Top 10 CV Tips

CV tips section preface.

There are numerous CV tips given by a variety of sources both in books and on the Internet. Some of the tips are good, whereas others are less so – and potentially even counter-productive. Moreover, some of the tips are exactly the same, and look like they have simply been copied off each other, whereas some others are more original (something which is potentially a good thing, but not always – it depends on the quality of the advice). Talking of advice, another thing to realise is that a surprisingly large proportion of CV writing advice that is available both in books and on the Internet has not been written by people with genuine CV writing experience. Indeed, much of it has been written by the likes of Webmasters, general copywriters, and SEO techies. This is highly significant, because what effectively it boils down to is laymen counselling laymen, rather than a genuine professional CV specialist advising jobseekers. Even the likes of many recruiters do not have the actual CV writing experience – which is one reason why the CVs of many recruiters are different in shape, size, format, layout and the way they sell their skills (or don’t as the case may be).

The moral of this is that much of the CV writing tips and advice you will find on the Internet is contradictory. Pretty much by default therefore, not all of it can be good, and some of it must be flawed. Certainly, a lot of it has not been thought out, and if you try to implement it without due consideration and aforethought then it could seriously damage your job prospects.

The first tip before you read any CV advice therefore is probably to check out the credentials of the person giving the advice.

I have certainly got nothing to hide in this respect – so please feel free to check out details of my CV book, my blog, and my webpage before reading my top 10 CV tips.

Top 10 Tips

1> As mentioned, don’t just assume that just because someone on the Internet says that you should/shouldn’t do something on your CV that it is automatically good advice. Yes, there is certainly some good advice out there, but there’s probably an equal amount of bad advice too that is based on myth rather than research and logic. If in doubt check out the credentials of the author.

2> Some advisers will advise you to list your work history in their default format. And many people do exactly this kind of thing. However, if you just list your work history to default formats (as many advisers advocate), then just be aware that ultimately your CV is unlikely to be as targeted, focused and powerful as it could be.

3> Remember that your CV is a dynamic document, and not a static one. If you want the best results you need to optimise it with the employer in mind. Please note that I mention ‘employer’ (i.e. the real decision maker) rather than the middleman (i.e. recruiter).

4> Talking of recruiters, just be aware that different recruiters will advise you different things, and many of this advice is contradictory. For example, just because one recruiter tells you that your CV needs to be three pages long, it doesn’t mean to say that the next one won’t tell you that your CV needs to be no more than one page in length! So another tip is to weigh up any recruiter advice and ask yourself whether it actually makes any sense before implementing it willy-nilly. As mentioned, it’s actually better to work with the real decision maker (i.e. the employer) in mind, rather than the middleman anyway. Somewhat paradoxically, not all recruiters advise candidates to submit CVs with the employer in mind.So beware.


5> Everyone knows that you need to make your CV stand out, and because of this some people go completely overboard to try to make their CV look different; sometimes using bright colours, bold fonts and large graphics. However, if you remember that most people apply for jobs with long and cluttered CVs, then if you instead apply with a short (one page) and legible CV, then pretty much by default your CV will automatically stand out from the big pile on the employer’s desk.

6> This brings me onto my next point; you need to make a very good first impression. And short, presentable and highly legible CVs make a far better impression on employers than longer, cluttered and more complicated counterparts. So before you send off your CV ask yourself does it look clear? Is everything legible and neatly aligned? Does it look professional? Or does it look untidy, too complex or artificially contrived? If it is any of the latter then you need to rework it.

7> Once you have passed the first (already challenging) test and have attracted the employer’s attention, you not only need to keep the pressure on, but you also need to wind it up.

8> Typical CV top tips sections focus on the small things such as the need to use white/cream paper, black fonts, talk in the third person, use the past tense etc. However, and somewhat paradoxically, a lot of ‘advisers’ focus so much on the small things that they completely miss the big picture. And it’s the big picture that you really need to focus on over and above anything else. With CVs, ultimately you need to impress the employer. And the best way to do this is by showing him/her that not only can you do the job, but you can do it better than all the other applicants put together. And the best way to do this is by presenting sharp, pertinent, proactive and highly powerful achievements. If you can refine them down to neat single line bullets then all the better (as that compliments, rather than adversely affects all-important first impressions).

9> So how do you sell yourself? Ah, now this is the $64,000 question and it took me around 64,000 words to describe just how to do this effectively in my CV book, The One Page CV. So you are never going to find out just how to do this powerfully in a 1000 word CV tips section (even one like this!). However, one thing I would say is that there is an awful lot more to it than meets the eye, and a great many people struggle to do this properly. This includes the likes of careers and advisers, recruiters and HR executives – which is one reason why such career sector professionals come to me for help.

10> Talking of help, possibly the best tip of all is for you to realise that you are not alone. There are seriously talented professionals who can dramatically boost your job prospects for very reasonable fees. And if you want to improve your CV yourself then my CV book should help you like no other, and is available for around as little as just £8. Click for details.

Whatever you decide to do, I wish you the very best of luck.

Paul Hichens (182 Posts)

Paul Hichens, top UK CV specialist, head of leading firm CV Succeed, and author of the most pioneering CV book in decades, The One Page CV (published by top career sector publishers Pearson Education).


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