How to make a CV – the right way

Writing a great CV is one of the hardest challenges you will face when searching for a job. You only get one chance to make a fantastic first impression and gain that all important interview. Even the slightest mistake will make a huge difference!

When you are literally up against hundreds of other applications, the only way your CV ends up in the ‘yes’ pile is by ensuring you get it right the first time. Here’s our list of top ten tips to help ensure you make your CV the very best!

1. Keep it concise and to the point

Making your CV too long is instantly a big mistake. No more than 2 pages are typically what employers like to see, as it’s easier to scan through all the info in a matter of seconds.

The average time an employer spends reading a CV is around 10 seconds – doesn’t sound very long does it? But the unfortunate truth is that the hiring manager may have hundreds of applications and CV’s to go through and decide who makes it through to the next stage. And with so little time to filter through the best applications, it makes sense that speed is of the essence.

Ensure each section is concise and to the point, so the reader can easily make the decision that you are right for the job!

If you make a CV that is longer than 2 pages, you risk the chance that the employer can’t be bothered to read it all and it ends up on the ‘no’ pile. This isn’t always the case, but why take the risk?

2. Customise your CV

It may be far too easy to try and make your CV very generic so you can apply to lots of positions, but this won’t get you an interview. Most people have a specific role in mind or at the very least a career goal.

This should make it easier to make a CV that’s targeted at that role or career, so the employer can see you’ve made an effort to highlight the relevant qualifications and skills. Again, make their life easier when reading your CV, and give yourself a very big advantage over the competition.

There is no point in making it difficult for the employer to see that you are the right person for the job. Especially when we’ve already discovered that you could up against hundreds of other applicants.

It doesn’t matter whether you are applying for one job or hundreds – make sure each CV you send out is tailored to the specific role or career.

3. Provide a covering letter and summary/overview

A covering letter should accompany your CV – and if you haven’t written one, then you better get started!

The covering letter is a great way of introducing yourself and stating why you are applying, and how you are the right person for the job.

A covering letter along with the standard summary/overview on your CV will make it much easier for the employer to tie your skills, experience and qualifications directly to the role. See our guide to writing a winning cover letter for more help.

4. Don’t leave employment gaps

Leaving gaps in your work history will naturally make an employer suspicious!

Try to imagine the hirer having to decide between a hundred CV’s that have no employment gaps, against yours that does! Obviously the employer might have numerous applications to choose from that are just as good as yours, and without that suspicious gap in previous work experience.

If you have a reason as to why you were not working, then it’s always better to be honest and state it. Especially when it could be that you were volunteering, or taking a college course. You may have been looking after a sick family member, or unable to work for personal reasons.

Employers would much rather see the reason for an employment gap, rather than attempt to come to the wrong conclusion.

5. Keep your CV up to date

It doesn’t matter whether or not you are looking for a job right now – make sure your CV is kept up to date if anything significant happens in your career. You never know if you might be looking for another job in the not too distant future, and it is all too easy to forget and record it down on your CV.

Keeping your CV up to date ensures you don’t leave out valuable qualifications, skills, experience and training when you come to apply for another job.

6. Check, check, and check again!

Spelling mistakes and grammatical errors give the employer a good excuse to throw you onto the ‘no’ pile. The hirer is looking for the perfect CV, so any silly errors could instantly cost you an interview.

Getting an interview is hard enough without making it even harder! So make sure you not only check your CV a million times, you also get your friends to check it as well.

The best person to check your CV is someone who is in management or has had experience in checking CV’s and conducting interviews. Someone who has already looked at hundreds of CV’s will have a keen eye, and may also be able to offer advice on every aspect of your CV – from formatting to font size.

Small errors make it easier for prospective employers to filter out candidates, when faced with a pile of similar CVs.

7. Don’t be a fibber!

You may think that you are just embellishing the truth, but telling a fib on your CV is an absolute no-no. If the employer happens to check your background or references, you might be very swiftly caught out.

The most common problem we’ve come across is at the interview stage when telling a lie on the CV makes for an awkward conversation when it gets exposed. And if the interviewer gets any sense that you are telling a blatant lie, or even that you’ve embellished some details, you’d instantly be viewed as untrustworthy.

In rare occasions we’ve even heard of stories whereby the person has lost the job a short time after being employed because something important has been found to be a lie – so just don’t do it! Stay honest and true to yourself, as it will benefit you in the long run.

Lies and wild embellishments are fairly simple for a seasoned recruiter to spot – don’t take the risk! See our guide ‘Can you lie on your CV?’ for more guidance.

8. Facts and figures

When making your CV it’s important to remember that you need to avoid fluffy generic statements like, ‘I have excellent sales skills and I am competent at increasing turnover’.

How much did turnover increase by, and how did you do it?

Anyone can say they did a great job in their previous roles, but the employer needs to see actual facts and figures, so they can see how well you performed.

A great example would be to say, ‘During my time at Joe Bloggs Ltd I came up with a better ordering system which made it easier for our customers to choose the right product. This had a positive impact on turnover, which increased by around 10% on last years figures’.

Examples of WHAT you did and HOW you did it are a great way to provide real evidence of both hard and soft skills.

9. Presentation is everything

Although you might be considering holding off on the glitter, it doesn’t mean to say you can’t make an effort when it comes to the formatting and presentation of your CV.

The font, font size, layout, sections and subheadings are all extremely important in ensuring your CV is easy on the eye. When an employer only looks at your CV for about ten seconds, you need to make it easy for them to see all the relevant information, and by separating everything into the correct sections and by using a professional font and size, you are presenting yourself as a professional who takes job hunting seriously.

Choose from our fantastic collection of CV templates – click here. You may also like our guide on which font to choose for your CV.

10. Keywords make a difference

Using the right keywords in your CV is vital if you want to ensure you are noticed. Employers will use these keywords in the job advert, and this is where you need to extract them.

Skills and qualifications are typically listed in the job advert, so make sure you make note of these and insert them into your CV. Words like, PHP, shorthand, Microsoft Office, Dreamweaver, are all great example of skills that an employer may be looking for and would like to see on your CV.

Again, it’s all about making it easy for your employer to match your skills, experience and qualifications to the role.

Some companies use software to filter CVs using these keywords – especially if they receive thousands of applications – another reason why using the right keywords are so important.


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