CV tips

I have had the 'opportunity' to read hundreds of CVs over the course of my career. While I might love interviewing, I'm not quite so keen on reading CVs.  Reading a huge stack of CVs is not a lot of fun. It's just the broken glass you have to crawl over in order to hire good people.  

Much of the advice here should be common sense but over and over again I see CVs that could really use some help. Quite honestly, half the battle is making the experience of reading your CV as painless as possible. People run out of patience very quickly with anything even slightly irritating in a CV when they've already read 20 and have another 30 to go.

1. Make sure your CV is one page long;

  • If it's more than one page it has a significantly lower chance of being read properly and if I was sent a CV that was three pages long I would probably put it straight in the bin
  • A long CV does not mean you have a lot great experience to write about. A long CV tells me you are good at wasting my time, do not have the ability to be efficient and concise or have been job-hopping like crazy

 2. If it's been 5 to 10 years since you updated your CV then start again from scratch.  It's not like you have to do this very often so put in some effort!

  • You are different now than your were at the start of your career (I hope!) and your perception of what you did then will be different now too.  I want to hear from the current you, so rewrite the whole thing from your current point of view.  It shouldn't feel like I'm reading the thoughts of a college graduate by the time I get halfway down the page.  I don't care what the project was called that you did really well and saved the company almost £5,000 per year; hopefully it is too far beneath what you're currently capable of to warrant calling out in detail

3. Write the most about your most recent experience and the least about the least recent. I see CVs that are amazingly detailed and full of enthusiasm regarding what someone did when they were 20, yet the person is now 30 and given it a half-arsed update and sent out with their most recent role having almost no detail at all.  

  • For roles anything more than 10 years old you really just need a bullet point or two
  • Anything more than 5 years old only really needs two to four
  • Don't feel the need to write down every piece of detail. You will have plenty of opportunity to talk about it in the interview

4. Keep personal statements brief and to the point (a few sentences is plenty) and do not use millions of flowery adjectives

  • "I am a Java developer with 10 years experience looking for a new role within the Finance industry which will help be deepen my business knowledge of Fixed Income" is great. It tells me who you are, what you do and where you want to go
  • "I am self-motivated, self-starter team player with excellent timekeeping and communication skills, and blah blah blah" tells me very little except that you think that turning up on time and being able to use a phone is somehow sets you apart from the masses

5. Try to summon some form of enthusiasm about writing your CV - it will come across in the reading.  If you've been pushing it around your to-do list like the last pea on a childs dinner plate and it feels like  the most boring thing in the world to write, then chances are that's exactly how it'll read

  • Try explaining your roles and experience to a friend or family member (and do it with enthusiasm - sell it to them!), then have them read your CV and see if you've captured anything of that enthusiasm

6. If you have a degree or post grad education then only include university education on your CV.  Your GCSE in French that you have forgotten 99.9% of by now is just a waste of space on your 1-page CV

7. Do not make up hobbies that sound like you're sooo interested in your job you do it for fun when you get home, for instance if you're a computer programmer, don't put computer programming as a hobby

  • People will either a) believe you and think you have no life and will not wish to speak to you, or b) think you are lying.  Neither is very good.  So even if it's true please think of something else!
  • Reading books and watching films are not hobbies
  • Neither is watching football.  Even if you've been a season ticket holder since you were 3 years old
  • Something active (taking part, not watching) or arty are good bets
  • If you really have nothing to write then seriously, think about taking up a hobby; they are good for you!  I offer photography training.  Get in touch and I will help you get started with your new photography hobby!

8. Formatting - please, nothing 'fancy'.  It's not impressive, it's just naff

  • No overly 'cool' / 'arty' fonts.  If I get a CV in Comic Sans or script, it is instantly in the bin. Times New Roman, Arial or similar only please!
  • No decorative boarders; this is not an invite to your 7th birthday party
  • Keep it businesslike and simple
  • A nice, clean, simply laid out CV with have your prospective manager breathing a sigh of relief.  That's a great first impression

If you have a role in which you've had to read a lot of CVs, please feel free to add your own top tips below in the comments

Next week I will be making a neat, modern looking CV template available to download for free.  Why not sign up to my blog so you never miss a post?