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How to write a CV for web development

Web developers are in demand, reported Anna Barnard of e-skills in a live Q&A, with SQL, C, C#, NET, ASP, Java, HTML, Javascript and Oracle the most requested skills.

As smartphones and tablets become more commonplace, cloud and mobile computing are increasingly significant, according to Adam White. Developers need to be thinking more and more about how to leverage these technologies, he says.

digital cables
If you’re just starting out, work for a company first to gain experience and develop skills, advises Rolff Kruger of TMW. You’ll find it easier to get work as a freelancer once you have niche expertise.

Getting involved in developer communities such as hack days and meet-ups is useful for making contacts with other developers, finding out about new technologies, and potentially finding work.

General guidelines

A web-based portfolio with links to your projects is an excellent way to showcase your work, with your CV adding the extras, such as scope of project, client requirements, impact, and so on.

Be flexible on format: prioritise information to reflect the job requirements. For example, put relevant certification in your profile if it’s crucial, otherwise put it in either your skills or education section. Internships, work experience or apprenticeships have greater impact in your work history than in your education section.

Suggested CV layout

Name, contact details, link to portfolio / website

Profile/skills section

Consider an expanded profile to include both technical and soft skills. Display your key technical skills in your profile, or in a table or columns to avoid long lists. For example, you could have one column for front-end development and another for back-end development; or divide skills by proficiency level or years of experience so your reader can see what your focus is.

You can follow your technical skills section with other sub-headings, such as project management, communication skills (useful if you’re applying for client-facing work), and personal qualities (where, for example, you can highlight your ability to spot short-cuts – which Martin Belan, information architect at the Guardian, says is invaluable).

The technologies you’ll need to learn to depend on the types of sites you intend to create. Michael Brunton-Spall, developer advocate at the Guardian, explains: The majority of work in web development is being done in dynamic languages such as PHP, Ruby, Python, etc. If you want to do more user interface/web page type development, then learning HTML and PHP is probably a better option.

Rolff Kruger explains how web developers might specialise: UI developers (with expertise in HTML, XHTML and CSS and competent ability in Photoshop and Javascript); or rich media developers, who additionally need Flash, Flex, HTML5 and video skills.

Learn the technology you want to use well. Richard Beckett suggests that a good knowledge of HTML, PHP and MySQL will generate work opportunities. For example, a knowledge of PHP will allow you to work on applications such as WordPress, Joomla or Drupal. If you look on sites where people bid for freelance work, you’ll get a good idea of which areas people want help in, and which it might be worth specialising in, he says.

Emphasise your ability to handcode. Richard Beckett explains: Joomla is built in PHP and many bespoke requirements will need you to get under the hood and understand the way it’s coded… Knowing how to use a CMS is probably not an overly sought-after skill, but knowing how to customise a CMS usually is.

Other areas to highlight are an understanding of accessibility standards and best SEO practices, according to Rolff Kruger.

Example (for a freelancer):

10 years’ experience in creating sites and blogs, with particular expertise in creating custom WordPress sites. Solid experience in Javascript, HTML, PHP, MySQL, and adhering to accessibility standards.

Technical strengths: Handcoding, e-commerce integration, expertise in payment processing systems including paypal, worldpay, authorise.net. Integration of API’s of social media sites – Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Additional skills: Flash AS2/3, Photoshop

Customer-relationship skills: producing clear, detailed project outlines and progress reports. Adjusting technical explanations to client’s knowledge level.

Personal qualities: Quick and keen to learn new technologies and to find neat solutions to complex problems. Self-taught programming skills, enhanced by constant research and professional development. Regular participation at hack days and meet-ups.

Experience

Choose the most appropriate way to present your work history. Reverse chronological format is good if you’re applying for a similar role or promotion. Give employer details / dates and your job title, with a brief paragraph to explain your scope / range of responsibilities; then your main achievements. Include the names of major clients.

A project format (good for freelancers) will give details of major projects, including client brief and URLs and the quantifiable results of your work. If you’re a career changer, you can divide your work history into different sections: the first for web development work, and the second for selected, relevant highlights of your previous roles, including employer details / dates.

Stress the financial benefits and business value of your work: how you increased traffic, improved page views per visit, reduced costs, and so on.

Example (for a freelancer)

* Set up a custom WordPress installation for (client / URL) allowing user-generated content including video (using Youtube API to reduce server bandwith costs). Increased traffic by 22% in one month, and page views per visit by 18%.

* Developed one of the first real-time aggregation sites using twitter and sms text travel reports for (client / URL).

* Propelled (client / URL) to first page of Google through improved SEO-techniques, resulting in 20% increase in site visitors.

Education and training section

Rolff Kruger says: Any relevant certification or education is good. I usually look for developers that have some formal training with a combination of relevant industry experience.

Give brief details of your education – institutions, dates, subjects studied, and so on.