Writing a Great CV

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Writing a Great CV

On February 1, 2011, Posted by , In Resources for Candidates, By , With Comments Off on Writing a Great CV

Paying proper attention to your CV will pay dividends. Whilst a good one won’t actually get you the job, a bad one can ruin your chances. It is so important to understand the purpose of a CV; it’s to get you an interview, not a job.

Typically a CV gets less than 20 seconds to impress. If a job has been advertised the employer may have dozens of CV’s so you have to stand out; and that doesn’t mean fancy colours, graphics and pictures.

The employer’s attitude is very much “what’s in it for me” so your CV needs to be short, clear and to the point; demonstrating why you would be good for the job. Consider the way in which the advert has been written- if it calls for a general manager with P+L responsibility, and that’s what you do, make it clear that it’s a “like for like” comparison- mirror the language.

Key information in your CV

• Personal details – who you are where you live
• Education/qualifications – are you credible?
• Experience. Always most recent first. State what you do – you’d be surprised how many times I find myself trying to scan a CV to find out what the candidate actually does!

Don’t write your experience as a simple list of jobs titles and what you did; everyone knows that if you were in pack development you developed packs if in sales you sold things – it’s not interesting.

For each of your roles identify and more importantly quantify your achievements, e.g. if you were in new pack introduction how many new packs did you handle? – in total and at any one time. If you were in general management what key financial achievement did the business make? Differentiate yourself from the other applicants, demonstrate your value.

Very often employers go through CV’s and discard all the ones they don’t like first, then interview the best of those left, so you must be careful not to turn them off.

Key turn-offs

  • Photocopies, “To whom it may concern….”, Poor quality print and paper – These all show you don’t value the employer and their role.
  • Fancy graphics / Complex layout – A common sin for those at the design end of the business. These are confusing and difficult to read. The employer will give up and bin it.
  • Quirky hobbies – Any hobby is a risk on a CV. You risk that the employer has a prejudice against it or feels that culturally you won’t fit into the team. Even saying you like football could turn off some employers.
  • Extreme sports – employers may be worried you’ll get injured and be off work.

Verifying Information

Increasingly employers don’t take CV’s at face value and a whole industry has sprung up in verifying CVs. Any claims which are exceptional will arouse as much suspicion as interest as very often they prove to be too good to be true.

A professional recruiter will use the interview process to explore responsibilities and achievement, essentially verifying the information in the CV. Whilst a candidate may not actually turn around and say the claim is not true, inconsistencies during the interview are a tell-tale of exaggeration. Ultimately the folly of misrepresenting yourself will come out when references are taken. Candidates should bear in mind that it is a small world and the damage of being exposed in this way can be far-reaching. Never lie on an application.


The real winner in making your CV more attractive is not in exaggerating but in research. Find out as much as possible about the company and the role you are applying for. Understand the key requirements of the role and make sure when detailing your achievements to tailor them to the role so the employer can see clearly how your experience is relevant to their role.

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