CVs and Findability

My CV (or resume – call it what you will) has been by far the biggest bandwidth resource on my website – by a factor of 4! It didn’t help that it was a pdf file weighing in at over 400Kb. I have since converted this document to use semantic html, meaning that it is a much smaller download, and allows me to explicitly mark out the relationship between the various elements in the document.

The bulk of the referrals to my CV come from Google. The implication is clear: helping search engines locate and understand your CV can improve your chances of being found by the right people. There are many suggestions on how to write a cv. The following points are my tips on helping the search engines best present your CV in relevant search results. They’re an adaptation of standard techniques used for white-hat search engine optimisation.

  • Put your CV online. If it’s not online, it can’t be found.
  • Use Semantic HTML. Search engines love semantic HTML, as it simplifies their job of categorising the information. Documents in a word processor format or PDF are reasonably accessible to search engines, but authoring in HTML allows you to give some extra meaning specific content through the use of specific HTML elements, such as heading elements (<h1> through to <h6>), <acronym>, <strong>, <address>, and others. Some specific tips:
  • Emphasise your skills. Make sure that the keywords people will be using to search for resumes are emphasised in your CV. The <strong> element is useful for this, as it indicates that the text is relatively important, and it is generally displayed in bold, emphasising it visually. If it makes sense to put a search keyword in a heading, do that as well, as it will increasing the ranking of that keyword relative to other keywords on the page.
  • Update regularly. Search engines will rate a document higher if it has been updated recently.
  • Link to your CV. Google uses PageRank, and other search engines depend upon similar techniques. Links into a page are generally treated as a sign that the page is relevant and important. However, care needs to be taken not to game the system through the use of link exchange systems or link farms, as this is generally treated as a reason to demote a page in rank.
  • Include useful information and articles on the same website. Search engines pay attention to other pages “near” a specific page, which includes other pages on the same website. If a website as a whole ranks highly, the ranking of any specific page will be elevated as well.
    • Buy your own domain name. This helps ensure that you are not penalised by search engines for content that you do not control.
    • Write a blog. This is a fairly easy way of keeping the content of the website as a whole fairly fresh, and this will keep the search engine crawlers returning often.
    • Write useful content. If you can write an article or blog entry that other people find useful (and hence link to), then your page ranking will improve. I have both a blog and a set of article resources that help in this goal.