How to write the perfect CV

  • 06/02/2018
  • 07:00
  • Recruitment
  • Insights
  • Candidate
  • Client

There are many types of CV out there – functional, chronological, skills-based – but all that really matters is finding the most effective way to showcase your skills and expertise. This is what will make you stand out as a strong candidate.

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The more effort you put into your CV, the more likely you are to be invited to an interview. Tailoring your CV to each job application is good practice because it requires you to fully match your experience and skills to the role. 

Without resorting to quirky methods, you have to make your CV stand out from the crowd. So make sure that you check your CV for spelling and grammar mistakes. A simple error could result in your CV ending up in the bin time and time again, no matter how good you are. 

Follow our top 10 tips to help you produce an outstanding CV.

CV tip #1 – Prepare to succeed

​The easiest way to write a CV is to have all the necessary information at your fingertips. Make sure you regularly update your CV as you gain new skills and experience and keep copies of your old CVs so that you can refer back to them if you need to.

  • Ensure that any social media that you use, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, does you justice. It is likely that an employer will dig a bit deeper and look online to find out more about you. So double-check that your LinkedIn account reflects the information on your CV and build up the number of people who recommend you.
  • Be honest in your CV. You will almost certainly get found out if you have exaggerated or not told the truth.
  • Gain some understanding of the type of person the employer is looking for. The more effectively you can show a clear match between the skills required and those you possess, the more likely you are to get to interview.

CV tip #2 – Know what a successful CV looks like

CVs should be clearly formatted. They should also be easy to read, concise and to the point. As a rule you should:

  • Use Microsoft Word;
  • Use standard fonts such as Arial;
  • Stick to no more than two pages of A4;
  • Prioritise information;
  • Use bullet points (they are an excellent way to focus the reader’s attention);
  • Never use jargon or abbreviations since these can look unprofessional; and
  • Use section headings.

CV tip #3 – Use headings appropriately

Write down all the headings that you are going to use in your CV. Once you have done this, you can start to fill out the section below each heading, pulling relevant information from your old CVs and from your list of skills and experience. Recommended headings are:

  • Contact details;
  • Personal statement;
  • Previous employment;
  • Education;
  • Hobbies and interests; and
  • References.

CV tip #4 – Keep it relevant

Each job description requires a slightly different set of skills so you should tweak your CV to match. Respond to the job description, tailoring your skills and experience to show why you are the best person for the job. Take out anything that isn’t relevant.

CV tip #5 – Include your contact details and a personal statement

Double-check that your information is 100% accurate. At the top of each page, include your:

  • Name and surname
  • Address
  • Contact phone number
  • Email address

You may also like to include your:

  • LinkedIn profile
  • Photograph
  • Date of birth

Usually, your CV should include a short personal statement that is about three lines long. It should give a brief introduction to you and your skills, particularly those that are relevant to the role.

CV tip #6 – List out your previous employment

  • Outline your employment history in bullet points, putting your most recent position at the top of the list.
  • Provide a job title, when you started and left the job, the name of the company and a brief description of what the company does.
  • Include correct dates of employment and be prepared to talk through your work experience. You need to know your CV inside out.
  • List your main responsibilities, achievements for each job, emphasising the duties and skills that relate to the position that you are now applying for.
  • Keep your bullet points short – around fifteen words each – and use verbs such as ‘achieved’, ‘implemented’ and ‘managed’.
  • Quantify outcomes in numbers, not words – it’s quicker to read.
  • Use your list of skills and experience to showcase why you are the best person for the job
  • Cover any gaps in your employment and be very clear about what you did during these periods. If you went travelling, studied or were unemployed, be honest since it is likely that you will be asked for details.

CV tip #7 – Describe your education

This section doesn’t need to be very long. It just needs to give an overview of your qualifications. Use bullet points and list your education in reverse order, giving dates, institutions and qualifications. Add any relevant skills such as languages, technology, vocational or on-the-job training.

CV tip #8 – Explain your hobbies and interests

Keep this section short and as interesting as possible. Your hobbies could make you stand out from the other applicants – for example, playing a sport can show that you are a good team player or a leader while charity work shows that you go the extra mile. The hobbies and interests section of your CV is a good opportunity to provide information that will help an employer to decide whether you will fit in with their team.

CV tip #9 List your references

Two referees are standard and one of these should be your previous or current employer. You don’t have to include references, but if you do, make sure the contact details are up to date. Alternatively, you can mark this section as ‘available on request’, but make sure that you have referees who are available and willing to represent you. Include client endorsements and recommendations.

CV tip #10 – Get your CV proofread and write a covering letter

Get somebody to proofread and double-check your CV – you don’t want simple mistakes to let you down. Write a covering letter that supports your CV and enables you to stand out from the competition. 

The covering letter shouldn’t duplicate your CV but it should give your prospective employer an idea of your work ethic and personality. Highlight your skills and interests, making sure that they are relevant to the position. It’s also a good idea to confirm your interest in the company and the reason why you want to work there.