Selling Yourself... with LaTeX

27 February 2016

So, i've recently been looking to switch careers and the experience of writing a CV after 4 years of (relatively) happy employment was a strange and daunting task. However it's 2016, so what do you do with a daunting task? Well obviously Google it.

The top three hits for "CV writing advice" were: Career advice from , CV's and Covering letters from National career service and finally the university of Kent's carreer service. So I got myself a coffee and prepared to sell myself like a hot cake.

If you call failures experiments, you can put them in your resume and claim them as achievements.

Mason Cooley

Unfortunately overthinking got in the way. My first problem was with the National Career's service CV builder tool. First I had to get over the slightly psychotically happy people citation needed on the Careers service website. Then I had to set up an account which i decided was a hurdle to far. This was supposed to be a simple exercise - I don't really want to be roped in for a million spam emails which will probably increase the likelihood of me missing replys from potential employers. Similarly I didn't really want to give all my data to the government in this unfinished way. One day I may want to apply for a job in government and if they don't have access to this CV data I will eat my proverbial hat.

Monster, who are they again?

Whilst I'd heard of Monster before I'd never really known what they did. It turns out they're effectively a jobsearch database with a pretty neat looking front end. Navigating their pages was quick, easy and actually quite fun. The problem came when I actually tried to use their advice. Their advice sounded pretty good but occasionally unclear. For example, take the following:

When writing their CV, many people follow the tradition of using stock phrases and 'key words' to help them get selected. This isn't always the best approach but it seems that there is little choice given the fact that 80% of CVs today are placed directly into keyword-searchable databases.

So what are the circumstances where not using stock phrases is acceptable or better? Is it best to avoid these phrases for paper CV's but stick to them for online applications? Maybe I'll start emailing potential employers ahead of time to see if they use a keyword database.

In fairness, other than that they provide some really useful workflow tips - checklists and the like. So with the basic research done and feeling pretty confident I tabbed over to University of Kent to see what they had to say.

Welcome to University of Kent - prepare for information overload

Now I like information. I would even go so far as to say that I actively persue it for fun but the sheer amount of blue and whiteLook here on their CV section of their website was daunting. So I sat down to it and spent a good few hours reading and distilling such gnomic nuggets as : "Treat the selector like a child eating a meal" and "There is no 'one best way' to construct a CV"

Treat the selector like a child eating a meal

So fully prepared strap a bib on my selectors, chop up and force feed them a variety of differently constructed CVs I sat down to write. And instantly hit my final problem - format.

Now for formatting text as far as I'm concerned there's only one answer - LaTeX. I quickly got going building a document and then remembered that there is an excellent template library over on shareLaTeX and a couple of mintues trawling found me some outstanding CV designs. Even better, they were filled in! Here I had a selection of at least 20 or so excellently designed, well written and proven successful (by comments) CV templates. After a little fiddling in Texworks I even had an individual take on a classic CV design which demonstrated my ability to use technology effectively in its construction. Sold.


This is one of the few times I've experienced the research letting me down. I'm not going to say that any of the websites I used were unhelpful, they all informed, but the extras and bells and whistles took a lot of time that I'd have rather spent proof reading. Next time I'm going to the tech community first, then the "professionals" second.