CV Tips

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CV Tips

Follow these top ten tips to make your CV sparkle… 

1. Google “CV templates” and you’ll be taken to a number of free templates that will help you write your CV. If in doubt about the structure, start with your current job and work backwards to your school days. Don’t leave any “gaps” as they will be spotted – if you were out of work for a year explain why and emphasise what skills you learned during your year’s enforced unemployment (job-hunting skills, living on a budget etc).

 2. Tailor your CV to each job. Keep the master CV for yourself but marry the CV to the job for which you are applying. Read the job advert/specification carefully and think about which skills you have acquired which would suit that job. List at the end of each academic course or previous job which skills these taught you that would be appropriate to the job advertised.

 3. The covering letter. Make sure your covering letter (which should be typed, not handwritten) makes it clear which job you are applying for.  Large companies in particular may be advertising several jobs at once so they need to know which one you are after. Explain in the covering letter where you saw the job advertised and, briefly, why you feel it is the job for you.

 4. Layout. Your future boss will be viewing dozens of CVs so your CV needs to stand out from the crowd. And if it’s pleasing to look at, there’s more chance it will be read. That means plenty of white space, particularly around the edges. The occasional coloured heading can help but keep it minimal – this has to look business-like. WH Smiths and other stationers sell quality paper in small packs (perhaps a slightly tinted one will be appropriate) which will lift yours above the many others done on cheap white A4 paper. Once again Google can help. Type “best CV layout” into Google images and you’ll be treated to many fine examples you can copy.

 5. A photo of yourself. There are job experts who advise against including a photo in your CV but I’d always recommend it. Primarily because it helps the boss remember which candidate you were. He or she will see several over a few hours and can easily get confused. A picture makes for a simple reminder and, again, can help your CV stand out from the crowd.

 6. Grammar and spelling. In this age of spell-checks and grammar checks there’s really no excuse for simple errors. But beware of American spellings that creep in with so many spell-checks. Ask a friend (preferably a well-educated one!) to proof-read it for you. One tip is to read the CV backwards. This forces the brain to look at one word at a time instead of second-guessing the ‘correct’ spelling as you read forwards. 

7.  Sending a CV on spec. There’s no harm in sending a copy of your CV to a company even if they are not currently advertising vacancies. In the covering letter explain that you are sending it on spec and ask them to keep it on file. Keep this CV more general than one aimed at a particular post. There may be a range of jobs of interest to you, even if it’s only one to get your “foot in the door”. 

8.  The electronic CV. A number of organisations are now asking for job applicants to email a letter and CV. Beware! The main problem here is attaching your CV in a format the employer cannot read. You and Microsoft may like to think that the whole world uses Microsoft Word (but which version?) but it’s simply not the case. And a busy boss is more likely to hit the delete button than email you back for a version in plain text. The safest format is probably PDF. You can create a PDF document using software such as Primo PDF ( which works like a “print button”. But I’d also attach a plain text version (ie created in Notepad) just in case. A link to a CV on your personal website is also good but make sure it prints out okay – some web pages are too clever for their own good and ‘fall apart’ when sent to a printer.

 9. Gimmicks. Just one word: “Don’t”! Trying to make yourself stand out by printing your CV in white text on a black background, being too chatty, doing it in verse and all the other gimmicks have a one-in-a-thousand chance of working. This is the time to present yourself as safe, professional but slightly ahead of the crowd. Save the clever stuff for when you’ve shown you can do the job – and been doing it for a number of years!

 10. Check and double check. It hardly needs saying but so many job applicants fall at the last fence: a CV addressed to the wrong department, after deadline or with the manager’s name spelt wrong on the envelope. Take 30 minutes to do a final check. Have a final read also of the job advert and make sure you’ve ‘ticked all the boxes’ with regard to information they require. 

Good luck!