The truth about what an employer expects from your CV

With so many applications to read through it’s not difficult to understand why the lucky chosen few will get an interview. Their CV will stand out from the rest for lots of different reasons, and will have instantly grabbed the attention of the hiring manager.

But what made those particular CVs stand out from everybody else’s, and what exactly was the employer looking to see from each applicant?

Here are some handy tips on what most employers expect to see on a CV:

Great overall presentation 

A successful CV will make a great first impression and leave the reader wanting more from the second they lay eyes on it. Not only will it be eye catching and professional, it will be easy to navigate with perfect spacing, an appropriate font, and just the right amount of detail to not overload the hiring manager.

A lot of people put too much emphasis into the content of their CV, and whilst this is obviously extremely important it just won’t get the attention it deserves if it doesn’t have a great look about it. On the flip side, a great looking CV will get lots of attention but won’t deliver if the content isn’t to a high standard. Striking the right balance between the two is what will land you an interview.

One of the best ways to ensure your CV makes a positive impact is to search through the many online CV templates available. With lots to choose from you can make your life much easier by picking one you like and allowing more time to focus on the content of your CV. It can be a very time consuming process trying to create your own, and if you are really dead set on doing this it is still a good idea to use a CV template as inspiration so you can ensure yours contains all the relevant sections.

Need a cracking CV template to get you started? Search through our c.v templates here – they are all free for personal use.

Zero spelling errors 

One of the most common mistakes still made today on a CV is spelling and grammatical errors. The main reason for this is not just a lack of care but also the trust we all have in the spell checker in Microsoft Word, or whichever word processing software you use. Although the majority of the time the spell checker will pick up on any errors, there will be the odd occasion when a word you’ve used is not actually a spelling mistake but just not the word you intended.

A spell checker is not going to 100% guarantee your CV is free of errors, and you may have noticed sometimes that certain words like ‘its’ and ‘it’s’ are not picked up as errors. If something like this happens and you don’t spot it, you are sending out a CV that could literally be rejected based on that one tiny error.

Doesn’t seem fair right? But when faced with so many other applicants that have the same if not more qualifications than you that have submitted an error free CV, the choice could come down to any tiny errors and is often seen by the employer as a lack of care and passion for the role.

Relevant skills, qualifications and experience 

An employer doesn’t want to have to read between the lines when it comes to short listing applicants, and if they have advertised for certain skills and qualifications then you should make it obvious that you have them.

With so many CVs to read through it doesn’t make sense to create more work for the hiring manager, and although you may be the right person for the job you may not make it to the interview stage if you don’t make your talents clear.

The job advert is the best place to start to acknowledge exactly what they are looking for. Don’t be afraid to extract keywords and phrases from the advert and use them directly in your own CV. This will not only help the manager to see that you have what they are looking for; it will also show that you understand the industry.

A tailored CV 

An employer will always expect a CV that has been personally written for the role and their company. Creating a generic CV that you can send out to any employer at any time is not going to impress anyone, whereas a more personalised and focused CV is going to show that you have given special attention to the position.

An employer wants to see passion and dedication ooze from an application, so tailoring your CV to the role will show how important this job is to you. They have no idea how many jobs you’ve applied for at the same time, and they won’t care if your CV has clearly been written with just them in mind. Of course, if you are going to apply for other roles at the same time then you should tailor your CV to each and every one.

This might seem like a lot of work, but assuming you are applying for similar positions should mean that the amendments may not take too long. In any case, the importance of landing an interview should far out way the amount of time it may take to tailor your CV. People who go to great lengths to achieve success will always have the upper hand on those that don’t!


A CV doesn’t just have to be a formal list of everything you’ve ever achieved in life, and there are lots of ways you could inject your personality into your CV. A great place to start is the cover letter which can be attached to your CV application.

A cover letter allows you to be more informal and to address the hiring manager directly explaining why you applied, what you like about the role/company, and to go into more depth about your skills and experience.

Another great way to reflect your personality is through your hobbies and interests. Anything that you are really passionate about should go here, and you shouldn’t shy away from going into detail about what you like to do in your spare time. If you play in a band for example, then why not share a link to a YouTube video of you rocking out!

“The challenge of life, I have found, is to build a resume that doesn’t simply tell a story about what you want to be, but it’s a story about who you want to be.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

Your performance in previous roles 

By simply listing your tasks and responsibilities for each of your previous roles, you are not giving the employer what they are really looking for – and that’s how you performed. Seeing all the tasks you carried out is useful, but most employers could guess most of them anyway and are mainly interested in how you performed.

Most people don’t provide that information which leaves the employer in the dark, and they may have to contact your references for further information. However, by providing actual stats and results you are going that one step further and showcasing your actual performance.

If you were applying for a sales role then providing your previous sales record would be a great place to start. If you are applying for a customer service role, then how you treated your customers in your previous jobs is of great importance. Show examples of how you went above and beyond for your customers, and how you resolved customer complaints. This information will not only help you gain an interview but will also provide some great talking points.

There will always be examples that you can provide for each role, but remember to only focus upon the positions that are relevant to the new employer otherwise you are taking up valuable space. You don’t actually need to list the tasks for some of your older roles that you know won’t be of interest to the hiring manager. Focus only upon providing more details and results for the relevant and most recent roles.

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