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Author: Duncan J Carter

Published date: 2017/09


A CV (curriculum vitae - Latin for 'life story'), is quite simply an advert to sell yourself to an employer. You should send a CV to an employer when they ask for one in a job advert, or when you are enquiring if any jobs are available. The purpose of your CV is to make you worth considering as an employee.

We have put together some simple tips to keep in mind when writing and submitting your CV. 

Your recent roles will be heavily scrutinised by recruiters, so it pays off to make them easy to read and understandable. A role that is presented as one huge chunk of text, with no logical structure, is unlikely to impress readers or describe your work properly. 

That doesn't mean you should start sending out five-page resumes, of course. Generally speaking, you usually need to limit yourself to a maximum of two pages. But don't feel you have to use two pages if one will do. Conversely, don't cut the meat out of your CV simply to make it conform to an arbitrary one-page standard.

Not including enough detail in current role Your current (or most recent) role, is one of the most important factors in your CV. After giving your CV a quick scan, most recruiters will jump straight to your current role and study it in some detail. The reason for this is that your current role gives recruiters the greatest indication of what you’re currently capable of. If you have rushed the addition of your latest job to your CV and you’re not including all of your newly acquired skills and experience, then you are doing yourself a great disservice. When updating your CV, dedicate some serious time and effort to writing your latest role, it will pay off in the long run. The only time this could be acceptable is if you are a recent school leaver and your most recent role is less relevant than  your education or other factors in the CV.

Be as specific as possible when explaining what you achieved in previous jobs. Say how many people you managed, by what percentage you increased sales, or how you were specially commended for a piece of work. Quantify! Be precise with dates of employment and explain any gaps in your work experience (for example, when you were studying, looking after children, or traveling). Unexplained gaps in your job history ring alarm bells.

Hiring managers receive an average of 75 CVs per position they post, according to So they don't have the time or resources to review each one closely, and spend approximately six seconds on their initial “fit/no fit” decision. 

Find achievements from your course or work experience. We tend to shy away from highlighting our successes, but think from your potential employer's point of view and give them what they want, without crossing the line into arrogance.

It's therefore important to keep your CV concise so that it can be absorbed quickly. Helen Tucker, HR director at Procter and Gamble (P&G) Northern Europe, recommends that the template you choose to follow when composing your CV should be striking yet uncluttered. 'Avoid confusing layouts, and beware of using too many fonts or font sizes,' she advises.

Reread and edit your CV. At the very least, be sure to read your CV over once before submitting it for an application. However, it is very hard to catch your own mistakes. Sometimes, I see what I think I wrote rather than what is actually on the page. One tip is to read your CV and other application documents from the bottom up (or, from the last page back to the first page). This keeps you from focusing too much on the content and layout of the page, and more on any sentence-level errors. Rereading your documents out loud can also help you catch errors.

Careless cutting and pasting. Be consistent with the style of your bullet points, spacing, alignment (particularly dates), font size, style and colour. Inconsistent formatting usually gives away that an applicant has cut and paste text from a template or job description. This lack of attention to detail will not impress employers.

Once you pick a format, stick with it. If you write the day, month, and year for one date, then use that same format throughout the rest of the CV.

One of the worst mistakes you can make with your CV occurs before you start writing it, and it is: forgetting to do your research. Without researching the needs of your target employers, you will be basing the content on what you think should be on your CV. If you don’t understand what your potential employers want to see in a candidate, you will be simply be using guesswork to write your CV, and setting yourself up to fail.

Remove any details like religious references, marital status, and age. You are not required to include these on your CV. Remove any reference to your current and past salaries as well as older qualifications such as GCSE’s.

Instead of your full address, just include your general location (e.g. London, Manchester etc.) and if you are willing to relocate, then make that known also.

Remember you want your CV to be sharp and concise; don't dilute your message by listing the GCSE grades you got 15 years ago. If you have a good degree, that's all anyone really needs to know - you can summarise any A-Levels if you feel it's needed and ditch the GCSE mention altogether (the same goes for A-Levels once you're a certain way into your career). Reference your most recent education achievements and any related practical qualifications first, as these will generally be the most relevant. Remember that relevant job experience usually trumps education history, so lead with your past jobs if you can.

Proofread as if your life depended on it! "Proofread your CV very carefully or, better yet, get someone you know or a careers adviser to proofread it for you," suggests Patricia Frazer, of the Department for Employment and Learning’s Careers Service. "Typos happen all too easily. Don’t be like the job seeker who 'revolved customer problems and enquiries' or 'often uses a laptap.'" Also keep an eye out for Americanisms which may have been auto-corrected by spell check.

Many candidates, particularly in technical disciplines like engineering or IT, assume that all companies and recruiters rely entirely on ‘parsing’ technology and don’t actually read CVs. This often false assumption can result in a CV that contains a huge lists of every process or package you’ve ever worked with – which will not do you any favours when a hiring manager reviews your resume. Often, hiring managers are more interested in ‘softer skills’ or competencies.

In essence, while a CV needs to include all of your best selling points, a strong one will do just that—get to the point. The art is as much about what to leave out as what to include.