cvCreating a great, tailored CV requires thought and time. It`s well worth it because this document is all you have to sell your features to a busy recruiter. Find a step-by-step construction guide with examples of how you can word your experience and achievements in the best way.

The Why, What, Who and How of CVs

Why do you need a CV?
If you’re trying to introduce yourself to a business or organization, a CV is a straightforward way to let them know you exist and that you have skills and experience which may be of use to them.

What is a CV for?
Its main purpose is to get you a meeting or interview with someone relevant to finding you a suitable role. The CV is a sales document. Think of it as the glossy brochure that makes someone want to find out more information about the product – you.

Who will read it?
Anyone involved in your job hunt. This can include network contacts, recruitment consultants, Human Resource professionals, Talent or Resource Managers, or just a temp bought in to go through a pile of 300 to whittle it down to 50. Your CV has to be understood by all of them, so before you write it, make a list of the people who may read it. When you’ve finished your CV, check it meets their needs of the people on your list.

How long will they spend reading it?
For professionals whose job involves reading CVs, this may be only a few seconds. This is why the first impression and the information on the top half of the first page is crucial to gain their interest. Keep the length reasonable – you should be able to get the relevant information into two pages. If you’re selected for interview, the recruiter will then spend much longer reading your CV prior to the interview. Hopefully your CV will make them look forward to meeting you.

The main points of a CV

Contact Details: It obviously is very important that these are accurate. And make sure you list the best way to contact you. For example, don’t put your mobile phone number if you don’t always carry it with you. Or better still get in the habit of having it with you!

Profile: This is a short statement about you at the top of the CV. It helps the reader understand who you are quickly, and hopefully will make them want to spend more time reading the rest of your CV.

Skills and Achievements: This is essential to a successful CV. You can either list them separately to your career details, include a short section of around six key skills to highlight at the top, or include them within the relevant sections of your career history.

Career History: Your most recent role comes at the top, and the others in order below. Generally you won’t need to go back further than 15 years. Breaking up long periods with one employer into different job roles can help explain your work more clearly. If adding to an existing CV, ensure the style is consistent, and edit and cut back on early work to make it relevant.

Qualifications: List your relevant academic qualifications. Don’t include too much detail unless the qualification was gained in the last five years. You can also include training courses and can then entitle the section ‘Professional Qualifications and Training’.

Personal Details: This is where you would put your age, nationality, driving license, marital status etc. if you want to include it.

Hobbies and Interests: There is some debate about the relevance of this to a CV but it can help the reader think of you as a person rather than a list of job information. It may also raise questions in the interview, so be truthful!

Summary: A CV is a tool to help you in your job hunt and career. You are the best person to write it, as you know the most about its subject. Think about what you want it to achieve, and then write with that goal in mind. You will probably need to tailor it for different opportunities, and it will almost certainly evolve and improve as your job hunt progresses.

cv_img1_smallReferences: When leaving an organization, it is important to consider who to approach for a reference. Is it HR, your Line Manager or someone else? You may want to ask your HR dept. what the company policy is, or discuss the issue with your existing or former line manager.

Think of at least two senior people you’ve worked with, who would be willing to give you a verbal and/or written reference. Make sure you contact them before you name them as referees. It is a basic courtesy to do this and will ensure that your referee is not caught unawares. Remember to keep them informed of your career aspirations and situation. Additionally, you will need to disclose your referee’s details (phone number and email address) to a potential employer, so make sure you have their permission to do this. You won’t need to put referee details on your CV, but application forms usually ask for this information.

References are usually taken up after the applicant has been given a ‘provisional’ offer. However, they can also be part of the selection process while interviews are taking place and can contribute to the selection decision. A recent CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development) survey found that 75% of organizations always take up employment references. The same survey found that 25% of employers withdrew job offers because someone lied or misrepresented their application.

When a new company takes up references they may do so via letter, email or by phone. They will not only look for confirmation of employment dates and job title but also for comments on your work, your honesty, qualifications, salary on leaving, reason for leaving and even the number of days you have taken off sick in the last year. They would need to ask your permission to give sickness absence information as this is classed as sensitive personal data. They may also ask if the organization would re-employ you.

You will probably need to consider former employers and contact them in advance of references being taken, as potential employers usually ask for at least two different references from different employers.

There is generally no legal obligation on an employer to provide a reference. But in practice, most employers will do so. Any reference that is provided should be true, accurate and fair. If not, the employer may be guilty of misrepresentation.

If you have signed a compromise agreement as part of your redundancy package, then it is common for a reference to be included as part of this agreement. You will usually have discussed this with your Lawyer. Occasionally, you may be asked to write your own reference and you may want to ensure that you include comments on your work and skills, honesty and integrity as well as the key information listed in the 4th paragraph above.

