What does your CV say about you?

As a recruiter, we see lots of CVs on a daily basis of varying detail, quality and style. Here are some top tips on how to present your CV and avoid common mistakes.

There are lots of different types of CV out there. There is definitely an increasing trend towards the more visually striking format that summarises a person’s career, achievements and skills. No one format is right for everyone – it is about recognising what is appropriate for you and the type of organisation and sector you want to work in.

In any CV, it is helpful to have a summary at the top introducing yourself. This is where you can tailor it depending on the role you are applying for or sector in which you wish to work. Include keywords from the job description and highlight your hard skills (qualifications etc) and soft skills (creativity etc). If you have less experience or are moving sector, show your transferable skills and enthusiasm – explain why you want to work in that particular field.

A technical role that requires detail on specific experience lends itself well to a more traditional CV where you can highlight all of your specialisms and experience in your sector.

For a graduate or those with a shorter employment history, a visual CV can be a clearer way to bring the recruiter’s attention to your key skills and ambition. This can also be useful for creative and marketing roles where you want to be able to demonstrate some of your creativity. If you decide to go for a more concise format, you should ideally be aiming for one page. You will need to consider what information you are going to include and whether this will best reflect you. Don’t comprise on content to get the visual look you want.

You’d be surprised how many candidates forget to spell check their CV. Spelling errors and grammatical mistakes are an instant turn off for employers – particularly if your job requires attention to detail. This includes auto correct mistakes so make sure you read your CV through more than once before submitting. Get a friend or family member to read it too to check for any mistakes you may have overlooked.

Equally, check your CV for tone and format, to ensure consistency throughout. We would also recommend talking in the first person (rather than referring to yourself in the third) but whichever format you use, make sure you don’t change halfway through.

Start with your most recent employment and work backwards. Highlight key achievements and quantify them where possible (increased revenue, footfall etc.). In some cases, it may be advisable to provide a full employment history, particularly if you are earlier in your career. Otherwise, for early career positions that are not relevant to your current experience, one line on when and where you worked coupled with the job title will suffice.

We receive more CVs now than ever that contain a profile picture. We generally advise that a photograph is not needed or expected particularly to avoid unconscious, or even conscious, bias but this trend is changing. A token profile picture on an otherwise non-visual CV is not recommended as it does not add much and is better omitted. However, if your CV is visual and skills focussed for a customer facing or marketing role, a profile picture can help to make you more personable. In any case, if you are going to include a photo, ensure it is professional, good quality and ideally a headshot only.

If you include a link to your LinkedIn profile (or other platform), ensure the information is consistent, up to date and professional. Your social media profiles become an extension of your CV and more employers now review candidates on social media before inviting them to interview.

CVs are never right or wrong – you have to decide what works best for you. Be critical and get a colleague, friend or family member to check over your CV. Whatever format you use, make sure that it works for you and that it is accurately tailored to the role for which you are applying.

An array of templates are available online as a starting point. Whilst these can be useful, make sure you are not shoe horning your experience and skills in to fit a predesigned template.

If you are submitting your CV to recruitment agencies, take advantage of their experience and ask whether there is anything you can do to improve your CV. They can give you insight into what their clients in the sectors in which you want to work are looking for.

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