CV writing top tips for UX job applications

Our top tips for writing good applications and CVs for UX jobs.

I’ve been hiring UX practitioners for over 10 years. In that time, I must have read thousands of CVs.

A few have been beautifully crafted and have screamed “interview me”, but many more have been long-winded and uninspiring, and sent me running for the recycling bin. I’d much rather read the former, so here are my tips on what makes a good UX CV.

What is the purpose of a CV?

Before discussing what makes a good CV for a ux design job, let’s think about why we create them in the first place. The purpose of a CV is to get you an interview. From then on, it’s down to you to create a big impression.

To secure that first interview, your CV must show that you have the right skills for a job in UX and a passion to learn more. It should also suggest that you can bring something new to the team.

What are the qualities of a good UX CV?

Be brief: As Shakespeare wrote, brevity is the soul of wit. This is especially true of CVs. When faced with any CV over two pages long, I think: “if you can’t be brief in your CV, how on earth will you be concise and insightful in your client presentations?”. I know it’s not easy to summarise your entire career in one or two pages, but it has to be done.

Be clear and organised: Your CV need not be a work of art, but it certainly should be neatly formatted with clearly defined sections. Apply the user experience principles that you have learned and think about your target audience, the readers. Make it easy for them to extract the information that you want to communicate.

Think hard about your personal statement: This is the opening section of your CV that tells the reader where you’d like your career to take you and reveals your passion for UX. Use strong action words and short, positive statements. Unlike your covering letter, the personal statement never becomes separated from the CV – so make sure it works hard for you.

List your work experience: Contractors and experienced practitioners often fall into the trap of listing all their previous jobs in reverse chronological order, with detailed achievements listed beneath each one. This can lead to a great deal of repetition, so why not list all your previous jobs in a single line each and call out your skills and achievements in a separate section? I reviewed a CV like this recently and it was like a breath of fresh air.

Highlight your skills: It’s good to know which software packages you’re au fait with, but much more useful to see the UX research and design methodologies that you know well. We’re always on the lookout for “T-shaped” people. In other words, practitioners who have a strong foundation in one area of UX with a range of complementary skills. It’s also good to see languages on a CV, but you should only list them if you are confident using them in a work context.

Education and training: Your CV should always show the highlights of your higher education, but once you get past your first or second job it’s no longer relevant to list your GCSEs and A-levels - no matter how glittering your school career was. At this stage, you should also think about ditching the list of modules that made up your degree course and the fact that you ran the college snack bar. As your career progresses, these details or your education should be replaced with vocational training that you’ve taken while at work.

Include a few interesting personal details: Your CV should principally be about your education and career, but make sure there’s room at the end for a few lines to suggest you’re not a one-dimensional workaholic.

What I hope not to see:

When composing your CV, there are a few schoolboy (or girl) errors that you should avoid. If you don’t, you may not get that all-important first interview.

Typos: These are never a good thing, but on a CV they’re a cardinal sin. If spelling and grammar aren’t your strongest points, I implore you to ask a friend (or two) to proofread it for you.

Job tarts: A CV listing one short employment after another can spell danger. The last person we want to take on is a quitter, who might leave a few months after passing probation in pursuit of greener grass elsewhere. If your short assignments are internships or contracts, then you should say so on the CV. If not, you’ll need to have a convincing explanation as to why you didn’t settle for a reasonable period.

Gratuitous photos and graphics: A CV should be business-like and plain-looking. Please resist the temptation to embellish it with lots of photos and graphics. Your online portfolio is a much more appropriate medium for self-expression. A single passport-style photo of yourself is just about acceptable – but remember that interviewers can always look at your LinkedIn profile if they want to see what you look like.

How do I go about composing a great CV?

Don’t expect to dash out the perfect UX CV in one sitting. Overcoming your natural modesty and editing your career down into a single short document takes time. Jot down as much as you can to get started, then refine it a little every day until you are satisfied. And before you send your CV out get an impartial friend to review it for you.

Good luck with your CV writing. I look forward to seeing it soon.

Looking for your next UX designer job role? View our current vacancies: Careers at Foolproof.

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