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The dos and don’ts of CV writing

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The dos and don’ts of CV writing

Looking for a new job? Don’t send your CV out for another role until you’ve read this!

You’d think writing a CV would be straightforward, but submitting a job application is actually a fine art.

Steve Thompson, the Managing Director here at Forward Role, says:

“First impressions are everything. Your CV is a platform to make a great first impression, but when it comes to putting one together, not everyone knows what works.”

It’s time to reveal exactly what’s so wrong with most CVs, and what could be so right.


The problem:


54 CVs 

The typical number of applications recruiters receive for each position advertised. If yours doesn’t stand out, it won’t make the cut.

10 seconds

How long a recruiter will spend deciding whether you make the shortlist. So it’d better be good, it’d better be clear, it’d better be relevant, and it’d better be compelling.

1 mistake

All it takes for some recruiters to begin to doubt your credibility. Double and triple check your spelling. A second pair of eyes often helps pick up any stragglers.

3 candidates

Only this many applications generally make it to the company in question, and not all of these will make it to interview.


The solution


We reached out to the people who make the decisions in businesses in different sectors and asked them what makes the difference between a CV ending up in the small ‘yes’ pile or the large ‘no’ pile.

This is what they told us…


CV dos


DO use white space

Your CV should be an ‘at a glance’ summary. It should use formatting, bullet points and white space for readability and to direct the scanning eye.

Gordon Kaye, co-founder and director at Cathcart Associates has this advice: Remember these three words – clear, concise, simple.”

If you’re creating thin margins or using a tiny font size to fit everything on one page, make yourself familiar with the backspace button and start using it!


DO get real

It’s easy to slip into using terminology that’s unique to the company you currently work for. After all, by now it’s probably second nature.

Before sending it to a recruiter, ask a friend from another company to read and weed your CV to remove any idiosyncratic jargon.


DO be social

If you have a LinkedIn profile, blog or a portfolio site that is directly relevant, shout about it! Once you’re in the initial ‘yes’ pile, it can help you to stay there.

According to Tim Redgate, Co-Founder of EchoMany, you should be careful though, as your personal Facebook page or Instagram profile may place you on that dreaded ‘no’ spike: What do your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts say about you?  If they are a continuous stream of unflattering pictures from after-dark socialising, it might set off a few alarm bells!”


DO select the best

Only include work experience that is directly relevant, or that showcases transferrable skills.

Forget about the three bullets discussing your cash handling skills in your student job at Tesco and really focus on the relevant commercial and academic experience you have for the specific role you’re applying for.

If only highly relevant information is on your CV, it will get read. If you ask the recruiter to find the gems amid the guff, they’ll get lost. And so will your chances!


DO make a statement

Cover letters have been replaced in the main by a clear opening statement or career profile at the top of page one of your CV.

A CV without this section is like a limp handshake. 

The Career Profile should be the place where you say why you really want this job. It can also be used to highlight some evidence-based reasons why you should be considered for it. (We recommend no more than three.)

Just be sure to avoid phrases like “I’m a driven and hardworking individual” – because isn’t everyone!


DO sell your personality

Personality and culture fit are a huge deal for lots of businesses, so a CV that tells them nothing about who you are as a person generally won’t work in your favour.

For Marketing roles in particular, personality is incredibly important, so don’t be afraid to try and raise a smile with your CV copy.

While it shouldn’t be the main focus of your submission, including a short section on hobbies and interests demonstrates that you find time to be passionate about other pursuits outside of work. Nobody wants to work with a robot, and discussing hobbies is a good opportunity to bond with your potential employer.


CV don’ts


DON’T include irrelevant work experience

Remove all clutter: it’s just noise, and you want your voice to be heard.

Laura Hampton, Marketing Manager at Impression, echoes this point: “It's important your CV best reflects your skills in the most appropriate way for the job you want. That doesn't mean doctoring your experience – simply ensure your relevant skills are most prominent.”


DON’T show your age

In an era of equal opportunities, including your marital status, religious preference or age simply suggests you’ve slept through a couple of decades. As do double spaces after a full stop!


DON’T use personal pronouns

This is less immediately obvious, but there’s no need to use personal pronouns like ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘he’ or ‘my’ in your CV. It’s simply redundant.

Similarly, your phone number and email don’t need labelling as such.


DON’T use an inappropriate email address

Speaking of email addresses, make sure you use a professional one and not the hotmail address you made for MSN messenger when you were 12 years old.

Gareth Jones, Commercial Manager at Kit Out My Office, has run into some questionable email addresses before: It’s better to keep your email address to or something similar as opposed to or “


DON’T create a disasterpiece

Some people think being artistic with their CVs is the key to standing out, but it’s easy to go too far.

Amy Shaw, Senior Digital PR Executive at The Femedic says: While it's great to have something a bit out of the ordinary, it can be off-putting if you can't find the information you need quickly.”


DON’T explain departures

Your CV shows you have the skills and personality for the role. Your reasons for leaving a previous position are irrelevant to this, so don’t bring them up.

 You can save details like this for the interview.


DON’T just fire it off

Tailor your CV for the role each time you send it.

Ensure the skills you highlight match those that are sought, and make sure they can be seen at a glance.


Your CV is your chance to sell yourself


Your CV needs to sell you. But specifically, it needs to sell you to the role you’re applying for. And don’t forget, it needs to stand out among a pile of about 53 other candidates.

With these dos and don’ts, you can transform your average application into a standout submission, putting you closer to that ‘yes’ pile than ever before.

So you know exactly what to do.

Go get that job!