How to: Write a CV

  • September 18, 2019

Written by Peter Grint, Operations Manager at IDPP


This isn't an out-of-the-blue article. This has been in the making for a while. Or at least, I've been thinking about writing it for a while.

It's not a particularly new idea. Top Tips for CV writing are abundant if you pop a quick search into Google. There are videos, templates, even entire companies who complete CV reviews and provide feedback. I'm sure that certain job boards offer this as a service when you sign up with them, and what a fantastic service to provide!

The fundamental concept of any currency based economy is: Earn £, spend £. Now that first step requires you to have a job (most of the time, there are exceptions [Love Island??]). And of course, to have a job, you need to get a job, and to get a job you need to interview... I could go on all day. Basically, our global economy depends at least partly on having a well written, easily readable, job relevant CV to get the process started.

Another quick point to note, is how your profession influences the favours your asked for in your personal life. I confess, I've been guilty of asking my mechanic friend if he could "just take a quick look at my car, it's making a funny noise" or to do a service "on the cheap".

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Looking specifically at the IT Sector, there are a number of posts, such as this one by NaCl that highlight this lack of boundary between professional and personal life. Or this comic from which shows the path from doing someone a quick favor, to becoming your social circles technical support. Again, I confess, I've been on both sides of this! The same applies, however, to the Recruitment sector. As soon as you tell someone that you are a recruiter, work with recruiters, or review CVs in anyway, the requests start to trickle in, as demonstrated by this screenshot.

So here it is, top tips on writing your CV, which I hope will apply to you whatever stage you may be at in your career.

Target through Research

You may be eager to grab a CV template or open up a new document and just start typing. I'd suggest that your CV building process starts long before you actually start writing your CV. Figure out what you want from your next role, in terms of location, industry, skills you'd like to develop, the culture you're looking for, the company size that may appeal to you, and anything else that you may feel is important.

If you want to work at a bank, don't start your CV with "Whassup?" and if you want to work in an office that replaces chairs with bean-bags and has a foosball table, avoid talking about how much you loved your previous corporate environment and are looking for something similar.

I would absolutely recommend looking at job descriptions (just go on job boards) and looking at the key skills and requirements, and then integrate examples of that (or highlight those skills) in your CV.

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In the image, you can see that the terms highlighted can easily be converted into a cover letter but literally taking the words that they've used, and providing some examples of your history around those requirements to show that you are not only capable for this role, but ideal for it!

Key Skills and Key Points

A key skills section will:

  • allow hiring managers to quickly and easily see what you bring to the table
  • reduce the risk of your CV being skimmed over and not actually read

Bullet points will:

  • grab attention more effectively than long, drawn out paragraphs.
  • highlight key points
  • just look how quickly you've already covered these bullet points

You're not writing an essay, your essentially highlighting key bits of information that you can expand upon at interview stage.

Include your job title

Especially where your current and desired job title are the same. You'll appear in more searches. If they are different, make sure you point out what job you're seeking (ideally tailored to the job you are applying for!).

Don't just show what you have done, but what you CAN do

By this I mean, there are certain things that business' have to take into consideration beyond the cultural fit and skill set. These are closely linked to the dominant buying motives. If you can give examples of how you did the following previously (for your employer or educational body), it will put you in good stead;

  • Made money
  • Saved money
  • Made working life easier/more efficient
  • Improved security
  • Built pride of ownership (Brand Recognition)
  • Emotional Satisfaction (will only apply to certain industries such as child care, care for the elderly, hospitals etc)

Also, don't just say what you did, but what the consequences were!

You could write: "Finding and talking to potential candidates."

Or you could explain how your actions had additional (positive) outcomes: "Finding and talking to potential candidates to build relationships and gather real-time market knowledge for sales and business development purposes."

Lose the "" or ""

These were fine when you were an MSN Machine back in the 90s and naughties. The point is, your email address should be professional. Try something along the lines of and if necessary, put some numbers at the end (nothing too complicated, a 123 or similar normally works).

Don't worry about images

Again, there will be some exceptions to this rule, but generally, a photo of yourself won't serve any real purpose and may open you up to some forms of discrimination or prejudice. Also, logos of companies that you've worked with take up quite a few kigajobytes, and we all know what most logos look like already.

If I say McDonalds... there it is, in your mind's eye, the Golden Arches.


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Be honest

Don't "fake it till you make it". If you don't have experience with something, but want to, show your desire and willingness to learn, instead of getting to your first day and then have to ask your new colleague, "So, really quickly, how do I fly a 737?"

Use a simple font

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Unless, of course, your desired job roles requires you to demonstrate your wizardry with word, your standard Calibri or Arial are the way forward. If you're into your coding (and applying for a related role) then go for a Courier New if you really want to.

Never, and I mean never, use Comic Sans. Just... ok?! Never.

Balance content

As wonderful as it would be to have an even amount of page-space dedicated to each of your roles, it's advisable to focus on the most recent role in terms of detail, and perhaps lighten up the earlier roles. Also, put your most recent role at the top and work backwards - make this one of the first things Hiring Managers see.

Don't try to stand out by using a cliché

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This one applies particularly to first-time job seekers who are trying to bulk out their CV, but I've seen it on CVs showing 20 years experience before also. Unless you can prove it with an example, don't put the following terms on your CV; "hard working", "team player", "punctual", "straight shooter", "thinks outside of the box", "enthusiastic". You're trying to be unique - these terms do the exact opposite.

And finally, give a recruiter a go.

There are some recruiters out there who won't genuinely have your best interests at heart, but don't let these cowboys tarnish the hard work and dedication of the majority of recruiters.

Work with a specialist where possible, give them all the information that they need to best represent you, and let them use their connections to get your CV in front of the right hiring managers. It costs you nothing, and most recruiters are actually really good at what they do. If they're not good, they don't tend to last very long.

I published (and have recently made some minor edits to) an article on working with recruiters some time ago. It may be a little outdated now, but the concept is still the same, feel free to check it out.

If this has helped you, even a little, pass it on to a friend. The whole purpose of this particular article is to help people find jobs.

Also, follow Oleg - a man who needs no introductions but has dedicated himself to helping job-seekers seek jobs. Seriously, follow him, it'll help you, a lot!