We don’t ask for any kind of application form. Candidates are asked to provide a CV with an optional cover letter. A well written cover letter, which shows that somebody has actually researched the company, the role and taken the time to write a heartfelt response – will guarantee a good look at the CV.
The first thing we check is qualifications – it is possible to get a job without a degree, but it’s going to be much more difficult to demonstrate that you have the knowledge required for the role. Although that’s a double edged blade, because a good degree does not mean you’re a good programmer.
We have to check the candidate’s location, because as a company we’re just not in a position to sponsor visas. Sadly, we have to disqualify many talented people based on that.
The overall quality of the CV is important. Some universities will essentially have a class during the curriculum where a student will be given a template for a ‘good CV’. When you’re reviewing over 100 CVs for a position, these ones are really obvious. It gets to a point when you think ‘If you can’t be bothered to spend time on your CV, why should we bother reading it?’.
Attention to detail is where lots of people mess up: making sure the text is correct and the dates all make sense. Generally if there’s an error, it won’t get your CV thrown out, but it will definitely come up in the interview. It’s super awkward when a candidate gives a 5-minute talk about the cliché, ‘my biggest weakness is my superb attention to detail’. Then has to squirm in their seat whilst they explain that they actually graduated in 2018, not 2008 as stated in their CV.
List what you did on your degree, we’re interested to know what modules you studied. This is even more important now that we’re seeing less computer science graduates and more unusual qualifications, like games design.
Realistically, anybody looking for a job in a software company should have enough skills to make their CV look good. Even if you’re awful at design (which is probably not great for a small company like ours, programmers with an eye for what looks good are very handy), you should be able to find a template to use.
A healthy library of projects showing code is the best way to showcase your ability. Bigger projects are preferred to smaller ones, because it’s more likely that the person will have actually done the work. Often, we see portfolios that are full of tiny ‘tutorial style’ projects, but in these circumstances you’re normally told what to do and you’re essentially following a recipe and adapting it a little. This doesn’t actually reflect real-life programming experience where you’re trying to solve a genuine problem.