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Writing a great CV

The first step in landing that great new role

I get calls all the time from candidates that would like feedback on their CV. The first thing that I tell them is that what I say should be taken with a pinch of salt. Everyone has their own opinions on what good looks like when it comes to a CV.

That said, I do see a lot of CVs and some truly dreadful ones at that. As someone who spends a fair amount of time sifting through CVs, I am reasonably qualified to give a bit of advice but I would always suggest speaking to different people about your own profile.

Writing a CV can be a painful experience, particularly if you have not done it in a while. It is a very British trait to feel uncomfortable about selling yourself and sitting in front of a blank piece of paper can be daunting. The main thing is getting started and you can tweak and improve it from there.

Should a CV be no more than 2 pages?

I see a lot of candidates that have crow-barred their career history onto 2 pages, and they often look messy and are hard to scan. The ability to scan a CV and get the information that you need about a candidate quickly is far more important than whether the information fits on two pages. If a CV is longer than 3-4 pages, then it risks looking a bit like War & Peace.

I like CVs that are clearly sign posted and that have a good amount of white space. It should hit people with your core skills on the first page and leave employers wanting to read on.

Some people list core competences (key skills) at the top of their CV and this can often be quite effective, particularly for those looking to make a slight change in their career. I see some candidates that don’t have a profile that is littered with specific HR job titles but when I have spoken to them, they clearly have a lot of deep experience across various centres of excellence. A skills section can draw this out before employers form their own assumptions of a candidate by scanning their job titles.

Check, check and check again for spelling and grammar…

There should be no excuses for typos on your CV, so it is really important to proofread it carefully. When you spend so long looking at a document, it can be difficult to pick some of them up, so it is always a good idea to get someone else to check it for you also.

Many jobs require good communication skills and I have often seen clients decline to interview candidates because of mistakes on their CV, as they think it shows a lack of attention to detail.

Make sure that you fit in all the important stuff.

It goes without saying that you should include your career history (with dates and job titles), education, name, and contact details etc. It is always a good idea to include a list of some of your key achievements as this shows what you are most proud of and can present you in a very positive light.

I tend to take the view that listing your personal interests is in most cases, not that relevant (sometimes it can be). I would keep this fairly limited if you are going to include it. 

Does it all stack up?

Employers will check dates and also cross-reference your CV with LinkedIn, so make sure that you have the correct information. A certain degree of artistic licence will often occur on people’s CVs. You have to remember that you should know your own CV inside out and be able to back it up at interviews. That includes giving good examples of your work when quizzed about your experience.

If you have just written your CV and want to pick our brains about it then we are always happy to give you our views on it. We can’t find every single candidate that we speak to a job but we can try and help as many people with getting ready for the job market.

Please do feel free to give us a call if you would like some help.

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