Blog > jobs

Top tips for writing a better CV

Top tips for writing a better CV


Open yourself and those around you to God’s influence and blessing by beginning with prayer. You might feel more encouraged, inspired and even enjoy the preparation work.

Content is key

Having great highlights in your CV is important. Gather thoughts about yourself on paper, making simple notes. Ask others what they think you’re good at. It might be quite an affirming exercise. Ask to see the CVs of people you admire and trust. You may find inspiration and that you discover ideas you can use in yours. Concentrate on stating achievements not your responsibilities. List things that happened such as awards, sales increases, efficiency improvements focusing on the quality, not the quantity, of your achievements. Quote figures whenever possible, even if it’s descriptive of a department size or the turnover of a company.

Make the reader's task easy

Go for a simple layout with no unusual typefaces (stick with a simple sans serif typeface such as Calibri, Arial or similar). Ensure there is a structure with clear headings, and perhaps highlight in bold key words or phrases that are relevant to the position. If you’re not good at layout or using PCs or tablets, find someone who is. Most CVs get less than a ten-second glance on first reading, so keep yourself in contention by getting your key points across swiftly (early on in page one) and succinctly (two sides of A4 max).

Minimise important but not influential material

This doesn't include your name, keep that big (probably double the size of the body text). Your address needs to be there, preferably below your name in smaller type. Do include an email address and mobile or home number as a minimum (if you don't have a computer or internet access, get a friend who has to set up an email account and monitor it for you). There is no need to include the words ‘address’ or ‘mobile’, it’s obvious what they are. Get it all on one line if possible. There’s no need to include references at this stage, or your date of birth, photo, marital status, number of children or NI number.

Include a summary or personal profile

This can be really brief, or longer perhaps if you have a senior or executive role. It is a chance to sell yourself directly for the position in question. Tailor your CV, if possible, each time you apply for something. Include keywords if it’s a general version being sent speculatively to an employer or recruiter, or for posting on an online CV database.

Include a skills section on your CV

This is especially important if you are making a career change or applying for something where you don't have direct experience but do have transferable skills. Make it easy for the potential employer to find these. Don't forget to mention core skills such as: communication skills; computer skills (list any packages or programmes); team working; problem solving and languages. These can be simple, bullet-pointed oneliners. Keep it brief and on page one if possible.

List employment (and education) in reverse order

Start with your most recent job first. This is the experience people will be most interested in. If you’re in a job that’s a stopgap and less relevant, make it a brief description with the most recent relevant role dominating visually below it, preferably on the first page. The same is true of your education. Don’t forget to include vocational training or courses in this section, especially if run by outside bodies leading to a recognised qualification. It shows a level of ability and perhaps a continuing commitment to learn new skills. Both are very important in 2015.

Recognisable brands add value

In 21st century Britain, people are very brand aware. If you have worked for, with, on behalf of, or alongside any recognisable brand names, in general or specific to an industry in which you work, include them. Perhaps even highlight them in bold type. If your employer is not instantly recognisable, include a short line or two about them (turnover, number of employees, key clients or aims/values). It will help the reader to appreciate the context of what you do and understand your skills and experience better.

Interests can be helpful

Interests can add value to your CV, or potentially make you sound like one of the crowd. Highlight things that show off transferable skills you've gained that employers look for. For instance, describe any positions of responsibility, working in a team as a volunteer or something that shows you have initiative. Only include real interests you’ll be prepared to discuss if you make it to interview. In industries with a strong technical edge (IT, medical, engineer, electrician) or when applying as a contractor/temporary worker, unless the information adds real value, leave it out.

Check it, check it, check it

Anyone can make a mistake. We all do. Print your CV off if possible, as you will spot things on paper you won’t on screen. Then get someone you trust to check it for sense. Don’t be shy, this is a vital stage.

Pray again

Going through the CV process will have taught you things about yourself and perhaps given the Holy Spirit the chance to bring thoughts to mind or to work through others in influencing you. So pray about it, sleep on it, and give God a chance to realign you or your search before pressing the button.


Save your CV with the title as your name (not just 'CV') in PDF format if applying direct to a person’s email address (looks better and avoids any software issues) and if through a website, save it in a recent version of Word or as an RTF document.

Nine suggestions to make your CV stand out from the crowd

Whether you're sitting down after writing many CVs over your career, or starting from scratch for the very first time, it can be a daunting prospect. There are lots of CV templates and advice out there. Follow these tips to make sure you present yourself in the best way:

Pray. It won't be on most advice lists online, but it’s a great way to start the process. It works!

Involve others. Share your journey with people you trust and who can help, advise and inspire.

Have a structure. Make it clear and simple, avoiding fancy typefaces, with headings such as summary, skills, experience, education and interests.

Keep it employer-focused. Make it relevant to the job in question and focus on achievements not job description. Include numbers where you can. Help them understand what effect you'll have when you join their team.

Minimise personal background. Home address, email and contact number is all you need. No photo, nationality, NI number or marital status. If you feel you're meeting discrimination because of your name, perhaps emphasise your right to work in the UK at the top.

Keep it short. Employers receive around 20 CVs for skilled jobs and around 60 for less skilled. Get to the point quickly and put key things such as skills and recent employment on page 1. Keep it to two sides of A4 unless you're an academic or research scientist.

It’s not just about you. If you have had any exposure to brand names (worked for, with, alongside) that people recognise, quote the names. If your employer is less well-known, include details of size and what they do.

Check it before sending. Use your trustworthy friends again to ensure it’s error-free and makes sense.

Don't worry. There will be a role that is you-shaped out there. Sometimes positions are not advertised, so be prepared to promote yourself using your great new CV as the key document. Someone will like you if you're truthful, authentic and distinctive in your CV. Don't panic, persevere.

Happy hunting!


Frank Hutton is professional career coach. Visit Hutton&co to find out more.