How to write a great CV

Writing a CV can be frustrating. You know you could do the job you’re applying to, but how do you write a CV that convinces the Hiring Manager of that? There is a minefield of information out there about what you should and shouldn’t do, so much so that it can leave you even more clueless than when you first started.

Your CV is all about marketing yourself and your skills, so before you get started, it is a good idea to list all your responsibilities and achievements so they are all fresh in your mind, especially if this is the first update in a long time.

Read on for our CV tips!

How to make your cv stand out?

Every CV should be a bespoke document for the specific role you are applying for. It’s vital that you know what the top 3-4 identifiers your client is looking for and highlight these at the top of your CV. – Graham Walker, Country Director, Australia

What personal information should be on a CV?

Make sure your contact details are on there, such as your email address and phone number. We recommend keeping your personal information quite brief on your CV – you don’t need to go into too much detail and don’t worry about attaching a photo to your CV.

No Photo – it’s not necessary and is irrelevant to the application and let’s face it – it is out of date as soon as you add it.” – Jacqui Barratt, CEO.

Read our article on Why a photo on your CV may not be the best idea.

What to write in your CV profile? 

People tend to use this space to waffle. Keep the profile section concise (as a rough guide around 4-6 sentences in length and approximately 200 words).

To help you write this part, we recommend focusing on the following:

  1. Describe who you are
  2. Summarise your career experience and what role you’re looking for.
  3. Sell your skills and experience
  4. Highlight the relevant experience you’ve had and back it up with evidence; making sure you keep it concise and avoid buzzwords. Here you highlight your top skills and strengths to show the company how you are a good fit. It’s handy to use the job description too so you can match your skills and experience with the required skills.
  5. Highlight your career goals
  6. Finish off your profile with what you’re hoping to get from the role you’re applying to.

Make your achievements clearly visible. People often list just their responsibilities in a CV rather than achievements. Money made, audiences grown, followers acquired, percentage improvement in conversion, or whatever your role’s main goals are – make sure employers can see why you have made a difference above and beyond the other applicants. – Chris Ward, Marketing Sales Director, UK

What skills should be put on a CV?

It is good to highlight your key skills. However, you do not need to add ‘written and verbal communication skills’ or ‘proficient at word’, these are generic skills that add no value to your CV – we know you’re great at these already!

Instead, include key skills in your industry and any software you are familiar with. For example, if you’re applying for a job in design, it would be beneficial to include design software skills such as Adobe Photoshop and InDesign.

Be wary of using skill bars that give you a percentage of skill level as there is no universal way of judging this, instead attach examples of your work to really show what you can do.

My top tip is to focus on actual measurable achievements you have produced in your CV rather than a list of job responsibilities. i.e. What have you actually changed for your company? –

Richard Smith, Country Director, UAE

How much work history should be on a CV?

In order to keep your CV concise and relevant, the employment history section should only include your last 5 to 6 positions in reverse chronological order.

Under each job description include 3-4 points of achievements, not your job responsibilities.

For example:

Developed a social media strategy and increased followers by 20,000.
Instead of: ‘managed company X’s social media.’

Should I include side projects on a CV?

If you do something on the side that you’re passionate about; shows your skillset and adds value – include it! Which leads us on to…

What hobbies should I put on a CV?

This is not a necessity unless it adds value to your CV. For example, running your own blog, freelancing projects or charity work are all good stuff to include.

There is no shame in just completely removing this section if it’s not relevant to you.

Should I attach CV documents or create a website?

If you’re a designer, writer or content creator, you will have some examples of work that you would like to present. Whilst attaching documents is fine, it is good to think of how the person may be reading your email – it could be on their smartphone so, a straight forward link taking them to your work would be easier.

It is up to you how you display your work. Either way, make sure all of your links work, your website or document is easy to navigate, and your experience is clear to see at a quick scan.

How do I write a CV without work experience?

We understand it’s unhelpful to suggest you go out and get some experience as we all know it is not that easy. If, however, your experience is very limited, internships are a great way to boost your skills.

You could also:

Start a self-initiated project – whether it’s looking at an existing company’s app and deciding to redesign it; taking over the marketing for a family friend or even asking local small businesses if you can do their social media for a couple of months, you can learn lots of relevant skills and also show dedication.

Emphasise your transferable skills – Look at the role you are currently in and the skills you have, then highlight how they can be transferable into the new role.

Or, what if I want a career change?

This is all about highlighting your skills and how they are transferable in your new career. Pick skills that are mentioned in the job description and how you have had success with them. Be honest about your career change and tell a story of what you are doing and why you are looking for a new career.

Do I need to include references on my cv?

Often as part of the hiring process, employers may want to make contact with your previous colleagues to learn more about you. It’s generally good practice to include 2-3 references on your CV and if you find you have enough space, include a quote from each to highlight their opinion of you.

How long should a CV be?

When done right, a CV that is 1 page can really stand out. Canva offers excellent, free cv templates that can help you with the structure if you aren’t sure how to fit everything necessary onto a single A4 page.

I think a key thing on a CV for me is length; anything more than 2 or, absolute max, 3 pages is just too long. I also think that the CV format should be a brief overview, some clear and easy to read bullet points about your key achievements and then go into your work history. If the overview and achievements are impressive and catchy, then the rest of the CV will be looked at; if not, then it probably won’t. – James Walsh, Regional Director, USA

Whilst in some cases it may not be impractical, those candidates that are able to skillfully present their experience in a compelling, comprehensive way and achieve this on 1 page of A4 will stand out. There is a real art to this, but I’ve seen it done and it tends to have a very positive impact if it’s done right. – Sam Baxendale, Regional Director, Malaysia

Final Checks

  • Make sure you proof-read your CV.
  • Check the grammar – if you’re writing in 1st person or 3rd person, make sure it’s consistent throughout. We recommend writing in 3rd person as it’s a lot easier for you to write about yourself and tell a story about your career. If you’re writing about your current role, keep it in the present tense and when talking about previous roles, write in the past tense.
  • We recommend using Grammarly (free) which will scan all your work for errors.
  • Remember that you’re marketing yourself, so make sure you get all your achievements on your CV.

If you are thinking about a new role, refresh your CV and check out our job page to find the right role for you.

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