How to ensure your CV is the best it can be

I recently read 6 books about CV writing. I speak to candidates all the time whose CVs I transform. There is huge room for improvement in their CV, yet the existing one has been written based on previous advice and endorsed by other professionals. What do I learn from these experiences?

Most advice that candidates get about CVs is not good, or it is not applied.   This is very sad given the stressful nature of job applications. The one thing you cannot afford is wasted time and missed opportunities.   The best way to make sure your CV is fit for purpose is not to speak to friends or colleagues, or even some recruitment consultants. It is to speak to people who actually employ those who do the job you want to do.  You can also get it right prior to this.   Here are some key principles that you should start with:

1.       Some things are absolute

‘Socialising with friends’ is definitely not a hobby that is going to impress employers.   You should not state your ‘Career Objective’; you should focus on what you can do for them.   A short summary of your value to the employer at the start is never going to do any harm.   You should not explain why you left any job, write anything negative about yourself, or criticise your previous employers (even if they were unimaginable cretins).

2.       Most things are down to judgement

In most cases, hobbies don’t matter a great deal. Some demonstrate commitment and other abilities that are relevant to the job or commitment to your community.   A US resume is likely to work best on 1 page, whilst in the UK, 2 pages is typical and 3 is fine if you have the experience to justify it.   Each job requires different skills. The most important thing you can do is match up your abilities to what they are looking for. Three things are required for this:

  • Knowledge of the selection criteria
  • Self-awareness
  • Ability to communicate your value effectively and persuasively

3.       Your friends and family will probably like whatever you put in front of them

They know you and (probably) like you. They would recruit you if it was up to them. Problem is, the recruiter probably hasn’t met you and they only have the CV and your online presence to go on. Find out what they are looking for and focus on that.   Ignore the ‘rules’. Your CV has to be effective. Every line of your CV needs to be relevant to the job and positive and about you. Anything else (apart from contact details, obviously) can be removed.

4.       Recruiters have more in common than is generally acknowledged

I’ve written CVs for people across 6 continents. Whilst culture is of course a massive issue affecting relationships between people, the job of a CV is the same anywhere. It is a candidate’s marketing document, used to match candidates against a set of criteria for the purpose of shortlisting. That is why the process and decision making is the same.

If you would like an experience based review and detailed feedback on your own CV, please feel free to send it to

Written by

CV Writer and Interview Coach. Blogging about ways to improve your CV writing and job searching experience.

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