How to create a winning CV

Your CV and cover letter forms the mainstay of every job you apply for, and
as such is probably the most valuable document you will create. It is your
initial introduction to a prospective employer, and first impressions count.
Think of it as a personal marketing statement that sells your experience,
expertise and future potential. If it is well structured and thought out, it
will make them want to find out more and will secure that crucial interview.

Even if you are not looking for a new job, it is still a smart move to keep
your CV up-to-date – you never know when you might be made an offer you can’t
refuse, and you will only fail to impress if it is not up-to-scratch.

Where do I start?

There is no magic formula to creating a winning CV, but there are set rules
that all CVs should follow. It must be accurate, logical and easy to read. Make
sure it is printed on quality white paper using a clean font. To aid
readability, the type size should be no less than 12 point.

Stick to two pages at the most – the higher your position, the shorter the
CV. Always consider the position you are applying for; to sell yourself you
need to appreciate what the employer is looking for, and write it with that in

A standard CV drafted once and sent out without any amendment is unlikely to
get you far.

Steve Huxham, chairman of the Recruitment Society, says: "Your CV needs
to be a selling document – think of it as a career brochure. If it is clearly
presented and 100 per cent error free, this will say a lot about your
motivation and focus."

Experience and skills

As an HR professional, your problem-solving abilities and people skills
could be taken as read, but it is not enough just to present a summary of your
career to date – it needs to convince the employer in no uncertain terms you
have what they are looking for. Every word must back your suitability for the
position. List your specific duties, skills and accomplishments and quantify
them wherever possible. If the advert says the company requires budget handling
or project management skills, state the size of the budget you are responsible
for, or that you finished project X within budget and ahead of schedule.

Remember that what encompasses the duties of an HR manager at one company,
could be completely different at another company, so these specifics can be
decisive. Introduction of a prospective element – where you see yourself
heading – will also make it more powerful.

Layout and style

A coherently presented document will speak volumes about your intuitive
skills and ability to prioritise. Your name and contact details should go at the
top. Preface the CV with a brief paragraph summarising the key points,
including an outline sketch of your skills, experience and personality. Make
sure information that supports your fit with the role is given precedence.

Next, outline your current or most recent job and work back. Academic
qualifications should always come after employment history.

Sub-headings will help the reader differentiate between individual sections.
Use bullet points to highlight facts of particular interest. Be sure to present
the information in a consistent way.

Intelligent use of active verbs and adjectives will not only pep up a
lack-lustre CV, but also demonstrate your flair for communication. Avoid any temptation
to attach a photograph – let the CV itself do the talking.

Review and amend

Assess each item of information for its relevance to the position you are
applying for. Be prepared to cut any irrelevant experience or non-essential
detail. Finally, don’t rely on a spell-checker, and always double-check your

Where can I get more info?


– Killer CVs & Hidden Approaches: Give Yourself and Unfair Advantage in
the Executive Job Market, Graham Perkins, Financial Times Prentice Hall, £9.99,
ISBN 027365246X

– How to Write a Winning CV, Alan Jones, Random House Business Books, £6.99,
ISBN 0712670246

Related Articles

– How to… write the perfect cover letter,

The Recruitment Society

If you only do five things…

1 Think of your CV as a career
brochure that sells your skills and attributes

2 Keep it relevant

3 Don’t leave gaps in your career history

4 Limit it to two pages

5 Always keep it up to date

Expert’s view Steve Huxham on
creating a winning CV

Steve Huxham is chairman of The
Recruitment Society.

How do you make a CV a key
marketing tool?

Whatever your priorities, any career will have consisted of a
series of highs and lows. Identify them so that you can analyse your progress
beyond the qualifications and experience you have gained. Learning from the
past is an important tool. A personal analysis will help identify the features
of your past experiences that should be developed in a future career move.

How often should a CV be updated?

Too many people write their first CV and then spend the rest of
their career modifying the same document. Different CVs are likely to be
necessary at different times in your life. At some points in your career you
will be selling your potential, at others, your employ-ment history. However,
it is usually the transferable skills that will secure the new job. Readers do
not like gaps. It is important to demon-strate a record of profession, so stick
to years when giving employ-ment dates, and try to update your CV at benchmark
points in your own career development.

How is the CV likely to influence
the interview?

The CV will probably set the agenda for the meeting. Often the
recruiter will know nothing more about you than what is in the CV. It is at
this point the quality of the CV will become clear and any inconsistencies,
flaws or misunderstandings will come to light. Be prepared for awkward
questions. It’s also useful to think about your answers, so that you can
reinforce the positive impression given by the CV.

Where do most fall down when
creating a CV?

A frequent complaint is that they are no more than a series of
potted job descriptions. What an employer needs to know is how well you did and
what you did. Your present job description may be a useful place to start, but
it was prepared for another purpose. It is better to use a CV as a functional
format that highlights your skills and supports these through employment

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