How to Produce the Perfect CV

Written by Lesley Cowley OBE CCMI Monday 07 January 2019
Lesley Cowley Obe Ccmi Shares Her Quick Cv Hacks for Those Looking for a New Post in 2019
Man with laptop and notepad

Eager job-hunters will upload more CVs online today than on any other day of the year according to author and recruitment agency founder James Reed.

Are you one of the many people with a 2019 New Year’s resolution of ‘new year, new job’? Here are our five tips to ensure your CV lands you an interview, rather than landing in the bin.

1. Make a Great First Impression

If you dislike self-promotion, view your CV as a business case for interviewing you. The most effective way to showcase your strengths is to include a compelling summary statement of up to five lines that shows what you are known for and what you would bring to the role.

“A CV is a marketing document that uses the basic principles of advertising to promote you as a desirable asset,” says Simon Scantlebury, executive career coach.

2. Tailor Your CV

Time spent researching the opportunity will help you decide if it is really for you and whether you would be a good fit. Use your research to tailor your CV for every application by spelling out how you match the opportunity. This will improve your chances of being shortlisted and also boost your interview performance. This might sound obvious, but if you have had to provide a generic CV to a recruitment agency, you should amend your CV before they put you forward for a specific role.

3. Provide Context and Evidence

As well as your job title, recent roles on your CV should include the budget/ turnover and number of staff that you managed. Include up to five bullet points that name your key achievements using action verbs such as ‘delivered’, ‘increased’ or ‘improved’. The oldest roles on your CV will only need a company name, title and start/finish dates.

4. Strike the Right Tone

CVs written in the third person come across as more professional and polished, but avoid using your name or pronouns, such as ‘she/he’. Don’t use acronyms or jargon – it’s much better to write words fully than to assume that the reader will know what abbreviations mean. This is particularly important when you are aiming to move between sectors.

“The critical point about CVs is that they should be designed for the reader, not the writer. Remember your audience,” says Heather Greatrex, director of Executive Action.

Perfect CVs are two pages long – more than long enough to impress. Don’t achieve the two-page limit by reducing your font size to 10 or lower. “A long CV risks being interpreted as a negative indicator of the candidate’s communication skills,” admits talent management consultant Emma West.

5. Make It Perfect and Memorable

Some memorable applications (for the wrong reasons) that I’ve seen include:

  • The candidate who included a copy of a recent swimming certificate
  • The CV with tracked changes including changed dates and employers
  • The ten-page CV that included every course the candidate had ever attended
  • The CV with what looked like a photo of the candidate in a pub
  • When you are happy with your draft, get someone else to carefully proofread it for you. Don’t forget to print a copy in the format you have used – sometimes a printed version will vary from the on-screen version. Good luck!
Lesley Cowley

Lesley Cowley

OBE CCMI is chair of the DVLA and Companies House