What makes a winning CV?

I’m often asked what makes a winning CV, it’s important to remember this is about you, your work and life experience and an opportunity to promote your ‘story’.

Here are our top tips

  • Your CV isn’t just a CV: use it to sell yourself.  Always keep in mind your audience – the employer – and what they’re looking for, your skills vs the job advert.
  • Writing a CV isn’t a five minute job – it requires planning and thought, reviewing and editing.  You want your CV to stand out to achieve your target role – don’t rush it, this is the first impression the employer will have of you.
  • Concise!  Keep your CV to two A4 pages and one if you’re a recent graduate.  If you have a lot of experience then you can run over but be mindful of how much you’re asking a recruiter to read!
  • Formatting – make sure your CV uses a consistent font and format, is justified on both left and right and that there are no spelling mistakes or typos.  CVs are frequently rejected for this reason alone.
  • Use key words that the employer has used in the job advert and that are associated with the desired role – some recruitment agencies use systems to scan CVs, searching for these key words.
  • If you have had a career break in order to raise a family (or for any reason!) be proud and this is still a valid role!  Think about your parenting transferable skills (empathy, organisational skills, conflict management) showing the dates as you would for a job.
  • Break down your CV into four sections:

Executive Summary – what do you have to offer?  What’s your USP?  List your key skills and achievements here as well as in the body of the CV.

Professional Experience – document who you worked for and what you achieved.  Try to avoid lists of responsibilities – think quality of content rather than quantity.

Academic Qualifications – showcase what you achieved in your education including more recent continuous professional development (CPD) qualifications.

Additional information – are you a good fit for the employer and existing team members?  Mention hobbies here, whether you’ve been involved in e.g. the PTA and what impact you had (think transferable skills!), and notable IT skills or languages – ‘a knowledge of Microsoft word’ and ‘conversational French’ don’t really cut the mustard anymore!

  • Be objective – use facts about impact in your career to date rather than personal opinion.
  • Don’t include a photo – the recruiters’ scanning systems don’t like them and in this age of political correctness, employers want to review a CV ‘blind’.
  • Have several versions of your CV for different types of vacancies/employers and ensure the CV is relevant before you send it out, tweaking it here and there if necessary.

Good luck!

If you need any further help with your CV, sign up for one of our Back to Work Courses here.