Ten tips for writing the perfect CV

The next amazing job might be around the corner, but is your CV up to it? William Snell, CV expert, gives us an insight into writing the perfect CV 

Writing a CV should be simple. You find a template, list your jobs and duties, then your education, check for typos, and it’s ready to go.

Then the doubts kick in. You look again and decide it’s not selling you enough so you include a profile at the top and maybe some interests; then you remember a few more things you did in your last but one job that need to be added.

Now it’s got more words but looks a bit dull, so you add a border, or a different font, an extra colour here and there. Or maybe some tables would work better, or a sidebar? Then you Google ‘How to write a CV’ and you’re faced with a virtual mountain of advice.

So it’s not that simple after all! To help you, I’ve come up with ten tips to guide you in creating a CV that is truly fit-for-purpose and that you can be confident in sending to an employer.

Tip 1: Remind yourself of what a CV is for

A CV is not an answer to the instruction, ‘Write down everything you have ever done in every job.’ It is a summary of your skills and achievements designed to make whoever reads it want to meet you.

Tip 2: Targeting is essential

Your CV must speak to a specific audience. Consider who will read it, and the triggers that will prompt them to ask to meet you. Align the language in each CV you send precisely with relevant job specifications.

Tip 3: Develop a personal brand in place of a generic profile

Most personal profiles are so generic that they lose all meaning. Your profile should be about you, specifically, and what you can do. So, in place of ‘I’m a strategic, results-orientated manager with a proven track record of success,’ how about, ‘I’m a practice manager who delivers management systems that reduce costs and increase patient satisfaction.’

Tip 4: Focus on high-level skills

List higher-level skills only. For example, ‘MS Office’ isn’t a skill any more, it’s taken as read. Your skills should be relevant and impressive.

Tip 5: Give achievements, not duties

Your audience will most likely already know the core duties of your various roles, so there’s no benefit at all in listing them all – focus on key, unique achievements such as an IT system you implemented, or a reduction in waiting times.

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Tip 6: Use quotes

Do you have a quote from a performance review or colleague that says how calm you are in a crisis, or how well you managed a project? Including a quote or two is a great way to boast about your skills – without boasting about your skills!

Tip 7: Facts and figures work

Include plenty of numbers – project timescales, budgets and savings, and more. Do this and, together with the quotes, above, you’ll be conveying some impressive evidence of what you can do.

Tip 8: Delete the CV speak

Your CV shouldn’t contain the words and phrases that most people just can’t resist sprinkling all over the paper – ‘hard-working’, ‘results-orientated’, ‘strategic thinker’, ‘proven track record of success’, ‘excellent communication skills’ etc. These don’t add value, and should be removed.

Tip 9: Go easy on the formatting

Think about the core purpose of a CV. Does that border or graphic really make an interview more likely? Probably not. What about text boxes or tables, or just one more creative font?

Don’t be tempted; you’ve no idea how they’ll look on another PC, Mac or mobile device.

Tip 10: Don’t ask your CV to do all the work

Use a covering letter or email to add value by giving extra evidence of your suitability, or to anticipate questions by explaining career breaks. Golden rule: a covering letter should never just repeat what’s in your CV.

In summary, remember that it’s a real person who will read your CV, and they’ll be genuinely wanting it to contain interesting and relevant information conveyed in a clear and no-nonsense manner. So always think of that person, and make it easy for them to decide they want to meet you.

William is a recruitment expert. In 1998 he co-founded Gallery Resources, a niche marketing recruitment business, where he remains a director. Today he uses his extensive recruitment experience to write CVs and provide job search advice to professionals in all sectors.

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