How to write a great CV

Often a tricky subject for lots of people (even for those who’ve spent years in Human Resources or the recruitment sector!)  

There is no single perfect way to structure a CV as different job types, industry sectors and the intended audience will have a bearing on how it should look (e.g. an Executive Assistant will most definitely need to present a very different CV to that of a Graphic Designer and the CV of a CEO of a multi-national corporation will require different content to that of a Delivery Driver)

The best thing to do is start with a great framework and go from there.



  • Before you make a start, think about how your CV should read from the recipient’s perspective.  Make sure that each and every job application you make is tailored specifically for that role – there will always be elements of your skills set and experience that will match a job description and be of greater interest to each different company – make those areas stand out.
  • Your CV is often your first introduction to a prospective employer and will most likely be used as a guide during your first interview, so make sure it is concise and relevant, clear and well structured. 



  • You are likely to have plenty to list here.  However, for each different job application, be sure to match roles and responsibilities as closely as possible to the role you are applying for.
  • Ensure that your job titles and key responsibilities are relevant to the job you’re applying for and, where possible, make them an exact match.
  • Don’t list reasons for leaving jobs and salary levels (or salary expectations) on your CV.  These are best discussed during an interview, so make sure to be ready to explain them when the time comes.



  • As we now live in a digital age, your CV is most likely going to be scanned for the right kind of experience and skills – so KEYWORDS are very important here.  Make sure you include as many keywords that highlight your experience so you’re not missed from initial searches.
  • In every job entry on your CV, make it clear to the reader where you have added value in a role and make sure it reads as relevant and consistent to the role you are applying for (match it to the job description in the ad if you can)
  • To add weight to your application, remember to include all relevant skills that you have gained and developed in your current and previous roles. You might even present these together in a bulleted, summary list at the beginning of your CV.



  • Be absolutely sure to highlight all key achievements in your CV.  Hiring managers want to see candidates who have made significant achievements and out-performed targets in previous roles. List these in real terms or as percentages – but make sure you list them (and, of course, be able and ready to discuss them during the interview).



  • Include all relevant education, list qualifications, certificates and training (especially if this is required or desirable in the job description).



Believe it or not, these critical details are often missed off a CV!  

  • Be sure to include your full name (you don’t need “Mr”, “Miss” or “Mrs”), full address, telephone numbers (including land line and mobile), email and, where relevant if applying overseas, your visa status.  You do not need to include surplus information such as children’s names, gender, religion, sporting teams you support etc. You are not legally required to include your date of birth or marital status.
  • Be sure to make yourself as contactable as possible, so include your contact details on the header or footer of each page in case the pages of your CV are separated.
  • Add links to any relevant website pages, portfolios and social network links (e.g. LinkedIn profile) which will help to support any application you are making.  
  • If you have social networking pages, be absolutely sure that these are appropriate and updated.  Employers DO look at social networking pages of candidates and will often consider their content as part of your personal application.
  • If you want to include any hobbies or interests, keep it short – they generally add very little value and, in fact, recent opinion polls rate them as being off-putting..
  • Referees should not be included but provided on request.




  • Keep your CV jargon-free; the reader may have no technical experience in your area of expertise (i.e. it could be a resourcer or HR generalist who initially reads the CV) and the reader is very unlikely to know the in-house terminology of your previous employers. Think keywords at all times and try to keep them industry standard.


Writing Style:  

  • Your CV should be written in the 3rd person; in the past tense to describe your career and previous roles and in the present tense for skills and competencies.
  • Use bullet points rather than full sentences to list skills and responsibilities; keep it concise – don’t waffle.
  • Make sentences more direct by using nouns and verbs on their own, e.g. “Major achievements include” or “Increased profits by 24%”
  • Avoid simply pasting the content of your company’s standard job description into your CV and try to avoid repeating the exact same roles and responsibilities (content) in more than one position
  • Always avoid clichés – words and phrases that are heavily overused which most recruiters and employers simply ignore. These include (though are certainly not limited to) team-player, results-driven, dynamic, motivated and entrepreneurial. If it feels like a cliché to you, then it probably is!



  • Ensure that the layout of your CV is simple, uncluttered and easy to read.  Use bulleted lists, highlight headings, use the same format for each job listed.  
  • Avoid personal photos and don’t use clip art or borders.
  • You should use a universal font in one colour (Helvetica, Arial and Times Roman are great) and bold used only to highlight.
  • Send/attach your CV in pdf format where possible (Word if not).  This way, you can be sure the recipient will be able to open the document and, in the case of pdf, the formatting will not have changed.  
  • The file name that you use should be easy to link to you – use your own name ideally 



  • Your CV should be in reverse chronological order (most recent job first). Always explain the reason behind a gap in your career.
  • Proof read your CV a number of times.  Ask somebody else to proof read it too, you must not have any errors in your CV and it must make sense.  
  • Not everybody has the ability to write without spelling and grammatical errors; don’t rely on spell check alone, ask somebody else to critique the document – be ready to consider suggested changes/improvements.
  • If your CV contains errors, your application may not be taken further – be sure that it’s an amazing document before you hit the “send” key.


Covering Letter

  • Don’t forget to accompany every application with a covering letter. Please be sure to tailor this letter to the job you are applying for; it’s very off-putting for a recruiter or employer to receive a covering letter that is clearly meant for another role or which is a general “to who it may concern” document.
  • If you are sending your CV via email, your covering letter can be the email itself.  Either way, be sure to write it, write it well and without errors.