Futureheads

Top tips on how to write a good UX CV

Ciaran O'Brien

Ciaran O'Brien

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Here at Futureheads, we interview all of our candidates so we can get to know them personally and it also gives us an opportunity to give candidates advice on their CV and portfolio.

With around 20 UXers coming through our doors each week, we see common issues and feel we know what makes a good CV. As such, I have pooled our collective knowledge to make a handy, digestible list of our top tips on writing a UX CV!

Audience

First and foremost - constantly think and refer to whom you are writing for. Ironically, UX people often forget to think about the user when writing a CV! Your primary audience is likely to be made up of hiring managers, recruiters and Senior/Lead/Head level UXers. You need to strike a balance - you can speak the language of UXers, but bear in mind some companies will use HR people who are not specialists. They will have a checkbox of criteria to look out for so make sure you have a skill section that really spells out what you can do.

Length

In general, CV’s should be between one and three pages long. We certainly don’t condone writing War and Peace – both for yours and our sakes – but don’t be afraid of spilling onto a second or third page experience depending. It is worth noting that the first page is the most important, so don’t take up prime first-page real estate with your A level results – save those for later in the CV.

Titles

When it comes to checking references, it is essential that the title on your CV matches the title you had in your previous role. If your title is a bit fluffy, vague or downright misleading – take the explanation of that role as your chance to cut through that. Make it clear what you did, and make it relevant to what you want to do.

Personal Profile

A CV without character can often fail to grab the attention of your audience. While the main criteria for hiring will always be experience and skills, your potential future team members will be looking at CV’s asking is this person someone I see myself spending five days a week with?

Humanising your CV and adding that little bit of personal flavour could make the difference between inviting you in for an interview or moving on to the next CV.

Context around the role – The company and the team

The world of digital is broad and varied, with countless companies in London alone. Not everyone will know your business. One line helps to frame what you did and who for. Granted – if you have been lucky enough to work for Google or Facebook you can probably leave it at that!

It should also be clear what your role in the team was, and what the makeup of that team looked like.

Dates

ALWAYS put in the month of starting and the month of finishing. If there is a gap in your CV – explain why. Sabbatical? Maternity/Paternity? Unemployed? Say so! Gaps do not look suspicious on CV’s – life happens – but trying to hide a gap sets off alarm bells.

Keep it simple!

Your CV will not be the only CV your audience is looking at for a role, and it will not be the only thing they are working on that day. In particular, Senior/Lead/Head level UXers are time precious, they need the core info, and they need it quickly and direct.

Don’t leave anything to speculation – they should not need to read between the lines and work something out – so keep it simple! The interview stage is when you get the opportunity to go into greater detail – but you need to get there first.

To help you keep it simple – use bullet points. An impenetrable block of text is off-putting for the reader and make it difficult for them to extract the important information. Using bullet points does this for them and helps you to ensure that nothing important is missed.

Prioritising Information

A quite difficult question is how much space on your CV should you devote to each role?

An analogy we like to use is to think of your CV as a 1-hour interview.

Consider what it is that you would want to discuss and get across in that short space of time. If you would not spend 15 minutes talking about your experience from 5 years ago that is not relevant for the role you are applying for – don’t take up a quarter of your CV with that information.

Education

If you have undertaken an MSc or another relevant qualification to UX our suggestion would be to put a small line about this in your chronological experience section, which will also explain the gap in commercial roles.

A separate education section at the bottom of your CV for non-sector related education is advisable. Be wary that some employers may not look that far so a short line about any qualification is good to ensure that they then refer to the education section to find out more.

Narrative

All in all – your CV should have a compelling narrative! Take your audience on a journey (as cheesy as that sounds) and make them want to find out more. It’s that which is going to make someone pick up the phone or invite you for an initial interview. And then that’s your time to shine.

Portfolios

It is also worth noting that in 99% of cases your CV will be viewed in conjunction with your portfolio. My colleague Andrew has written about what makes a good UX portfolio

Finally, if you are a User Researcher, whether or not you need a portfolio is a common question we are asked. Andy’s also answered this along with some helpful advice on what that should look like.