How To Write An Effective CV


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As requested, this is an update to my previous CV writing guide and draws upon my blog articles.

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How To Write An Effective CV

  1. 1. How To Write An Effective CV There are 3 key elements to writing a CV: Format, Style and Content. All 3 need to be implemented correctly to create an effective CV. Format The following will detail how to complete each aspect in order to produce a CV that will secure you a higher ratio of interviews to applications and hopefully lead to that dream role! Content Style Format  Bullet Points Your CV should be written in a series of bullet points under each heading. This allows the reader to identify quickly your ability and experience. On average a decision Each separate point needs to be in a separate bullet point. will be made on your CV within 20 seconds A bullet point should not be any longer than 3 sentences.  Highlight Many professions require experience within a specific area. In such instances it is wise to highlight in bold type the key words, for example TUPE or CIPD. This allows the reader to instantly recognise your skills or ability.  Chronological Order Any content you include, be it career history or qualifications, should be listed in chronological order with the most recent first. The reader will make a judgement on your recent career history and not a role that you held at the beginning of your career.  Length The old adage that a CV should be 2 pages long is a myth and should Who is reading your CV? Make sure be ignored at all costs. The optimum length of a CV is 3 or 4 pages long. anyone can This will allow you to include enough information about your experience understand your without losing the concentration of the reader. experience  Font Do not be tempted to write your CV in an overtly unique font such as Curiz MT, instead it should be a universal font such as “Arial” or “Times New Roman”. The size of the characters should be between 10 and 12.  Programme Use a standard word processing programme such as MS Word to write your CV. Do not password protect or change into a PDF file or similar. Written by Ed Scrivener, Associate Director, AcademyHR. © Copyright 2010 Tel: +44 (0)1179 147707 Email: or
  2. 2. Style  Achievements The most common mistake in a CV is to write a list of responsibilities rather than achievements, even when under the heading achievement. The no.1 complaint by The simple question to ask yourself when writing an achievement Directors: is “Was this the end result?” For example do not write “Absence CVs lack achievements Management” or “Coaching” as an achievement, instead write “reduced absence by 10%” or “improved employee retention by 10% through bespoke management coaching.”  Figures It is important that your experience is tangible, so you need to include as many facts and figures as possible. Include information such as how many people were employed, turnover and locations. As above, any achievement or responsibility should be tangible, for example rather than stating “Line Management”, write “managed a team of 4 HR professionals.”  Consistency Ensure every part of your CV is written in the same style, i.e. full stops after every bullet point or none at all, but ensure it is uniformed throughout. Content  Contact Details This should be the first part of your CV and should list your contact numbers, email address and home address.  Vocational Qualification If you hold a vocational qualification relevant to the role, i.e. CIPD or PRINCE 2 include this next, otherwise leave until the end of the CV. Do not write qualifications that bare no relevance to your career.  Educational Qualification As above.  Profile A profile is only worth including if you write it correctly. It must only include statements that can be substantiated within your CV. Do NOT 80% of CVs that state include generic statements such as “hard working with attention to "an attention to detail" detail”, as every employer will expect these characteristics. have spelling mistakes! Instead include phrases such as “an experienced Manager with a track record of delivering cost effective change programmes” as long as your CV includes details of line management and figures of delivering redundancy programmes under budget. Your profile should be no more than 5 sentences long. Written by Ed Scrivener, Associate Director, AcademyHR. © Copyright 2010 Tel: +44 (0)1179 147707 Email: or
