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FOCUScon — 4 tips to interview users

Ok this is where I come into my own. I’ve seen a lot of resumes/CVs, more than most recruiter ever has. I’ve also seen aggregated data on them. I’ve also made a lot of bad resumes and some ok ones myself. Working at CareerBuilder and other job sites I’ve seen lots of different ways people present themselves.

One size doesn’t fit all

Don’t expect a silver bullet, your CV needs to showcase you and if the recipe for a great CV was the same then nobody would stand out.

Culture shock

Resumes vary by culture too. So in the UK for example, nobody normally includes a photo. In Germany they usually throw in a psychometric report along with their career history. So what you include is ultimately down to you but my main bit of advice is to try and put yourself in the shoes of the person reviewing the resume/CV. They’ll probably be looking at lots of these things, it’s a boring job. It’s easy for your resume to get lost in a sea of others.


That’s not a license to go all creative and colourful, there’s definitely a status quo about resumes being professional documents. The creatives that create dazzling resumes/CVs have it tough because visual design is often very subjective. If you’re a creative showcase it in your portfolio instead.

For UX though we can UX the life out of the CV using everything we’ve learned. Test your resumes, create one, see what your response is like and then try changing it to see if you get a better response. It’s very hard to measure but over time you can refine your CV, choosing the right words and such like.

To get started here’s some tips I got and came to understand over the years.

  1. Make it 1 page, the CEO of Yahoo (Marissa Mayer) manages it, so can you.
  2. Use bullet points to quickly describe key duties/roles. These are much easier for a user to read than long paragraphs or lists of keywords
  3. Speaking of keywords, if you’re uploading your resume to online database never use the same word twice if you can help it. Refer to UX then in your next sentence user experience. You’ll get picked up more that way in recruiter searches.
  4. A lot of CV databases are dumb, you’ll appear at the top of searches if you just re-upload the same resume each week. I know because I helped build em.
  5. Don’t use scales like star ratings or dots. They are only relative to each other and not to other candidates, so they give the recruiter no clear idea of how skilled you really are.
  6. Don’t use the full width of the page for copy. Spilt your resume into a golden ratio. It means a readers eyes don’t have to track all the way across the page which adds strain to the user.
  7. Use good typography over visual treatments. Using a clean layout over icons or images keeps the resume looking professional and legible. When you do add an image you have to ask yourself what does that add that a well-formed word doesn’t.
  8. Be consistent but not uniform – make sure the resume reads consistently to reduce cognitive load on the reader. Use the same date formats throughout, use the same title case throughout, use the same language (don’t switch from first (I) to third (he) person).
  9. When you talk about yourself try to avoid starting every sentence with I. I find it gets quite repetitive.
  10. Have a word version ready, recruiters love to remove your name to protect their bonus. It’s a bit of a con but help them to do that or risk them being less inclined to put your forward or worse still put your forward with a poorly edited CV that makes you look rubbish.
  11. Think how it will print, don’t go mad with colours and full solid block colours they’ll just break on most desktop printers.

Stuff I’m trying at the moment includes dropping the headers from my resume, hoping the sections are clear enough. I’ve also dropped the profile, moving it to the covering letter/email instead.

Random Quote

One accurate measurement is worth more than a thousand expert opinions.

Grace Hopper