Talking to a Recruiter about Recruitment

I have been lucky to work with a number of recruiters over the years. They provide an essential service advertising and pre-screening candidates who come for the roles I’m looking for.

I recently discussed this series of blog posts with Matt, a friend of mine at 4IT Recruitment and he was keen to offer his advice for people looking to get involved in the industry.

Recruiters do a great job advertising roles and preparing candidates for interview. Photo by Polina Zimmerman on

I wanted to know more about the work that Matt and his colleagues do between getting a CV from a prospective candidate and brining them to my attention.

What makes a candidate’s CV stand out to you?

A Simple layout – Name and contact details at the top and easy to find’. Don’t use fancy boxes or colours and there’s no need for pictures etc (unless it’s for a UX role). You should include a a brief but non-generic profile at the top of the page with a bit of insight into your skills and experience. Consider adding a technical skills matrix right at the top where it’s really visible and always start with your strongest development language at the top.

We like to see projects you been involved in and where you used your skills, what methodologies you used, any associated technologies (e.g. if was a full stack role say that it was). Universities and schools should go at at the bottom with hobbies – for graduates you should put all the experience you’ve gained from university modules at the top in place of professional experience and start with any experience you have. Always include details of any placements or work experience opportunities you’ve had. Include details of the technologies you’ve used in the roles.

What advice do you always give a candidate before an interview?

Always research the company and understand what service/ product they offer before you go to speak to them. Review the job spec if you have one and think how you can speak about your skills with regards to the criteria for the role.

Talk about what you have been responsible for delivering personally, rather than listing the achievements of the the wider team and use as many examples with how you have used your skills in the past in ‘real life’.

Try to relax…it is as much an opportunity for you to find out about the company and role as the other way around.

Remember to ask the company questions about the role and about current staff… Why is the best developer you have the ‘best developer’ etc. what do they bring extra than all others to the team?

What do you wish more candidates knew when they went for an interview?

Candidates should always remember that hiring managers’ time is very limited so they should try to give detailed answers but stick to the point and then move on.

You only get one chance to make a first impression so don’t be afraid to be yourself.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Never be afraid to ask for advice before going for an interview. Photo by mentatdgt on

Matt has given lots of great advice for anyone coming to an interview. If you’d like to get in touch with 4IT you either via LinkedIn or email.

Do you have any advice to give candidates preparing for their first big interview? What have you found that works for you – drop a comment below or contact me on Twitter. Don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss next week’s post!

Your CV

This is the third post in my coaching for junior developers series, a humble effort to help engineers find roles in 2021.

Your CV is a summary of your experience, it’s the your way of introducing yourself to the recruiter and hiring manager and is your first. There are countless guides out there for creating a good CV which I won’t try to outdo – what I’m going to do instead is write from my views as an experienced hiring manager.

Putting a good CV together is not easy, I always have to trim pages and pages out of mine whenever I do dusting. Striking a balance between what to include and what to cut is the eternal battle and two people giving you advice will always disagree with each other.

Putting a CV together is not an easy job, what do you leave in and what do you leave out? Photo by Samson Katt on

Lets talk about what the CV is actually for. In my opinion it has three purposes:

  • To list your core skills so the recruiter can match them against the job spec
  • To give a high level overview to the hiring manager to decide who to phone interview
  • To give the hiring manager something to ask you in your interview

Let’s take each of these in order.

Recruiters are usually non-technical but they’re well versed in filtering out people who know about the technologies they’re discussing and those who are bluffing. Their job is to find the best selection of candidates for the job description by matching skills and experience level. Your job is to make this as easy as possible for them. Look at the job advert, look at the skills they’re requesting and split them into three catagories. Skills you have, skills you want to aquire from the role. You don’t want to try to pretend to have skills you don’t have, don’t hide gaps, highlight what you can do and explain why you’d like to close those gaps.

One more tip for recruiters. I never send a blind CV to a recruitment agent. It’s one among hundreds and it’s too easy to get lost along the masses. I always call the agency beforehand and ask some questions about the role. Help demonstrate that you can communicate and will do well in any future phone interview they put you forward for.

Next, giving a high level overview of your skills. To a degree you’ve already covered this in the first part when you aligned your skills to the role to make it easy for the recruiter. However, what you need to do now is make your CV interesting among the masses. It’s extremely difficult for a hiring manager to decide who to speak to when they’re faced with overwhelming numbers of applicants who are all equally qualified. What you want to do is add a little personality to a list of previous jobs, skills, and qualifications. There are a few ways I’d recommend you do this:

  • Sumarise yourself in a couple of sentences, it’s a bit like opening a big presentation. Don’t go with “I am Adam Griffiths and I’m here to talk to you about…” that’s what everyone says. You’d go with “Do you know what most people get wrong in their CVs?” Now you’re listening. You want the equivalent, don’t say “After a three year computer science degree your role looks like the perfect fit for me.” Surprise me try “I’ve done my degree, now I want to know how real software is built!”
  • Consider adding a link to your LinkedIn profile (you do have a LinkedIn profile right?). Personally I don’t like pictures in CVs but I’m not going to start hunting around the internet to find your LinkedIn, GitHub, personal website, and any other account you’ve got active, list them – especially if this is your first role. Put a face to a name and show me what you’ve done. Don’t include social media which shows you downing a yard of ale in a tutu. While impressive I don’t hire people based on their party tricks at the end of year bash.
  • If you’re currently in a role put “references available on request”, companies will understand that you don’t want your referees contacted yet and it won’t be a problem. If this is your first role then go and track down your referees and ask their permission before using them as a reference.

Speaking of, if this is your first role your biggest experience is your project, disseration, any work experience you’ve done, and any learning projects. Once you’ve worked in the industry for a few years these will be replaced with professional projects.

How do you show experience when you are applying for your first role!? Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

The last reason for your CV is to help prompt me with questions. When you come in for interview you’ll be nervous and panicking. One of the most common opening questions is to ask about your current role, or what you’re currently working on. This is because I want to help you relax by getting you to talk about what something you know. If you don’t tell me what you’ve been working on that question is much much harder. Help me to help you here!

Those are my biggest CV tips and suggestions. What do you think? Are they helpful? What would you add?

As I mentioned above this is part of a series of posts I’m running for people wanting to break into software engineering. Make sure your subscribed to my blog and are following @DotDotDevBlog on twitter so you don’t miss my other advice.