10 tips for a great CV according to a recruitment coach


Maybe you haven’t updated your CV in years, or perhaps you want to smarten it up for a potential new job – whatever the reason, there is always room for improvement when it comes to creating a great CV

There are some things that stress us out at the mere mention of them: Tax returns, pension plans, sorting out drawers of clutter, to name but a few. We groan and put our hands to our head and tell ourselves we will get to them eventually. One such task can be updating your Curriculum Vitae, or CV. Whether you’re doing it for a potential new role or not, updating your CV regularly is good practise, according to the experts.

“Updating your CV can be stressful, especially as it is a task we often put off until we find ourselves in search of a new job,” says Ariana Dunne, founder of Mentor HR, a recruitment and career coaching company. “In my business one of the most common requests I get is people asking for help with their CV and LinkedIn profiles. Clients often feel ashamed of their CVs and berate themselves when they think it isn’t up to a certain perceived standard.”

With so much upheaval in on the job market right now, Ariana has collated some top tips to help you build a CV to be proud of. Here are her top tips for creating the perfect CV:

  1. CVs are living, breathing documents and should be tended to regularly. Putting a recurring reminder in your calendar to update your CV every three months will ensure you have the most up-to-date information. That great deal you just made, the intern you trained, or the highly praised project you just completed can all be added to your current role, replacing more menial descriptions of your day to day tasks. Updating regularly means when a recruiter contacts you about a dream role you can fire over your CV at a moment’s notice, confident that your key achievements have been included. 
  2. If you are concerned about the layout and design of your CV, using a professional CV building site such as resume.io or myperfectcv.co.uk can help. They have a wide range of templates to choose from that suit all job types. When it comes to design it is best to keep things clear and simple, avoid fancy graphics and loud colours and, unless your name is Elle Woods, you can leave the scented paper behind too.
  3. It is recommended to keep your CV to a maximum of two pages. Most hiring managers skim read CVs so listing out your key achievements early on along with a summary of your experience to date will help your CV to get noticed. Research has shown that hiring managers tend to spend only 6 seconds per resume so keep things brief and to the point and fresh.
  4. CVs need to be adaptable and are rarely one size fits all. Be prepared to amend your CV to fit in with the job descriptions of the various roles you are applying for. Search the job description for keywords that you can add into your CV to align your experience with what the hiring manager is looking for. Try to include only work experience, achievements, education and skills most relevant to the employer.
  5. Watch your tenses. When a CV is created over time with gaps of what can be years between additions, how we write and our language can change over time. I often see CVs that have sections written in the present tense, and some sections in the past tense so try to keep the same format throughout to improve your chances of getting noticed. Don’t be afraid to start all over again if you need to. If you have been building on a CV you started when you were 19 and you are now in your 40s it is advisable to create a brand new CV that is written by you today as opposed to the 19 or 35-year-old you who wrote the added sections over the years.
  6. Use active language and try not to repeat yourself, if you held similar positions in two different companies coming up with different descriptions of what you did day to day to highlight a range of skills is recommended. Use power words such as “achieved,” “earned,” “completed” or “accomplished.” Don’t be embarrassed to really boast about your achievements. Your CV is a chance for you to sell yourself to your potential future employer so use words that show you in the absolute best light.
  7. Ensure you can stand over your CV. Every point that you include needs to be something you can elaborate on in an interview situation so make sure you know your CV inside out and can come up with examples when asked. Including numbers and metrics on your CV to qualify your work can be great talking points at interview stage so include metrics you are proud of and happy to elaborate on.
  8. Proofread, proofread, proofread. I can’t tell you how many CVs I have received which boast having excellent attention to detail in the summary, while the rest of the CV is littered with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Spellcheck doesn’t pick up on everything so make sure you proofread several times, and get a friend to proofread for you in case there is anything you may have missed. Keep language simple and try not to include too much jargon.
  9. Once your CV is ship shape you can migrate the information over to your LinkedIn profile. Grow your network on LinkedIn by adding people from your industry and from companies you are interested in working for in the future. Not only will this boost your network but your feed will also become populated with industry information ensuring you stay in the know on what is happening in your field of work. Stay engaged on LinkedIn, like, share and comment on posts you find interesting. Create insightful posts to share with your network that show you as an expert in your field. Ensure your profile picture is professional and friendly.
  10. Professional third party services can be employed if you feel your CV is not getting the attention it deserves. Third parties can offer objective advice and recommend ruthless changes which may need to be made in order for you to get noticed. Career coaches can also help you get prepped for interviews if this is something you find stressful they are trained to help you build your confidence and overcome your fears.