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Top tips for writing a great CV

It’s all about first impressions…


  • Your CV is your most important selling tool and without a good CV you will not even get an interview.


  • Some CVs try to look “different” and this can frustrate the reader so keep the format simple and uncluttered.


  • Don’t put false information on your CV -  reference checks and in-depth questioning will confirm the accuracy of your statements.


  • Your CV will highlight your skills, experience and accomplishments, and a well presented CV is likely to encourage the company to actually interview you.


  • Try to limit the length of your CV to a maximum of three pages and include details on awards, memberships, courses attended, language and technology skills.


  • Remember that a short, clean and to the point CV has a better chance of being read all the way through.


There are a few golden rules to follow when presenting your CV and these are:

Explaining the gaps

Never be tempted to hide the gaps in your CV if you’ve had some time out of the job market. Recruiters will notice and take the lack of explanation negatively and as a warning sign, which will make them cautious and suspicious, limiting your chances of getting an interview.

Life happens - and people understand that, so be honest about your situation. Here are a few of the most common reasons for a gap with suggestions on how to explain it on your CV:

  • Illness – If this happened to you within the last few years, acknowledge it and briefly explain the circumstances. Finish with a positive on how fit, willing and able you are to return to the work place.

  • Redundancy – Enlightened employers will understand that it is difficult to find suitable employment and as long as they can see you’ve been active and productive in trying to find a job, it will help a lot.

  • Travelling – Spin this positively and many employers will appreciate that you’ve broadened your mind and horizons before committing to a role. It shows them that you have a sense of independence and cultural awareness.

  • Caring for family / bringing up kids – Perfectly acceptable and make sure you explain that your commitments are taken care of and that you can dedicate time to your job now.



Covering Letters

First impressions count, so:


  • Make sure your letter is addressed to the correct person, check there are no typos and use good quality paper.   

  • Put your name and address on the top of the letter, with the date on the left, and type in the person to whom you are addressing the letter, with the correct address.

  • Ensure your contact number and email address is clearly visible

  • Start your introduction by stating how you heard of the position and identify what you are applying for.  

  • Insert a short paragraph detailing your suitability for the role by using the information in the advertisement and provide an overview of your qualifications and experience.    



Typing mistakes

Always have someone else read over your CV - errors show prospective employers that you are careless - use spellcheck!




Make sure your CV is readable and that the font is not too small. Bold headings, dates and job titles can effectively separate sections and create visual interest.

There is no point in squeezing all your information on to 1 or 2 unreadable pages as the interviewer will switch off. Aim to show your abilities on no more than 3 pages of easy to read text. Do not use too many fancy fonts or different sizes as this will be distracting not interesting.



The “I” word

Keep this off your CV as it makes you appear self obsessed. Don’t write in the first person (“I was responsible for...”) or the third person (“Jane Jones was responsible for ...”). Instead, write as “responsibilities included ...”.

Grand claims

Don’t make them unless you can provide examples to prove it.

The use of language

Do not use excessive or overly complicated words. If previous roles you've held use internal jargon, rewrite it in plain language so people external to where you work will know what you're talking about. You may think it makes you look smart, but a potential employer doesn’t want to use a dictionary in order to understand your CV.


The exclamation mark

Do not use them!!! Your professionalism, experience and skills will show through without these desperate attempts at humour, so don’t add exclamation marks on either your CV or covering letter.



Avoid this on your CV as the recruiter may not have the same sense of humour as you. A CV trying to be funny at best can be irritating and at worst could make you look like an oddball. Tongue in cheek statements can also show that you don’t actually take work seriously and nobody is going to interview someone like that.


Your job descriptions

Be clear and concise in describing the main responsibilities of each position held and keep the description to a few constructive lines or bullet points. Focus on what the role entailed and your accomplishments and avoid stating “objectives” unless they are highly compelling. Provide less detail on descriptions relating to the early part of your career and put the emphasis on the most recent years of your employment.



When highlighting the things you have achieved, use words that express action such as “directed, negotiated, improved, generated, launched” and show the results using words like “increased customer retention by 10%”. If you are applying for a sales role, indicate your targets and results.



You will stand out because of the presentation of your CV, your skills and experience, not because of your personal interests. Personal interests are just that and if you make too much issue of them on your CV it could taint the interviewer’s perception of you as a person and you will not get a chance to show how good you really are if they don’t invite you for an interview.


Interviewers can be put off by your personal comments on paper, especially if they appear to be weird, boring or controversial. If you really must include a personal statement, then make sure it is a positive interest that will not take away the focus from your abilities. Most importantly, make sure you do not make silly statements i.e. “Objective: to find a job” or “I love to play football” or “my hobby is watching television”.



Self-employed to Employee

When you’ve been self-employed for a time and then you decide to go back to being an employee, you need to be sure that is the right path for you. You’ll also need to convince a Recruiter that you’re not just looking for a stop gap because things are tough right now.


If you are making the transition from being your own boss to being a valuable employee, you’ll have lots of transferrable skills. You will need to reassure your prospective employer that you can fit in working with a team and that you are happy to take instructions from others.


It’s important you remember there is a hierarchy in companies and that you will be given a structure to work to and advice by people you may view as being too young or inexperienced compared to you. If you are willing to change your mind-set and take on new information then you’ll do great and bring a lot of value to the company. If not, then you really should be thinking of another way to earn a living where you can be self-employed and answer to yourself!


Highlight on your CV:


  • How you overcame challenges, built connections and delivered excellent results

  • The responsibilities you undertook and the time constraints you worked within

  • Where you utilised your skills in staff management, accounting and marketing

  • Major successes due to your positive attitude and self-motivation


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