Your glorious career: how to fit it on a CV

A good CV can make all the difference in getting you shortlisted for the job you want. Here are some tips for getting it right.


If you read the self-help books on how to write a perfect CV you will get very contradictory advice. But these tips should help you avoid common pitfalls.

There is a great deal of debate over the “perfect” length for a CV. My advice is that a three-page CV is better than two pages of cramped, small type. If it stretches to four pages or more, get editing! Clarity and quality of layout are essential, so use lots of headings, bold type and white space to make it easier to read. Remember the particular stage of the recruitment process will determine whether your CV is read thoroughly or given a skim reading. Don’t assume it will be read thoroughly so make it easy read at speed.

Include your private email and mobile number, so that you can be contacted during the day.

Long introductions full of subjective phrases such as “dynamic, entrepreneurial, people person” are a mistake. Quotes from your managers are valid, self-promotion is not. If you do use an introduction make sure that it contains three or four key highlights of your recent career.

While details of your qualifications are important, your future employer does not need to know that you got a B in your Geography GCSE. List total number of GCSEs and the subjects in your A-Levels. Only put grades if they are particularly strong. If you have a degree, give details of subject, class of degree and where you studied.

List any managerial or non-technical training and, in particular, external courses.

The point of a CV is to help you obtain an interview for your next role. Therefore the emphasis should be on the experiences that make you qualified for such a role. The earlier part of your career is only a brief guide to how you got to where you are today. The emphasis should be on your current and previous role.

Your career history should be in reverse order. Put the dates (include the month), employer and your last role at each company in bold. Give a brief over-view of your employer’s business – only a couple of lines – so the reader has an understanding of the environment you were working in.

Outline your objectives and the challenges for each role, then list your achievements. Always prioritise your achievements and make sure they are clearly linked to objectives. The size of teams and budgets you have managed should always be included.

If you have performed more than one role for an employer, make sure you list them all with relevant dates.

Make sure that any promotions are highlighted. Candidates who always have to move to achieve promotion are often less valued than those that receive internal promotions

A one-line explanation of why you moved from one employer to another is useful. Do not put “was headhunted” as a reason for changing employers. Make sure you stress positive reasons for moving to appear in control of your career.

The nature of the roles that you have performed and the one that you aspire to will influence the degree of detail you go into about your technical expertise. Do not list every single technology that you and your team have encountered. It is important to give a clear impression of where your strengths are. Any over-audacious claims will be exposed during an interview.

There is no need to include references at this stage. They can be submitted at the appropriate time.

If you are going to include interests, do so at the end of the CV. There is no point in listing “reading, socialising and children”. If you do not have any particular interests then do not include anything. You may get asked about them, so do not list anything which can not be substantiated. It is best to avoid anything contentious.

In conclusion, avoid witticisms or any criticisms of employers. If you have taken career breaks, give a brief explanation. Most importantly, do not write anything that cannot be backed up by references. Any inkling that the CV contains incorrect information and your entire credibility may be destroyed.

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