How to craft that interview-winning CV: Our top tips


So you’ve just discovered that perfect job and you’re ready to apply. But how do you ensure your CV ends up on the interview pile and not in the bin? If you’re struggling to get everything down on paper, read our tips for getting it right first time.

Remember though, there is no ‘generic’ or perfect CV. Every job and employer is different, and you never know what may attract someone to a particular CV. However, we can advise you on the rules of best practise - and which pitfalls to avoid.

Keep it Simple
Write clearly – that is to say, use an easily readable font like Times Roman, Arial or Cambria. Times Roman is the most widely used font for printed CVs, but if you’re applying online, Arial or Cambria are more screen-friendly options. Clean white paper is always a safe bet, and although many people will exhort the virtues of a colourful CV or one that unfolds like origami, more often than not they just look gimmicky. If you use white paper and a safe font, you will be offending no-one.

Break It Down
Set everything down in neat, manageable chunks. CV judgements are made in seconds, so keep it clear, with subheadings in a bold, larger font size, use of bullet points, and blank space between each section. See some example CVs here from the National Careers Service, which demonstrate how the key elements can be moulded to suit a variety of applications.
The ideal length for a CV is between 1 and 2 sides of an A4 piece of paper. Don’t panic if you’re just starting out and your CV is short – we all started somewhere! Waffling will just dilute the content you already have.

Make Sure You’re Spelling and Grammer Are Correct
You’ll probably see what we did there. It sounds obvious, but it bears repeating, as every year thousands of CVs are submitted with glaring spelling and grammatical errors. This gripe regularly comes number one in ‘Most hated CV mistakes’ lists – so make full use of spellcheck programmes. But don’t rely on autochecks for everything. Ensure you read through to spot missing words or mistypes which often get autocorrected into something entirely new! Employers will be confused to discover you went to ‘pubic (public) school’ or ‘endured (enjoyed) teaching others’!

Things to Leave Out

  • The words ‘Curriculum Vitae’. No need to put this at the top of your CV. Your name forms the title and should be centred with your contact details beneath.
  • Your photo. In some countries, this is the norm, but in the UK, it’s generally frowned upon as it could be a barrier to equal opportunities.
  • Your age – age discrimination laws means you don’t need to state your age, or marital status.
  • References – Employers will request these at a later stage if your application is successful. Simply putting ‘References available on request’ should be sufficient.

Write a Covering Letter
Many view writing covering letters as a chore, but this is your chance to let your enthusiasm shine through. Explain how you find the job advertised, what entices you to the role, and how your previous work experience or interests make you the perfect candidate!

Check Your Digital Self
You’ve sent out your CV, so now prepare to be Googled! The internet is everywhere these days, and our digital presence is widely available at the click of a button. So what will a search of your name reveal? Make sure you keep any, er, 'unique' facebook content private, and ensure you have a work-appropriate email in your contact section. Now is also a good time to update your LinkedIn profile if you have one. What’s LinkedIn? It’s the Facebook of business networking, and many employers will check it out, so consider setting one up.

Hopefully we’ve given you some ideas on how to get started, but if you need more inspiration, the web is full of resources on how to go about it. The National Careers Service has plenty of CV templates, advice and examples to help you with your writing.

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