How to write the perfect CV

More and more recently, while the job market is a little quieter than it has been, I’m being asked ‘Does my CV look ok?’ or ‘Would you change anything?’. So I figured a helpful post was in order to share with you my version of Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to writing a good CV.

As a recruiter I see my fair share of excellent CVs right through to the pretty questionable. This is just a guide, everyone is different, but I’d say every good CV follows a similar structure. So without further ado, let’s get stuck in.

The obvious.

Name and contact details, location, list of employers and job titles.

The generic Do’s and Don’ts.

Keep it to 2-3 pages max – the hiring manager probably has 30 CVs to get through, so if yours is longer than The Lord of the Rings, they might switch off. 

In an attempt to squeeze all you’ve written into just about 3 pages, don’t use really tiny font – it’s not an eye test. Font size 10-12 will do!

Don’t put ‘CV’ or ‘Curriculum Vitae’ – It’s just stating the obvious and takes up unnecessary space. Your name at the top of the page is far more helpful.

Key words – If you have a hiring manager that barely has time for a quick sandwich and just wants to scan over your CV, key words will stand out big time. If you’ve done Compliance Monitoring, be specific – Was it Communications Monitoring? Market Abuse Monitoring?

Language – there are some generic words and phrases that are really overused and won’t make your CV stand out even though that’s your intention. Things like ‘passionate’, ‘attention to detail’, ‘hardworking’ etc. Why not use words like ‘devoted’, ‘meticulous’, or ‘diligent’?

Less is more. Keep it simple. Don’t play around with the formatting too much and try and squeeze jobs side by side on the page for example as it becomes too difficult to read. 

A picture of yourself on the CV isn’t really the done thing. Plus it just takes up space. Include a link to your LinkedIn profile instead. Make sure your LinkedIn is up to date and include a picture!

Include a short summary about you at the top of your CV, or a ‘Personal Profile’. Not a full page. Not just 1 sentence either, but a short paragraph of why you’re so great!

Tailor your CV for each job. If you’re quite generalist in the role that you do currently but are applying for something in Compliance Advisory for example, then make sure to highlight and emphasise the Advisory work you do now to give yourself a better chance. 

Career Summary.

Only include the relevant / most recent jobs you’ve had. If you worked at Burger King in the summer of ’89 while at Uni, your potential new employer in 2020 isn’t interested. Unless of course you are applying for a job at Burger King.

For each job include the company name & location, your job title, and the specific dates you were there. 2017-2018 is too vague, make sure to include the months too.

With each job, include a sentence or two summarising the team you were in and how it fits into the wider company… ‘Business Analyst’ and a couple of bullet points isn’t enough. Paint the picture!

At the same time, don’t waffle on for a whole page per job. A couple of summary sentences to start with and roughly 10 bullet points outlining your key responsibilities is a rough guide.

Career breaks – we all have them on our CVs. But if you were out of work for a year and you’ve just put ‘career break’ but haven’t said why, it might leave the interviewer wondering. Did you travel? Volunteer? Renovate a house? Let us know!

Education / Professional Qualifications

This is a big one that a lot of people miss out. While some think this is absolutely essential, others feel it’s pointless especially if they went to school a long time ago. Is the interviewer going to ring up your head teacher from 20 years ago for a reference? No. But again, it helps paint the picture of how you got to where you are now. Really important to include the grades you got too by the way!

For the younger candidates among us, you might want to include some information on the projects and assignments you did as this might have a little more weighting to your application. For the more work-experienced individuals; Subject, grade, School and years attended is more than fine.

Most people do include this, but if you’ve completed any professional qualifications since you left school obviously include these too. Diplomas and the alike.

Additional sections

Hobbies and interests is a common one of course! Only if you have a few though, don’t feel obliged to include this if you like to spend all your time outside of work on the sofa watching Made in Chelsea.

Languages spoken is a good one, especially if the employer you’re applying to is international. You never know, your conversational French and Spanish might come in handy!

If you have other key skills worth mentioning, get that in there. Are you an Excel Expert? Tell me. Are you a Microsoft Word Wizard? Get that in there. Or maybe a PowerPoint Prodigy? Sing it from the rooftops!

As I said before, this is a rough guide and everyone’s CV will have subtle differences, but I hope there’s some useful information in here for everyone. Best of luck with your job searches and if I can be of assistance with anything else then you know where to find me!