CV Tips

A CV should be as concise as far as possible which may give a quick summary of your qualifications, experience, skills and suitability for a role. Try tailor your CV to emphasize relevant skills and experiences you have.

Making your CV

Work up by unemployment, ill health or self-employment. The focus is on your transferable skills and competencies rather than the jobs you held or the companies you worked for. It emphasizes your achievements throughout your career and groups them under headings such as Team skills, Management and Business Development rather than listing them job by job. Employment details are summarized towards the end of the CV under company name, position held and year dates.

What your CV can do for you

Your CV is not your autobiography. It clearly sets out your achievements in previous jobs so that employers can see quickly what you could do for them. The aim of your CV is to get you to the next stage, whether that's an interview, a meeting, a phone conversation or an email dialogue.

Sometimes it's your first chance to show what you have to offer :

  • You might give it to an employer at a first meeting
  • Or send it to employers, agencies or recruiters as a direct approach or in response to a job advert
You can also use it to remind people of your potential :
  • When you send in application forms
  • Before and during interviews, both on the phone and face-to-face

Put yourself in the reader's shoes

Whichever format you choose, make sure you write your CV from the reader’s perspective. You need to market yourself in terms of how you can benefit their organization. Don't think about what you're 'selling' but what they want to 'buy'. What are they looking for? Once you know what their needs are, it's easier to present yourself as the solution.

Make your CV easy to read and interesting

The reader is asking themselves two basic questions: can you do this role and will you fit in? Introduce yourself with one short paragraph profile that sums up your personal and professional attributes. Keep it simple and snappy e.g. 'A confident and adaptable individual who works well under pressure whilst being able to meet tight deadlines.

Use email as appropriate

Check you use the correct email address so your CV doesn't lie abandoned in someone else’s inbox. Most CVs are sent as an attachment as .doc or .rtf files or as acrobat files (.pdf). Always check which format they want.

Check if your CV is likely to be scanned

Your CV may be scanned to highlight pre-selected key words or phrases. Make sure your CV gets through the scan by :

  • Sending an original not a photocopy
  • Putting your name on the first line of your CV – with nothing else before it
  • Using bold for headings only - don't use it for contact information
  • Keeping font sizes between 10-14 point
  • Using basic typefaces that the computer will recognize
  • Avoiding boxes, graphics, shading, ellipses, brackets, italics, underlining, compressed type, double columns or complicated layouts as they don't scan well
  • Never sending a stapled, folded or faxed CV for scanning

Maximizing your CV's effectiveness

Your CV sells you, your skills and achievements to employers, recruiters and agencies. First impressions count, so make sure your CV makes the right impact.

Will it grab the attention of a busy employer who hasn’t met you?

  • Do you sound an interesting prospect – someone worth interviewing?
  • Does it look right?
  • Is the layout easy to read – does it make you look organized?
  • Is it in the layout they specified?
  • Is the most important and relevant information on the first page?
Does it say the right things?
  • Have you described your results rather than your roles?
  • Have you backed up your achievements with evidence?
  • Are there any inconsistencies? Does everything match up?
  • Are there any bland or hackneyed phrases or management-speak? Edit it all out.
  • Is it factual and objective? Make sure you highlight achievements and focus on outcomes rather than aims.
  • Is it relevant, truthful, brief, clear and personal? Use strong action words and positive phrases but without hyping it up.
  • Don't use humor – what you find funny might not appeal to a potential employer

Targeting specific roles

Your CV is a living document and you'll probably need to adapt it to specific employers or roles, especially if you are looking at a number of career options. Employers and recruiters can easily spot a general purpose CV that hasn't been targeted to their vacancy. Hard-pressed managers haven't got time to read between the lines, so the more you do to help them see your suitability, the greater chance of getting an interview. Make it easy for them by :

  • Molding your CV to their requirements
  • Highlighting where you match their needs
  • Bringing out the added value that you could bring to their organization

CV checklist

Keep your CV up-to-date. Any new experiences, skills and qualifications will improve your value to future employers.

Contact information
  • Your full name, address and postcode, phone numbers and email address.
  • Never keep changing your contact number. Must provide a permanent contact so that you are traceable when required.
Personal profile (optional)
  • A focused summary of what you offer
  • Designed to grab the reader's attention and highlight what is to come
  • Summarizes what you have to offer in a way that links to the employer's need
Key skills and competencies (optional)
  • A summary of your key skills
  • Matches the employer’s needs in terms of job and organization. Highlights transferable skills and competencies, which can be useful if you’re changing direction
Work experience
  • Start with your most recent position & the earlier experience at the end.
  • Employers are usually interested in your most recent jobs, so concentrate on your last two positions – although you might occasionally want to highlight earlier roles
  • Treat a promotion like a separate position
  • Give the job title, when you started and left the job, the name of the company and a brief description of what they do
  • List any of your main responsibilities, achievements, duties and skills that relate to the new position
  • Describe the scope of your job and level of responsibility rather that giving task lists or a job description
Qualifications, education, training and development
  • Usually these come near the end, but if particular qualifications are essential for the job and make you more marketable (for example in technical and IT roles), put them on the first page after your profile or key skills
  • Start with the most recent ones as they have the most value
  • Give the relevant professional qualifications and academic ones, but don’t include ‘bought’ memberships
  • List degrees or any executive program you have attended and give the subject, awarding body and year so they can be checked
  • Summarize your school achievements (e.g. 3 A-levels and 8 GCSEs). Only list the subjects if they are particularly relevant to your future role or if you haven't got a degree
  • Add any relevant skills such as languages, technology, vocational or on the job training
  • Include any relevant training or skills acquired while unemployed, on sabbatical or doing part-time or voluntary work

Provide a covering letter or email to give your CV a 'voice'. Draw out key points from your CV to state where there is a good match between what is required of the role and what you have to offer.

Personal information
  • Date of birth (rather than age)
  • Single or married (if divorced or separated you may prefer to use 'single' or 'married')
  • Nationality – only if you’re applying for jobs abroad
Reference and client endorsements
  • Referees are no longer included on CVs but you should be ready to provide one personal and one professional
  • Client references could support your CV in a portfolio
  • Include client endorsements and recommendations in the achievements section of your CV – for example 'Given a special award by ABC for contribution to ABC project'