I have to be honest, I hate CVs – really, really, hate them.

I have seen hundreds of thousands that tell me nothing; that are full of regurgitated methodologies, copied job descriptions, and vacuous, unsubstantiated statements that tell me nothing about the person or what they have achieved. I have seen a multitude of CVs that have clearly not been written by the person presenting them: vague, impersonal detritus.

But, until we have full individual digital portfolios with vlogs, case studies, references and podcasts, we are somewhat saddled with the CV.

So, what are some best practice tips for CV writing that will get you noticed?

When it comes to trying to write your CV, the only certainty is that everyone will have a view on what a good one should look like and what it should contain. Get 20 recruiters in a room and you will get at least 40 points of view, which makes it difficult to know what to write to get noticed.

With this in mind, I thought I would give my view on where to start, so that the inevitable reworks are just a little bit easier!

The beginning

1. Create the database of you

  • Write down all of your programmes, projects, initiatives and achievements.
  • Follow the STAR (situation, task, achievement, result) or SSSD (size, scope, scale, deliverables) methodology. Include budgets (CAPEX/OPEX), team size and reporting lines. Keep it to three to four lines.
  • You only have to do this once and then keep adding to it…

2. Categorise by business outcome

Which ones contributed to top line growth? Or reduced bottom line costs? Which were technology led? ERP? Transformation? Innovation?

You will be surprised by the number of things you will remember – by categorising what you have done, when a role calls for specific experience you will be able to copy and paste these examples into your CV to demonstrate specific capability, thereby saving significant time and effort.

By having the core figures at your fingertips – what you achieved and how – you will have a range of different examples that will help to build credibility during your interview.

The middle

You need to grab the attention of the people reading your CV. My view is that the bit above the fold should grab attention and be interesting, so just have your name and LinkedIn profile at the top.

According to research by Ladders, you have just six seconds to grab the attention of the person reading your CV.

1. Personal profile

My preference is that this should be in the first person, as it's a chance to add a little personality – although others don't like this approach. Either way, it should be no longer than three to six lines.

2. Key achievements

These should be relevant to the role you are applying for and this is where the "database of you" comes into its own. These can and should be changed for the roles you are applying for. If you are creating a "generic" CV, make sure you use your best achievement from each category to show breadth and depth.

3. Contextualise your role

Even if you are describing your role in a large, well-known company, it's still worth including a couple of lines to explain exactly what they do – for example: "£1.5bn t/o logistics business operating in 24 countries…" This helps the person reading to understand the scale of your role.

How far should you go back on your CV?

Always document your full career history in terms of chronology. Again, my personal view is that anything further back than 10 to 12 years is not relevant enough to go into detail but warrants being there in case you have worked in a specific sector. It also helps contain the length of your CV.

Permanent and interim CVs

If you are applying for both types of role you need a CV for each.

  • Interim CVs should be outcomes orientated and demonstrate that you have delivered what the client is looking for.
  • Permanent CVs  should have outcomes AND core accountabilities.

The end 

Some recruiters hate seeing a list of interests at the bottom of your CV. However, done right, this section can add another dimension to your application.

The key is to carefully consider the type of interests you include. It sounds obvious, but try to list things that are genuinely interesting. I like a few well-chosen things at the bottom of your CV - it can be a point of conversation and a route to building rapport quickly.

Things to remember

  • Don't forget to put your telephone number on your CV – it's easy to forget the simple details.   
  • Don't let someone else write it for you - you are the only person who knows your story and your voice – we can spot CVs by third parties a mile off.
  • Don't use boxes or weird formatting - keep your CV clean and simple, unless you are designing it!
  • Don't copy references and recommendations from LinkedIn – I can go there myself – and I will.
  • Your CV is there to tell your story and your achievements – make sure it is the best version of you.


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