Wednesday, 20 May 2015

I wouldn't call myself an expert on the subject, but after going through countless CVs to recruit new people for my team, I definitely have a few ideas of my own about what makes a good CV.

Short and sweet
My CV is one page long - I've always liked to keep things succinct and I've had people comment before that they appreciated the length of my CV. Now that I've been on the other end of the recruitment process, I am completely in agreement that short is good when it comes to CVs. A one-pager shows that you can pick out the best bits of your employment history and other achievements and still sell yourself well without droning on for three pages. I have a slim column down the left side with the headings Employment, Freelance, Skills and Education. On the right-hand side, I have listed my current/previous roles with a heading and a couple of short bullet points with responsibilities and achievements. That waitressing job I had while I was at uni? I finally took it off my CV because it isn't relevant now I have experience in my industry BUT, if you're looking for your first job, anything from waitressing and paper rounds to after-school clubs can show valuable transferable skills.

Do I need a pre-header/mission statement?
While I quite like these - it's a good way to sum up who you are and what you're looking for - I don't think they are essential. If you want to have one, keep it short and to the point with a sentence about what you are looking for in your next job. Don't clutter it with things you think people want to hear like 'hard-working', 'excellent time management', etc. Anyone can make these claims and they aren't really a bonus - any employer, from a shop owner to a big accountancy firm, will want these things as standard. If they like your experience, they will want to meet you and find out these things for themselves.

Is it relevant?
Unless a job application specifically asks for it, you don't have to include a picture or information like your gender, marital status or date of birth. These things are not relevant for most office jobs; there is no need for companies to know your age as recruitment should be based on experience, but they can find this out for themselves anyway from your education dates or via LinkedIn.

What do I put in a cover letter?
Many job applications call for a cover letter, which is why I think the mission statement on a CV is a bit of a moot point. When you are writing a cover letter, tailor it to the job at hand. You can include a little about your current role, personal attributes and skills, but what employers want to know is why they should hire you and how your experience proves that you'd be an asset to their team. Try and use specific examples of achievements or times where you were faced with a challenge and how you overcame it; if you say you have good time management skills, tell them why. It's also worth tailoring the tone of your letter to the company - if it's a large corporate company, keep it professional, but if it's a media company with a reputation for being fun, you can be a little more creative with a well-placed joke. This is a perfect opportunity to show how your personality fits in with the company ethos.

Spell check and spell check again
I know this seems totally obvious, but you'd be amazed how many people make mistakes in their CV. I've seen typos, grammatical errors and even a misspelled blog link! It's worth having a second pair of eyes have a look over it - a friend might spot something that doesn't read properly, even though it's spelled correctly.

Photos from Jo's lovely Bloggers At Their Desks series.


  1. Such an awesome post Catherine! I'm the worst and keeping my CV up to date so maybe this would be a good time to give it a makeover. x

  2. I've literally just updated my CV this week as I'm nearing the end of my 3 month contract and this was really good to read. I did actually finally take off my job at boots opticians while I was at college becuase I finally feel my experience speaks louder than the need to show I'm not work shy, if that makes sense! Great post x

    1. Or not work shy, but to show I've got a good work ethic! x

    2. Thanks Ala! Glad it was helpful. I hope it was a one-pager ;)

  3. Amazing post! Mine have always been god awful haha.


  4. I always thought that you had to include your entire work history. My CV is two full pages and I am wanting to change my job soon so it's definitely food for thought. How do you feel about including references on there? Seems to be divided opinion on the internet x

    1. I think it depends what your work history it is and how past jobs are relevant to the job you are applying for. Try and think about whether the person interviewing you would find it useful to know about every job you've ever had.

      Re: references, I've only ever included them if they've been asked for, which is usually for roles with an application form rather than submitting a CV and cover letter. I was under the impression they don't check references anyway until they've offered the job, but you could always include details in your cover letter or in a footnote on the CV.

      Hope that helps! xx

  5. really great, useful tips. thank you for sharing!

  6. Excellent tips :) when I was unemployed a women from the careers advice service looked over my CV and was somewhat horrified that I didn't have a personal statement on it. I wrote one because she asked me to but I feel they're kinda pointless if, like you said, you're also sending a cover letter. She also told me not to include references, something to do with data protection, but who knows, I'd never heard that before! X

  7. Great tips! Thanks so much!

    xo, mikéla /

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