How to create a perfect IT resume and cover letter

How to create a perfect IT resume and cover letter

Before you start looking for an IT job abroad, you need to write a resume in English or the country’s official language. As recruiters make their first impression of you based on your CV, a good resume can mean 50% of success.

To write a perfect IT resume, keep in mind these recommendations:

  • Create a custom-tailored resume that targets the specific job vacancy and matches its requirements. Use specific keywords related to the job vacancy. It’s recommended to have the exact title of the job for which you’re applying in your resume (e. g. “back-end developer”). You can use website to improve your CV and check whether it fits the target job vacancy.
  • Your CV should not be long. It normally takes between 6 and 10 seconds for recruiters to check if a candidate matches the job requirements. In Europe, resumes that spread over 2 pages may be acceptable. In North America, a CV should not be longer than 1 page. The total number of words should not exceed 1,000.
  • Use bullet points rather than full sentences. The maximum number of bullet points per section is 7.
  • Don’t use the first person (“I”, “me”, “my”). Use verbs of action instead (“developed”, “created”, “handled”, “increased”, “accomplished”).
  • Photo is optional. In Europe, it is up to you to decide whether to add a photo in your resume. If you chose to include it, find a professionally looking picture that creates an image of you as a reliable professional. Do not choose too informal photos taken at parties or in bars. In North America, it’s not customary to add a photo to a resume.
  • Grammar and spelling should be flawless. You can use the Grammarly app to screen your resume for potential mistakes if the document is in English.

Another advice: avoid buzzwords and use synonyms instead. According to the research, hiring managers especially dislike the following words:

  • Best. Use instead: forefront, top, stand-out, high achiever
  • Motivated. Use instead: driven, inspired, goal-oriented
  • Dedicated. Use instead: devoted, resolute
  • Proven. Use instead: experienced
  • Reliable. Use instead: dependable, consistent
  • Passionate. Use instead: keen, eager, willing
  • Excellent. Use instead: exemplary, exceptional, outstanding
  • Enthusiastic. Use instead: keen, eager, willing
  • Great. Use instead: immense, notable, tremendous
  • Hardworking. Use instead: diligent, meticulous, industrious

Resume structure

The structure of your resume should be the following:

1. General information: the position you’re applying for, your name, and a summary. A summary is a short text that outlines the most impressive parts of your resume, while also serving to fill in personal qualities that may not appear elsewhere in your CV (e. g., “patient”, “creative”, “meticulous”, etc.).

Here is an example:

Meticulous and patient back-end developer with 9 years of experience with PHP / Symfony framework. Developed one of the largest classifieds websites in Europe and promo sites for famous brands’ side projects. Passionate about business logic design, algorithms, and working with data.

2. Personal details:

  • Full name
  • Phone number
  • Skype login
  • Email
  • Address (including your home country and city)
  • Link to your LinkedIn profile
  • Nationality 
  • Age or birth date

If you target North American employers, don’t mention your date of birth, gender, marital status, and hobbies.

3. Skills: technical skills that are relevant for the role, proficiency in foreign languages, and recent development or training. Concentrate on job-specific hard skills and relevant experience.

For example, the list of technical skills for a PHP developer position can be the following: PHP / Symfony / Yii, JavaScript / Node.js, Vue.js, MySQL, NoSQL, HTML, CSS / Sass / SCSS, Git, Mercurial.

4. Career history: starting with the most recent job, enumerate the following details:

  • Your employing companies
  • Their location
  • Dates you worked for them (month and year)
  • Your role and work status (a full-time, part-time worker, intern, freelancer)
  • 3–7 most important tasks, responsibilities, and achievements
  • Tech used

While enumerating your achievements, stay focused on listing those ones that helped your employer. Try to be specific and use concrete numbers, e. g. “Created new modules and refactored existing ones, resulting in a 25% increase in traffic”, “Designed database structure, resulting in reduced yearly labor costs of £2,000”, etc.

There should not be any large unexplained gaps between jobs. And if you’re changing careers, try to explain how your previous skills would fit into your future activity.

5. Education: names of all institutions as well as month and year when you attended them. If you achieved great results, feel free to state them in this section (e. g. A-results, final grade: 90 from 100 points, achieved 97%, etc.).

6. Links to your GitHub profile, or links to your portfolio or you’re proud of. You can also include these links in your cover letter.

→ Get a free IT resume template

Cover letter

Apart from a resume, you need to write a cover letter explaining why you feel the company fits your skills and career ambitions. In some countries (e. g. in Germany), this letter is as important as your resume.

IT cover letter

The main idea of your cover letter should not be “I need a job” but “why the employer needs me”. Try to determine the biggest problem of your employer and decide how you can solve it. 

A cover letter ideally also includes the following information:

  • Salary expectations.
  • Earliest start date. If you need a permit to enter the country, keep in mind that it may take from 3 weeks to 2 months before all visa formalities are completed.
  • Links to your portfolio, source code or GitHub profile.
  • Work authorization status in the country where you want to work. To be employed in smaller companies, you may be required to be a holder of a local work permit. Larger companies often offer relocation and visa support.

It’s generally accepted that a cover letter should not be longer than 400 words. Break it into several short paragraphs to make it more readable. 

Always try to address your letter to a specific person. If the job posting doesn’t mention the hiring manager’s name, do some research to find out who is responsible for hiring new employees. In a desperate case, use “Dear Hiring Manager” or “Dear Hiring Team”.

Here is an example of a cover letter:

Dear Ronald,

I am interested in your job advertisement for a PHP developer published on

It is mentioned in the job vacancy that your project’s biggest challenge is to reduce labor costs and increase traffic. I worked as a PHP developer in the UK for the last 9 years using PHP/Symphony, JavaScript, and databases. During that time, we were able to reduce labor costs by £2,000 and to increase traffic by 25%.

I would be glad to contribute to your goal of maintaining a high standard of performance. I am looking forward to discussing this topic at a job interview. You can find more information on my work experience and skills in my resume in the attachment.

Salary expectations: €50,000.

Earliest possible start date: mid-April 2020.

Work permit: EU.


Kind regards,

John Smith

Read also:

→ How to use LinkedIn to find an IT job with relocation

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