  3. 3.  Competencies In certain situations it is worthwhile to include a list of your key competencies, i.e. Employee Relations, Change Management, etc. This is particularly effective for career interims. It is advisable to produce a long list of competencies from which you can cherry pick for each individual application. For example, if a role requires redundancy experience include a note about this, however, if a role is growth orientated remove the redundancy aspect and include succession planning instead.  Career History As above, this should be written in chronological order and should utilise all aspects of Format and Style. This section needs to be the Career History: bulk of your CV, between 50-75% of the content. You must list the Co. Name, Location, company name, location of site, dates worked and job title. After Dates Worked, Job Title, a synopsis of the role you must detail a list of tangible achievements Achievements followed by any responsibilities not covered by the achievements.  References Do NOT include any reference details until you are specifically required to do so.  Interests Only include interests if they are interesting! Pastimes such as socialising and reading lack initiative and will not influence the reader. However, volunteering, glider piloting and additional studies are notable to the reader as, for example, they may support the same charity as you.  Do Not Include Date of birth - as with the increased age discrimination laws, companies have been known to not consider applications with a date of birth to avoid any potential discrimination case further down the line. Similarly, marital status, your state of health or the name of your pet will not hold any influence. Review  Spell Check The CV is the first impression the reader will have of you and nothing sets a worse impression than a CV littered with mistakes. Spell check your CV several times. Read through it several times to ensure the spell check has not missed any points. Then ask an acquaintance to check your CV.  Ask An Expert Ask a Recruitment Consultant to review your CV. Not only will this give you a professional opinion, but you will be able to judge which On average a person will Consultants know their industry and those that aren’t willing to need to re-write a CV 5 help will not be worth working with! times Written by Ed Scrivener, Associate Director, AcademyHR. © Copyright 2010 Tel: +44 (0)1179 147707 Email: or
  4. 4. Checklist Programme: MS Word or Similar __ Font: Arial or Times New Roman __ Font Size: 10-12 __ Contact Details: Name __ Mobile No. __ Home No. __ Email __ Address __ Qualifications: Vocational __ Educational __ Beginning of CV? __ End of CV? __ Profile: Substantiated __ 5 sentences max. __ Competencies (optional): Long list created __ Achievements __ Facts & Figures __ Career History: Chronological Order __ Company Name __ Location __ Dates Worked __ Job Title __ ACHIEVEMENTS __ Responsibilities __ Facts & Figures __ Interests: Interesting? __ References: NOT included __ Length: 3-4 Pages __ Spell Check: Twice! __ 3rd Party Check: Acquaintance __ Recruitment Consultant __ Written by Ed Scrivener, Associate Director, AcademyHR. © Copyright 2010 Tel: +44 (0)1179 147707 Email: or
  5. 5. Cover Letter A cover letter is similar to including a profile in your CV, if written correctly it can aid your application. A poor cover letter, however, can be equally detrimental. Below are the key points to writing an effective cover letter, which should be used in conjunction with the points in Format, Style and Content.  Individual Each application you make should have a unique cover letter. Do not use a standard letter as this completely misses the point of a cover letter. This provides you with the opportunity to inform the reader why you are suitable to the specific role.  New Information The information you include should support your CV, but should Succinct: Keep your not duplicate it. Copying and pasting sections of your CV will cover letter short and not influence the reader. to the point  Substantiate Similar to your profile the information included should not be generic statements, but instead be substantiated by the information in your CV. For example if a role required Tribunal experience, this allows you the opportunity to collate all your experience. For example, if you had held 3 different roles in 10 years and in each role you had represented the respective organisation in 4 tribunals, you could state “successfully represented organisations in 12 tribunals in the last 10 years.”  Motivation Why have you applied for the role? A cover letter allows you to explain your motivation for applying for the role. As each cover letter is individual you can relate to competencies stated in the job advert. Similarly, if this role represents a drop in level or would require you to relocate explain why you are considering such options. Finally... Writing a CV and cover letters are time consuming processes. It can be very easy to question whether it is worthwhile to write another cover letter, or update your CV for the tenth time. However, it is a tough market and roles are in short supply and this dedication is needed. If most people put as much effort into finding a new role as they do work projects the application process would become a straightforward element. Good Luck! Written by Ed Scrivener, Associate Director, AcademyHR. © Copyright 2010 Tel: +44 (0)1179 147707 Email: or