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Top 10 tips for writing a CV
19 July 2018


Writing a great CV isn’t rocket science, but it does take some time and careful thought. It’s your first opportunity to sell yourself to the recruiter, and if you don’t put effort into getting it just right, you might not get another chance.

Here are our top 10 tips for producing a first class CV:

1.  Cover the basics

There isn’t a ‘right’ way to write a CV, but you should make sure that you cover all of the following: personal and contact information, work history and experience, relevant skills, qualifications and references.

2. Tailor your CV to each job

If you’ve decided to look for another job, it can be tempting to put ‘update CV’ at the top of your to-do list, and quickly cross it off – job done, right? Wrong. The recruiter wants to know if you can do the job and whether you’ll fit in with the company – make his job as easy as possible by tailoring your CV to answer those two questions. Be explicit about how you meet each of the criteria in the job description, and keep the most relevant information towards the top.

3. Include a personal statement

Your personal statement is your big chance to sell yourself, to help the recruiter identify quickly the value that you’ll bring to the role. There aren’t any hard and fast rules about the personal statement, but generally you want write between 50 and 200 words summing up who you are, what you can bring to the specific role, and your career aim.

4. Read it, re-read it, re-read it again, get someone else to read it

This might sound like overkill, but it’s surprising – and disappointing – how many CVs contain basic spelling and grammar errors. Put yourself in the shoes of the recruiter: you’ve got 30+ CVs to read and you need to whittle them down – why give the person who claims to “pay grate attention to detail” a second chance?

5. Demonstrate achievements, not responsibilities

Job descriptions rarely make for an interesting read, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that listing out the responsibilities of your current and past roles will grab the recruiter’s attention. Instead, show your skills and experience in action - rather than simply stating that you have good communication skills, give an example of where you’ve demonstrated this to good effect.

6. Use active language

Use assertive and positive language to demonstrate your achievements – include words like achieved, developed and organised. Keep your sentences short and snappy, using bullet points where possible.

7. Quality not quantity

The purpose of the CV is to show the recruiter why you’re right for the role, not provide your entire life history. While you should present a full employment history, you don’t need to go into great detail about each and every Saturday job you’ve held unless they are particularly relevant to the role. Likewise, if you’re looking for your third or fourth job, most recruiters will be more interested in your working achievements than in what grade you got for GCSE Home Economics. Unless it’s highly relevant, or highly interesting, leave it out or provide a very short summary at most.

8. Presentation is key

The content of your CV might be second to none, but if it’s not presented clearly, your words may well go to waste. Most CVs are submitted electronically these days, so you need to be very careful with formatting – the use of shading and tables, for example, might look great on your computer, but consider how your CV will appear on a recruiter’s smartphone or iPad. Keep it simple!

9. Include a covering letter

A covering letter – or covering email, if applying online – is another opportunity to demonstrate exactly why you’re right for a particular role, drawing attention to your most saleable attributes. It can also be used to explain things that your CV can’t, for example, if you have large gaps in your employment history, or have changed career. 

10. Include references

Always include two references in your CV, preferably from employers (past and present) as personal references are unlikely to hold much sway. Most employers will check at least one of your references when offering you a position, so it’s important that you choose the right people.