Making The Most Of Your CV

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Like so many within HR and recruitment, I wish I had a pound for every time I’ve been asked about the format or content of a CV.

To start with, I would suggest you bear in mind the role of your CV, which is most often to facilitate an introduction to a potential employer. Your CV is therefore essentially a sales document for ‘you’ with the primary purpose of highlighting your strengths and suitability for the role applied to, by summarising your core skills and experience.

One glance around the Internet will illustrate countless different CV formats and advice on how to write the perfect CV. My personal belief however is that there is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution, but rather that your CV should be tailored in order to be as compelling as possible to the reader. I will not therefore rant on prescriptively about how to write the perfect CV (I wish I had another pound for that question also!), but will instead highlight just ten of the more important tips that our Recruitment Consultants all agree upon.

Top 10 tips for an effective CV:

  1. Include a profile. This is your opportunity to match your skills against the specific role for which you are applying and should be customised for each application. Avoid general profiles that will rarely be as compelling to the reader.
  2. List your key skills and competencies at the start of your CV.
  3. Outline your main achievements. These can be picked from throughout your career to date and can either be listed together on page one, or shown within each entry of your Employment History.
  4. Do not include a picture on your CV. Reader’s will focus more on your appearance and can subconsciously make YES / NO decisions before you have an opportunity to meet to explain your true strengths and capabilities.
  5. Ensure there are no gaps on your CV that are unaccounted for, since this leaves the reader wondering and they will often assume the worst.
  6. Your Employment History should be listed in reverse chronological order and should show the start and finish dates (in month and year format). If your previous employers are unlikely to be known by the reader, include a brief company description and/or URL link. Earlier employment, that is less relevant to your current application, can be summarised, briefly at the end of this section.
  7. Include all relevant qualifications, professional memberships and other industry certifications / accreditations. If space allows, include the educational establishment or awarding body.
  8. List additional relevant training & development
  9. Include a skills matrix, if appropriate, at the end of your CV. This is to ensure key words aren’t missed when searched, as well as giving the reader a good understanding of the spread and level of your skills.
  10. Include your interests and pastimes but be careful not to include something that could potentially leave the reader with a negative impression, or that you would struggle to substantiate at interview.

Please remember that the reader of your CV is likely to be extremely busy, so it is critical that they are able to identify your key skills and experience from an initial skim read. We would therefore recommend using bullets, with short, easy to read sentences and avoid large blocks of heavy going text.

Your CV is your personal marketing tool and it is well worth investing time and energy into making it as compelling a proposition as possible.

Before I close I would also like to dispel one of the most common myths that we hear which is that a CV should always be on 2 pages. Whilst it remains true that your CV should remain as concise as possible it has become more important recently that your CV comprehensively displays all of your core skills and experience. The reason for this is that most Recruiter’s and Employer’s now use text searching to initially identify potentially suitable candidates, even before starting the shortlisting process and if your CV doesn’t include their key words, you won’t even be in the running!

To help we have put together a blank template CV, which can be downloaded here, appended with an example CV.