Student CVs for UX careers: Tips & tricks

by Jorge Matos, Jay Kaufmann, Carina Kuhr - 23 Feb 2016

Are you a student looking to get into user experience (UX) design or research?
We recently hosted local students at the Zalando Human Factors Student Day -- offering a CV critique and Q&A session about applying to UX jobs.

Inspired by their questions, we’d like to share here some insights from our experience reviewing myriad UX applications.

The goal? To help you create the best CV/resume for launching your career.

What are UX employers looking for?

If you’re just starting out in UX, it’s important to hone your message. Since you likely won’t have a lot of work to show, what do hiring managers want to see to convince them you can break into UX?

  • Motivation to work in UX. Make your interest crystal clear through an objective statement and/or clear prioritization of relevant experiences throughout your resume.
  • Relevant academic background. A broad range of studies could lead to you a career in User Experience: Psychology, Sociology, Communication Design, etc. Some universities offer programs in Human Factors or Human-Computer Interaction.
  • Experience in methods. Seek out internships, class case studies and personal projects so that you can include some keywords around relevant processes. Conducted a survey? Done a card sort? Created a wireframe? Tell us!

How to present yourself?

How can you possibly summarize yourself, with all your experiences and potential, into a 2-3 page CV? What angle will leave a great first impression? Here are our practical tips for letting your profile shine:

  • Use your name as a headline. About half the CVs that we saw at our Student Day had “Curriculum Vitae” as the headline. The first, largest information on your resume should be your name. The format tells us it’s a CV.
  • Put education first. If your work experience is only internships to date, create clarity by putting the focus on your current studies. If you’re applying for an entry-level job, include your expected graduation date so we understand your availability at a glance. Keep education relevant: we don’t care what elementary school you attended. After you’ve had your first job, reverse your CV then to put experience first.
  • The most recent is the most important. We’re glad to see that students have seen the value of reverse chronological order. Most of the student CVs we see have rejected the classic German Lebenslauf (which uses chronological order) in favor of the new international standard of listing your most recent experience or education first.
  • Describe your experience. Give some context for every station in your CV by writing a very brief description or including up to 3 bullet points explaining what you did or learned. If you have lots of experience, you can leave the description off of the oldest if the title is clear.
  • Put your education in context. Is your program of study clear? Human Factors is relatively unknown in Germany, so explain briefly what the program is about. You could write, for instance, “M.Sc. Human Factors (Human-Computer Interaction)”.
  • Rate your language proficiency. Don’t forget to list your native language. We see a lot of international resumes and it’s not always clear at a glance to us what is your native language. Latin? Sorry, we don’t care. Leave it off your CV. Level C1 or B2 might mean something to someone, but not to all of us. Also use words like “fluent” or “basic”.
  • Quantify your skills. If you list software skills or coding languages, tell us how proficient you are. We assume you can work in MS Office and are more interested in prototyping, design, eye-tracking or statistics software here. Coding skills? Nice to know.
  • Highlight the important information. In scanning your professional experience we will look out for job role first, then the company. Don’t make everything bold.
  • Use design, but keep it basic. Make your CV scannable by using meaningful line breaks, bolding names of companies or universities, making use of white space, abbreviating names of months, etc. Use clean typography and don’t use underlining, which looks sloppy.

To get your start in UX, you’ll need more than a great CV. But a convincing resume paired with a personalized cover letter can open the first doors for you.

Still a student? We’re looking for a UX Student in Residence. Read it through. If you agree with us that it’s a student’s dream job, please apply!

Got feedback? Shoot us an email.

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