some advice for job seekers

A member of the free software community recently sent me their CV and asked for assistance in getting a job. Some of my suggestions are globally applicable so I’m blogging them.

Firstly I recommend that a job seeker doesn’t publish their CV on the net in an obvious place. Often you want to give different versions to different people, and you don’t necessarily want everyone to know about the work you do. I can’t imagine any situation in which a potential employer might view a CV on the net if it’s available but not ask for one if it isn’t there. If you are intensively looking for work (IE you are currently between jobs) then I recommend having a copy of your CV in a hidden URL on your site. This means that if you happen to meet a potential employer you can give them a URL so that they can get your CV quickly, but the general public can’t view it. A final problem with publishing your CV is that it may cause disputes with former colleagues (EG if you describe yourself as the most skilled programmer in the team then a former colleague who believes themself to be more skillful might disagree).

Next don’t put your picture on your CV. In some jurisdictions it’s apparently illegal for a hiring officer to consider your appearance. If there are many CVs put forward for the position then it may be easier to just discard yours because of this. There is absolutely no benefit to having the picture, unless of course you are applying for a job as an actor. Incidentally I’ve considered applying for work as an movie extra. The amount of effort involved is often minimal (EG pretend to drink beer in the back of a bar scene) and the pay is reasonable. It seems like a good thing to do when between computer contracts.

I write my CV in HTML and refuse to convert it. If a recruiting agent can’t manage to use IE to print my CV then they are not competent enough to represent me. If a hiring manager can’t manage to view my CV with IE then I don’t want to report to them. However I recommend against using HTML features that make a document act in any way unlike a word-processor file. There should be no frames or CSS files so there is only one file to email, and the text should be all on one page so the PGDN and PGUP keys can scroll through all the content. Tables, bold, and italic are good, fonts are a minor risk. Colors are bad.

Recruiting agents will often demand that your CV be targeted for the position that you are applying for. I often had complaints such as “I see only sys-admin skills not programming”. To solve this I wrote my CV in M4 and used a Makefile to generate multiple versions at the same time. If a recruiter wants a version of my CV emphasising C programming and using Linux then I’ve already got one ready!

These are just a few thoughts on the topic based on a CV that I just saw. I may write more articles about getting jobs in the computer industry if there is interest.

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