Briefing sheet: how to write a killer CV

Bridie James is an experienced Business Manager at Just Recruitment Group Ltd. Which means she knows how to write a brilliant CV...

If there’s one thing that will put your CV on the fast track to the bin, it’s poor spelling and grammar. No matter how extensive your experience, and how impressive your qualifications, misspellings and typos will create a very poor impression.

At best, it will seem that you haven’t bothered to check what you’ve written. At worst, it makes you look as if you have a poor grasp of the English language. So always use a spell checker, and proofread what you’ve written. 

Avoid writing large blocks of text. A time-pressed employer doesn’t have time to read lengthy prose: instead, grab their attention with concise sections, short sentences and paragraphs, and bullet points and headings where appropriate. Lay the content out in a logical order, and use bold font to draw attention to key information such as job titles, employer names and educational institutions.

Also give some thought to the font you use. Choose a simple font that’s easy to read and, if sending your CV electronically, will be compatible with your recipient’s computer. As a rule of thumb, use a font size of 10-12 for body text, and no more than 16 for headings.

In most cases, a CV should be no more than two pages long. The key is concision: remember that your CV simply provides a taster of what you’re about. You can expand on everything at interview.

If your CV is too long, the first step is to remove anything repetitive or wordy. Shorten sentences, write in the active voice, and use words in their shortest possible form: think ‘while’ instead of ‘whilst’, ‘use’ instead of ‘utilise’, and ‘among’ rather than ‘amongst’. Also keep your eyes peeled for tautologies – i.e. the repetition of the same idea in a different way. Examples of tautologies include ‘totally unique’, ‘a lasting legacy’, ‘over-exaggerate’ and ‘necessary requirement’.

Once you’ve done this, consider if you can format your CV to reduce its page count. Look at line spacing, margins, font type and size, and consider using tables or columns for lists of information, such as qualifications.

Keep your CV relevant. Resist sending a generic CV to multiple employers. Selectors will be able to spot, and look favourably upon, applicants who tailor their CVs to the advertised position.

Take the time to research the company you’re applying to, and carefully study the job advertisement. Make sure your CV covers all aspects of the job description, and ensure you include anything that you may want to expand on at interview.

Make it personal. Consider including a short personal statement at the beginning of your CV. This should pick out its highlights, and summarise why you’re the best person for the job. Write this in an engaging and economical way, and remember to tailor it to the role you’re interested in.


Integrity is a valued attribute in any professional context. It’s important to be honest about all aspects of your achievements and experiences.

If you stretch the truth on your CV, this will more than likely come to light at interview. Not only will this cast doubt on your trustworthiness, but it will also cause embarrassment. 

What is more, if mistruths are uncovered once you have started a job, this can give your employer grounds for dismissal.

Mind the gap. Many people have gaps on their CVs – due to unemployment, for example, or time taken to raise a family.

It’s important not to ignore these gaps. Would-be employers will notice them, and may jump to negative conclusions.

If you have been unemployed, think about how you spent your time. Did you use it to gain new skills or qualifications? Did you carry out voluntary work? Put a positive spin on your experiences, and try to relate them to the role you’re applying for.

Feedback is good. Once you’ve perfected your CV, share it with friends and family and ask for their views. Their comments could be invaluable, so accept them graciously and constructively. 


 © 2018 Just Recruitment Group Ltd. 

Posted on Wednesday Jan 4