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CV Advice

Five tips for writing a standout CV

Are you a “good communicator”? Do you work “well on your own and as part of a team”? Yes? Great…, but so is everybody else who applied for your dream job!


A CV is judged in seconds, don’t waste your time. Here are five ways to avoid the most common mistakes and stand out in the process.

1. Cut the Clichés

Empty phrases, like those at the top of this article, don’t mean anything without being quantified. “Good communicator”, “dynamic”, “team player” – these are not skills; they are clichés. When did you demonstrate these qualities? Why are you an “effective member of any team”? Also, be wary of outdated skills. “IT literate”, “Proficient user of Microsoft Word”… Who doesn’t have these skills in today’s multi-media age?!

2. Cut the Waffle

Don’t make your achievements become a needle in a haystack by giving the reader your life story. Your CV is supposed to show what you can offer, not waffle only about what you’ve done. Don’t have 10 pages of copied and pasted job specs – repeating details that your job title would infer anyway. Summarise your duties and your role’s purpose over a few bullet points, then portray what you achieved and the difference you made.

3. Lose the Unnecessary Personal Details

Get rid of the ridiculous MSN email address you had 10 years ago: replace it with a professional one. Putting a photo on your CV, disclosing your age, or telling your potential employers that you’re a three-time divorcee with two children called Sam and Patricia, can lead to discrimination. Don’t do it. Include a link to your LinkedIn profile but only if it offers something different to your CV; for example, if you’ve attached interesting pictures, projects, slideshows, and videos showcasing your work.

Don’t forget to put your address and contact details at the top of your CV…! And have your name at the top of your CV, not the words “Curriculum Vitae”. They don’t need to be told what they’re reading … it’s fairly obvious… and when was the last time someone actually said “curriculum vitae” anyway?!

4. Be Honest about your Employment History

What are the main things employers/recruiters will observe as they scan your CV? Your previous employers, job titles, and dates. Don’t leave any unexplained gaps. People often fear honesty, but they shouldn’t. Ignore any advice that encourages you to hide gaps in your employment or remove dodgy looking jobs. Transparency adds credibility to your character.

If you have a two-year gap because you were a stay-at-home parent, or spent a year in an irrelevant industry, or undertook some casual retail work to get some money in whilst waiting for a job in line with your career, put it on your CV and explain it, honestly. This will look much better than a random gap that indicates laziness and/or evokes suspicion. At the CV to interview stage, reasons for rejection are often at the forefront of the reader’s mind, rather than reasons to say ‘yes’, so don’t serve up an easy excuse for your application to be given a one-way ticket to the bin.

5. Show Personality

Remember, employers aren’t just looking for someone with an appropriate career history and education; the candidate who gets the job is often not the person with the best experience, but the one who best demonstrates the characteristics and determination they are looking for to make a difference at their company. Make clear what you view as your greatest career achievements, and why. This will give an insight into your passion for making a difference at a company.

Bolster this theme further within each of your job descriptions: summarise the purpose of your role and the value of your work. This will give a good impression to the reader, that you are an employee that always values his or her work and has a positive impact. Don’t include unimpressive hobbies, however. Enjoying the cinema, or working out, is not a notable extracurricular activity!

But if you bungee jump off cliff edges in your spare time or are a five-time world champion at standing on your head, bolt it on to the end of your CV; it makes you human, it makes you more memorable within a pile of 127 CVs, and it makes for a light-hearted topic of conversation at interview!

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