It’s all too easy to overlook mistakes in your own writing because its difficult to be both an author and an editor of the same text. That’s true of any written communication such as a covering letter, personal statement, email, essay or any message that you write. Mistakes are particularly common in CVs (or résumés) because they are so personal. You can spend hours carefully polishing the words and the formatting but not see a fatal error at the top of page one. Hacking22 other people’s CV’s will help you debug and improve your own. You may need to use ingenious hacks like the temporary fix to the bridge in figure 9.1. Fixing other peoples bridges will help you improve your own bridge, see section 0.5.1. You’ll build better bridges to more interesting and ambitious destinations.
Your future is bright, your future needs hacking, so let’s start hacking your future.
Hacking other people’s code is a good way to learn how to code. Hacking other people’s CV’s is a good way to learn how to write better CVs too. The dogfooding technique described in section 4.6.1 is a useful hack which you can use by:
- Eating your own dogfood by reading your own written work ALOUD
- Eating somebody elses dogfood by:
- Hacking a friends or peers CV by swapping with them and giving them constructive feedback
- Hacking the fictitious CVs below by ranking them against a job advert in section 9.4. Who would you want to interview and why?
- Eating your own dogfood again, re-reading and re-editing repeatedly
- Persuade someone else to eat your dogfood - get feedback from as many people (and bots see section 8.7.7) as you can
So, here are some fictitious CVs for you to hack, from students of Computer Science. They are based on CVs I’ve seen, warts and all, with personal information removed and anonymised. Can you spot their triumphs and tragedies? Can fix their CVs and work out which candidate is best for the sample job description at CoolTech in section 9.4? Can you hack their future?
Special thanks to Toby Howard and Sean Bechhofer for coming up with some of these silly fictional names for the late arrivals at the Computer Science ball. (Lyttelton, Cryer, and Dee 1972) Please direct any complaints about the terribly geeky puns and in-jokes to Toby and Sean! Can you spot all the bad jokes? Thanks also Ben Carter and Penny Gordon Lanes in the careers service at the University of Manchester, some of these CVs are based on examples they have collected and anonymised. 🙏
Let’s pause here. Insert a breakpoint in your
code and slowly step through it so we can examine the current values of your variables and parameters.
When you read these CVs make a note of:
What Went Well? (
WWW) What do you like about any given CV, what have they done well?
Even Better If? (
EBI) What could be fixed or improved, can you hack it?
Their Rank order (
1,2,3...) Who is top of your list to interview? Who is going in the bin and why?
Imagine the person is real, what would you tell them about their CV if they’d given it to you for advice without hurting their feelings? How could you be a critical friend by giving them actionable feedback?
Hacking other people’s CVs will help you improve your own because you’re putting yourself in the shoes of your reader. Here are some samples:
Penelope Tester, or Pen as her friends call her, loves cybersecurity and reverse engineering. She has a real passion for finding vulnerabilities in software and hardware. Just don’t call her a hacker she dislikes that word, see figure 9.2.
Rick is a big fan of functional programming and loves solving problems with languages like Lisp, Haskell, Clojure, Erlang and Scala. He really doesn’t like side-effects but tries to avoid getting into a state about it. Critics say he can be inefficient but Rick insists he’s just lazy, see figure 9.3. Rick’s father and grandfather were also called Rick, and his great-grandfather was too. You’ll never guess what Rick and his partner are going to call their son…
Marjorie loves version control because Marge is the master of the merge. She also has very high emotional intelligence (EQ), a superpower that enables her to recognise emotions in herself and others so that she can quickly resolve people’s inevitable differences, see figure 9.4.
Resolving people’s differences is an important skill, not just for
git merge shown in figure 9.5, but any kind of team collaboration where some kind of conflict is inevitable.
Mike lives in Los Angeles and loves operating systems, but not if they get too bloated, see figure 9.6.
Peter Byte and his twin sister Peta Byte, both love big data, machine learning, statistics, data science and Artificial Intelligence (AI). They come from a big family with eleven other siblings including Deca, Hector, Kilo, Megan, Giga, Terry, Exa, Zita, Yotta, Rona and Quetta. The Bytes are highly trained23 and wildly ambitious. (Benaich et al. 2023) Critics say the Byte family have been terribly over-hyped and don’t explain themselves properly, but you can judge for yourself in figure 9.8.
Polly loves object-oriented programming. She has lots of siblings, and a cousin called Isa. Instead of a CV or résumé, Polly has put some basic details on her LinkedIn profile which she primarily uses for professional social networking, see figure 9.9.
Neil is a mature student who loves the C programming language, see figure 9.10. The Pointer family are sometimes misunderstood, but Neil compensates for this with his excellent memory management skills and efficiency. As well as twin sister Noelle, he also has three famous sisters, (Pointer, Pointer, and Pointer 1984) and a younger half-brother, Neil Pointer-Exception (who prefers
Java), from his fathers second marriage. Noelle and Neil Pointer have seen many programming languages come and go, but their favourite will always be
C, Neil and Noelle are children of the 1970s, easily “old enough to be your father” or (in Noelle’s case) your mother. Respect your elders! (Ritchie 1993)
The last CV is a real one. Bryn kindly gave his permission to share it with you, see figure 9.11. Bryn graduated in 2016, his CV is longer as he has five years of experience under his belt but it provides a useful counterpoint to the examples above. Thanks Bryn. 🙏
We’re looking for bright and geeky graduates to join our software engineering team. No experience is required, and many of our successful applicants have never programmed before. If you think logically and enjoy problem solving, then you have the potential to become a great developer.
A career at CoolTech will challenge you every day. In your first few weeks you will be solving real-world problems as you help to develop software used by professionals across the world.
You’ll be part of an agile development team, working on one of the largest real-time databases in the world. You’ll work on a wide variety of projects, ranging from Artificial Intelligence assisting clinicians with early diagnosis of cancer to an iOS app helping patients manage their diabetes.
Developers at CoolTech are involved in the full software cycle, and work closely with all teams across the company to scope out new projects as they design, develop and deploy our products.
Too long, didn’t read (TL;DR)? Here’s a summary:
Your future is bright, your future needs hacking. Hacking your future will help you to test your future by debugging your own CV. Testing your future will help you to start coding your future.
Reading other people’s code will help you write better code yourself. Reading other people’s CVs helps you write a better CV yourself. The more you read, the better you get. So, find a critical friend and do a CV swap: you’ll both benefit by putting yourself in the shoes of a recruiter.
In the next part, chapter 10: Actioning your Future we’ll look one more debugging technique, paying attention to the verbs on your CV and what they say about you.