10 Tips for Writing a Winning CV

The average time a recruiter spends looking at a CV is 6 seconds…… just 6 seconds. So if the first page of your CV isn’t eye-catching, easy to digest and representing you as positively as possible, you won’t stand a chance.

Your CV doesn’t have to tell your life story. It just needs to give the reader a clear, concise and compelling message about you. Your CV could be read by anyone from a potential new boss to a temp employed by the HR department to skim-read CVs looking for key words. Your CV has to hit home with all potential audiences.

Here are some tips on how to do that:

  1. It should be obvious it’s a CV, so don’t waste precious space entitling the document ‘Curriculum Vitae’
  2. Start with your ‘Personal Details’ – name, email address, phone number and location. They should take up minimum space – the first 3 are not deciding factors in whether or not to call you in for an interview
  3. Your age is irrelevant, so there’s no need to include this on your CV – employers should not be making a decision based on your age – only your experience and match to the job
  4. Then include a ‘Personal Profile’ – this is 3 lines about who you are and your experience to date, and then another 3 lines about the kind of role you are looking for and the type of organisation you would like to work for
  5. Then include a section on your ‘Achievements’ – these are bullet points highlighting your key achievements to date – they should ideally be 1 line in length , punchy and to the point – for example, ‘2009 – offered a full-time job following holiday job doing XXXXXX’; ‘2010 – elected as President of X University’s Student Guild’; ‘2011 – won departmental award for XXXXXX’ – ideally aim for at least 6 of these
  6. After that, either detail your ‘Career History’ or ‘Education and Qualifications’ depending on which is most ‘wow – as a student, you may not have much in the way of career experience, and if that is the case, then lead with ‘Education and Qualifications’
  7. With ‘Career History’, include holiday jobs, gap year assignments, etc, as a way of showcasing the career experience you’ve had to date
  8. The first page of your CV should include your Personal Details, Personal Profile, Achievements, Education and most recent / relevant career experience
  9. Get yourself two referees for potential employers to contact if requested. These could be employers from holiday jobs or gap year assignments or university tutors. Make sure you get their permission to use them. Don’t list your referees on your CV, just state that ‘Contact details for referees available on request’
  10. Finally, get yourself on LinkedIn – this is the professional equivalent of FaceBook. It’s where people list their professional credentials and also where recruiters and employers go looking for talent. Make sure you clearly articulate your skills so recruiters can find you if you have the experience they’re looking for – but no cheating. If you don’t have the experience, don’t use words that suggest you do.

Good luck!

Marie Thornton has over a decade of professional experience, including recruitment, marketing, sales and coaching, across many verticals and from start up businesses to FTSE 100 companies. She offers consultancy to create professional and interview-winning CVs. 


Featured image by wilgengebroed