Getting the most out of your CV

You know the feeling. You want to create a compelling, awe-inspiring CV that will shine light on your achievements and get your foot into the door for that dream job you know you’d be perfect for, but you don’t know where to start.

You’d rather be doing anything than finessing your CV and because of frustration or lack of know-how; you end up with a document that doesn’t quite represent the shiniest version of yourself that you’d intended to sell.

It doesn’t have to be that hard. By understanding the purpose of a CV and what readers are looking for,
in addition to following some basic content guidelines, you can create a compelling CV relatively easily.


In a nutshell, the purpose of a CV is to get you an interview. To do this, the reader must be able to find out quickly and easily what you have done, where you have done it and over what period.

What does a good CV look like?

People who are reading your CV are judging you not only on the information you provide but on how that information is presented. Remember, recruiters and employers typically receive a large volume of responses, which they need to sort through, so your first objective is to pass their scanning exercise.

The simplest way to pass this exercise is to not give them a reason to scan you out. By following these straightforward principles, you will increase your chances of making the short-list:

  • Make sure your CV is easy to read with a clean and consistent layout.
  • Keep your CV length between 3 and 5 pages.
  • Write in clear, concise terms using active words such as  ‘accomplished’, ‘created’, ‘enhanced’, ‘launched’, ‘negotiated’ etc.
  • Give examples of being a “results orientated professional” rather than just saying it. Use numbers or percentages to illustrate your success.
  • Avoid the use of pronouns, e.g., I, we, they…
  • Don’t rely on the spelling and grammar check.

What information should a CV provide?

The key for content is to not overdo it. Prospective employers don’t need to know everything about you and your past, only what’s relevant for the job they’re trying to fill.

Personal contact details: Include your name, address, contact number, email address and links to any online profiles you may have, such as LinkedIn.

Professional objective: Highlight your key characteristics and show here that you’re a fit with the advertised role.

Career summary: Include a summary chart at the front containing dates, previous employer names and positions held.

Career history: Put your work history in reverse chronological order. Focus on the last ten years or three to four roles as evidence that you have put into practice the skills that you say you have. Remember to put a brief description of the company you worked for to indicate size and turnover.

Personal history: Include details of qualifications and relevant recent development activities.

Referees: Referees can be helpful for pre-interview checks, but it’s up to you if you want to include them. Including “referees available on request” is somewhat redundant, so better to leave it out.

Don’t include: Photographs, your age, marital status, religion or family details.


Do insert keywords into your CV that are used in the job advertisement.
Do use action words and quantify results.
Don’t provide so much information that your CV becomes irrelevant to the job.
Do hit the high points.
Don’t rely on the spelling and grammar check!
Do tell the truth.

By understanding the purpose of a CV, what readers are looking for and sticking to some simple content guidelines, you can create a compelling CV relatively easily.  Keeping it easy-to-read, succinct, informative, and most importantly relevant, is the key to landing that interview.