How to optimise your resume

Learn how to get more interviews and increase chances of finding a new job.


In my previous article I explained a time-effective way of writing customised cover letters for your job applications. Now I will discuss what I have learned about customised curriculum vitae (CV).

Last week I went to a speech done by a recruiter who gave us an insight of the recruitment process for engineers in Australia. From what I learned, one of the most important aspects of a CV is the overview section (AKA summary). This is the first paragraph of your CV and it will be the first thing to be read. In this paragraph you have to convince the recruitment agent that you have the skills they need for the specific position. It's your most important marketing tool. Agents spend around 7 seconds reading each CV (they can receive 200 CVs for one job ad) which means they will read the overview and only continue if they think your profile matches the position. If no, your CV will go to the recycle bin.

How can you create a good overview section? It's relatively easy and painless, however it has to be done manually (I couldn't find a way to automate this process as I did with the cover letters). Basically it's a paragraph composed by 4 to 6 sentences. Each sentence has to address relevant skills which means skills that you have and they want.

What I do is to copy a job ad to a plain text and then find key phrases, remove useless text and put one key phrase per line. You may get between 5 and 20 key phrases from this process. Then I select the key phrases that I have experience with and I create sentences from them. Usually I create 4 to 6 sentences. For simplicity reasons I keep one sentence per line. Finally I put all sentences in one paragraph, separated with full stops.


This is a real ad I found for a engineering position:

Embedded Linux C++ Developer

We are looking for a Linux Embedded C++ Developers to join in a new chapter and help to engineer the backbone system for our next generation Home Entertainment solution.


  • Embedded Linux systems development for custom hardware.
  • Ideally with a development / engineering background for Linux Systems/Hardware.
  • Firmware development and device optimisation.
  • Embedded C and / or Embedded C++.
  • Proven experience dealing with complex technical challenges in a collaborative team.
  • Experience using Python.
  • Software development for hardware.

On Offer

  • A fantastic product to work with.
  • Exciting and dynamic entertainment industry.
  • The freedom to let you creative juices flow.
  • Work closely with highly experienced developers.
  • Ground floor opportunity into a commercial R&D company.

From the previous ad I found the following key phrases:

  • Embedded Linux C++ Developer
  • Embedded Linux systems development for custom hardware
  • Development / engineering background for Linux Systems/Hardware
  • Firmware development
  • device optimisation
  • Embedded C / C++
  • Proven experience dealing with complex technical challenges in a collaborative team
  • Python
  • Software development for hardware

Some key phrases are similar but I keep them for now. I probably have 80% of the requirements so I will use some of the previous key phrases to create nicely written sentences and then put them together to create the following paragraph:

Electronic Engineer with 6 years experience developing firmware in C and software in C++ for embedded systems (Linux & Windows). Experienced with Python and object oriented design. Proven Experience developing hardware (microcontrollers) and software from the ground up. Other skills include proactive attitude, excellent written and verbal skills and the ability to deal with complex systems in a team environment. Permanent Resident in Australia who is available to work immediately.

So… the previous paragraph was the first one on the resume I sent for this application. It's full of key words and explains my strengths for this position. You shouldn't put experience / skills that you don't have. Be creative and use a polite language. Don't use "me" or "I", just describe what you can bring to the organisation.

It's amazing how recruitment companies seem to be more interested in my CV after I started using this technique together with the cover letter generator. In the last 10 days I have received 3 phone call which led to a Skype interview and a face-to-face interview. The application processes continue so I don't know what's going to be the outcome.

This process will take you longer than having generic CV and CL which means that you have to choose more carefully where to put your effort. I spend aprox 45 minutes writing a cutomised CL and CV for a specific position and I send around 8 applications per week. With generic CV and CL I got aprox. 1 call for every 15 to 20 applications. With customised CV and CL I've got aprox. 1 call for every 5 to 10 applications. It makes a difference. Give it a try!!!

NOTE1: The CV is read first. Only if the CV matches the required profile the agent will read the CL. Approximately 17% of CL are read. However it's mandatory to send cover letters as it shows interest in the position. Therefore, it makes sense to write quick and good quality cover letter using the CLG and spend a bit more of time creating a customised CV.

NOTE2: I have a generic CV that I use for all applications. I only change the overview section and then I tweak the other sections accordingly with the ad. I add relevant information and / or remove redundant text, but the overall structure is the same.

Good job hunting!!!