences that are most relevant to that role - it’s fine to take out useless information. How does it relate to the role you’re applying for? Make sure it’s true and not a massive stretch! Design your ‘Work Experience’ section around skills - what skill does the experience demonstrate? If you can’t easily answer a question on what you learned and how you’ll carry that into the role you’re applying for, you would likely benefit from removing it.
Skills and Interests Tips
As I wrote above, role related knowledge and experience are paramount at Google - far more so than traditional education. They are very interested in your general cognitive ability and ‘Googleyness’ (essentially translating to your unique perspective, skills, previous projects and achievements that make you stand out from the crowd). While skills need to be fairly straightforwardly connected to the role, the ‘interests’ section gives you some wiggle room to express who you are as a person. Give a little indicator to the robot or human reading it about who you are. It may help if these things strike a common chord with the interviewer, which is more likely if they are tangentially associated with the company. If you’re applying at Google and love technology, gaming, and programming, you may have plenty to talk about.
Work is not the be all and end all at Google, there is a huge spread of other activities and facilities and it’s certainly a company made up of human beings, not cogs in a machine. Demonstrate that you are interesting and well-rounded, it can’t hurt your cause!
I’d put this on the front page now. This highlights what you personality did at Uni, in clubs, in other jobs, and any awards you may have won. Think of this small section as the absolute cream of the crop for significant moments in your life and career. What is going to ‘wow’ an interviewer?
Structure this as perhaps the most concise, bullet-stop part of the CV - meant largely to grab attention and promote questions.