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How to write a technical CV

08/04/21 Quinten Reid Consultant, Electronics & Technology

Ever sat outside an interview room thinking, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”?

The truth is, you’d already made your first impression before you walked in that door or logged onto the video platform. The first impression, the first glimpse of you a hiring manager or recruiter will see, is your Curriculum Vitae. "The CV is a personal marketing document, highlighting why you’re the most suitable person" says Quinten Reid, Consultant at Redline Group.

If you’re seeking to secure a top tech job, with a leading employer, start-up, etc., it’s more important than ever to present a well-balanced and attractive CV that an employer, hiring manager, or tech recruiter will want to read.

Whether you’re an RF Design Engineer, FPGA Engineer, C# Developer, Data Scientist, etc. your CV is a foundation towards your job hunting and interview process, it should showcase your experience, technical knowledge, competencies, and potential. With an engineering-biased CV, there are some practical methods, format, and structure, worth following to successfully sell your abilities to prospective employers.

Read the tips below to help write the perfect technical CV

1. Structure & Format - don’t get fancy.

A little thought is key, a CV is only as good as the information it contains. A technical CV is not the place to show off your funky design skills. Keep it clean and clear so it is easy to read quickly. Alternative designs will just pull attention away from your skills, competencies, and qualifications. Divide it clearly into sections and keep it succinct. Think: -

  • Length – Average length is two pages A4, three pages possibly for executives and contractors.

  • Layout & Design – Smart, professional, crisp easily read font (between 10 to 12 point) such as Calibri or Arial with no unusual layouts or graphics as many applicant tracking systems (ATS) scan the CV and you do not want nonsense once scanned.

  • Title & Contact details – Contact details, email address, phone number(s) are essential, LinkedIn profile if you have one – make sure it aligns with your CV, you do not need your full address – town and postcode are adequate, and you don’t need to include a photograph.

  • Readability – Break up text, make it easy to read, short paragraph, employment dates, and relevant information.

  • Proofreading – Be accurate, consistent formatting, spell check, punctuation, look for typos and inaccuracies. Ask someone else to take a second look just in case.

2. Start with a concise personal summary.

Your personal summary/profile is the moment you walk in the door. It’s your chance to let the hiring manager or recruiter see who you are and helps you stand out. This is the first content section of your CV. A good personal summary will add a lot of interest to your profile. However, a technical CV needs to be concise, so stick to the point. Keep them short. It’s sometimes easier to write after you have completed the rest of the CV ideally keeping the information high level, like an ‘elevator’ pitch.

Ideally lead with exactly what they’re asking for: find a major requirement in the job advert, whether it’s experience or qualification, that you fit perfectly, and put it right upfront. You also need to identify and state the skills which could have an immediate impact on the new employer’s high-tech projects or sales. Highlight factual information. Try and avoid tired and cliché terms like “excellent team player”, “hard worker”, “dynamic and enthusiastic”.

3. Dedicate a whole section to your skills.

ATS systems are used by many employers and recruiters to automate and streamline the process. This means you’re no longer creating a document for just human eyes alone so optimisation is important, with the right keywords used throughout the document. Make sure it reads naturally and don’t go overboard with repetitive terms.

Whether it’s an ATS, tech recruiter, or hiring manager reviewing your CV, the first thing they’ll do is skim it. One thing they’ll be looking for is a clear and distinct section on your key skills and competencies in your field. e.g. Five-years embedded C development in a Linux environment, the microcontrollers you’ve used (Arm Cortex-M3), the engineering software, tools used – AutoCAD, MATLAB, CATIA, Solid Edge, ANSYS Fluent, Altium, Eclipse, Bootstrap, etc.

This section should go right after your summary. Outline and highlight your key strengths, focus on the skills that the employer and the role require and don't feel obliged to include anything that isn’t relevant or might be outdated. If you have experience in more than one field, break the section down into categories and then arrange skills by level (advanced, then medium, then basic).

If there’s something you specialise in or are particularly good at, make sure it’s front and centre where it’ll readily jump out at the reader.

4. Focus your work experience on achievements

Long descriptions of your responsibilities in previous roles are out of place in a technical biased CV. What matters is the impact or results on projects or employers and qualify. What did you do that made a difference? Emphasise that. e.g. systems architecture, product definition, etc.

Use bullet points to describe your work experience. Each point should say, “I did A by doing B, which resulted in C.” Every employer wants someone who can create immediate value, so make sure you present yourself as someone who achieves results.

For each position, add a final bullet point with a shortlist of the technical skills you used in the role: “Technologies / Methodologies: A, B, C”. This section is an opportunity for you to put your technical skills into context and add any additional details.

For jobs over 10 years old, just put the job title, company, and date, unless there is something very relevant to the role you’re applying for. Don’t be tempted to exaggerate, it is fine to say you assisted. Any inconsistencies or errors will be quickly picked up.

5. Emphasise your technical qualifications and training

While there’s no substitute for experience in a technical CV, qualifications are important too. However, do be selective about what you include. University-level qualifications and above should always be included, along with the degree type (BSc, PhD, etc.), subject, final project, dissertation, university name, and year achieved. If you have years of high-tech experience, nobody cares about your GCSEs, but they may be interested in your A-Levels if this led to you selecting a particular university or you achieved three A-grades.

Only include qualifications and training courses that are particularly relevant or relate reasonably to your intended role. e.g. Yocto training. The high-tech arena is changing faster and faster and demonstrating that you’re a continuous learner by showing qualifications gained at different times is beneficial.

6. Don’t get fancy

Avoid cluttering your CV with techie jargon. This is not only poor style but also misses an opportunity: employers want you to be able to explain technical concepts in clear and simple terms that outsiders can understand.

It is often hard to be positive and sell yourself so get someone else to read it. Think competencies – what have been your achievements?

If you feel your CV is lacking, you can insert the hobbies and interests’ section at the end. This can help to show how well you fit into the company or the industry. For example, if you’re a keen gamer and applying for a software developer role in the video gaming industry, maybe a budding musician who wants to work in the audio equipment industry.

Mentioning non-tech activities (such as positions of responsibility in university societies) is also a strong way to highlight more of your soft skills.

To find more CV advice and templates to help you stand out, visit our CV Advice page.

Register your CV with us so we can more readily match the right vacancy to your requirements. 

Redline Group has provided exceptional professional talent for the European Electronics and High-Technology industries since 1982, with Permanent, Contract and Interim recruitment strategies covering Executive, R&D & Engineering, Sales & Marketing, and Manufacturing & Operations disciplines.

We’ve achieved 4.8 Stars out of 5.0 ratings on Google Reviews and hundreds of Case Studies confirm it’s not only WHAT we do, but HOW we do it that clients and candidates really appreciate.

For more information regarding how we can help your business grow, contact Redline Group on 01582 450054 or email info@RedlineGroup.com