Create a ‘Master’ CV

You’ll have gained substantial experience throughout your career – in work, education or by participating in extracurricular activities such as sports or volunteering– so much so that it can often be difficult to remember everything you’ve achieved! A ‘Master’ CV is designed for your eyes only but gives you a great advantage when putting together company specific applications as you’ll never again:

• need to start a CV from scratch – for each new application you will be able to select the most appropriate points.

• leave out relevant experience/skill. It’s easy to miss details when in a rush (What percentage growth did your department achieve in 2002…?).

A Master CV covers three broad areas

Work Experience: Record every role you have ever had, even bar work, part-time work etc. Include, at this stage, both your successes and failures. Don’t be afraid to sell yourself, conversely the hard times show how you handle adversity and failure and how you overcome them. Remember at this stage to include everything even if you think it trivial. The most effect the way to handle this information is in a rough table:

List all the companies you have worked for and the job titles you held. Make a note of the dates you were in each role (month/year), Start expanding on your duties. It can be helpful to run this chronologically from when you arrived in the morning to leaving at night and any special weekly/ monthly or annual tasks etc. Make sure you include any special project work or short-term responsibilities. List all your achievements within each role – how many staff were managed, target figures and percentages achieved etc. These skills are in many cases are far more important than any other single factor! Some companies now look for a particular set of skills/ competencies more than specific work or industry experience. Use examples in your own work experience to demonstrate these skills.

XYZ Co Marketing


Jun 2001-Mar 2004


  • Managed team of 10
  • Managed team to complete project 3 months before deadline
  • Time Management
  • Leadership
  • Goal setting
  • Marketing strategy for new product launch Beat projected product sales by 25% in first 6 months.
  • Planning
  • Problem solving
  • Market analysis
  • Handled launch budget Completed project 10% under budget.
  • Negotiation
  • Decision making

Education: Following the same format as for Work Experience list your educational history, including dates, schools attended, marks and courses taken. Expand on this to include all achievements or positions of responsibility – these could range from being the top student, captain of the running team, being involved in an exchange program or being a cast member in the year-end play etc.

Additional Skills: In this section, include everything that doesn’t fall into work experience or education.

Some important points for this section would be:

Languages: Put down all your language skills and rate them.

Native: This is your home language or the language you speak most often.


Fluent: You can conduct an interview and business conversations confidently.

Conversational: You can hold a conversation, but would struggle in a work environment.

Basic: You know just a few words and sentences.

IT Skills: Put down all IT packages you’ve worked on and what type of package they were. Rate these as to your level of competence (basic, intermediate or expert). Knowledge of MS Office is assumed.

Other Training: If you have had any additional training outside of education, make a note of this here. For example any ‘in house’ training that has enhanced your skills.

Interests: In this section you need to put down all your hobbies and interests. As long as they are relevant (and legal!) feel free to put down everything you are interested in from sports, reading choices, societies, travel experiences etc. Companies use this to help them get an idea of who you are as a person. It can also help a company differentiate between candidates who may have very similar work experiences.

What Not to Include (Unless specifically asked)

Salary information.

What Type of CV Should I Use?

A Chronological CV format is recommended by CMS –

Functional CV’s are often a signal to employers that you have limited experience…

There are two main types of CV:

Chronological: Your job history (most recent first), company names and responsibilities are listed.

Advantages: most recognized format, emphasizes career growth, highlights prestigious employers.

Best Used When: Career direction is clear, staying in the same field as previous jobs, job target matches background, work history shows real growth and development, it is advantageous to highlight company names.

Functional: In this CV areas of accomplishment (skills and strengths) are listed in separate sections or paragraphs. Titles and work history take second place.

Best Used: When considering a career change, where there is little or no work experience, to emphasize a strong area of ability, if past career growth has not been good, where work history is relatively unconnected.

Tailoring Your CV

Always tailor your CV to match the content to the employer’s requirements. For every post:

  • Make a list of everything the company wants….and list your matches
  • Identify relevant projects and make these look like “experience”
  • Put the best match bullet point first
  • Minimize/eliminate irrelevant experience
  • ‘Mirror’ the company’s language throughout.

Wording Your CV

Remember competition for jobs is fierce and recruiters don’t have time to analyze applications in detail. You need to make your CV concise, relevant and easy to understand by:

KISSING (Keep It Short and Simple!!)

Quantifying your achievements enables recruiters to quickly assess the nature of your achievements, providing a benchmark for them to compare you against other candidates.

• Don’t use complex English;

• Keep sentences short and to the point (around 17 words)

• Only use industry specific acronyms/abbreviations if relevant and in general use.

QUANTIFY ACHIEVEMENTS: Always provide specific examples and detail in this section.

For example Instead of writing: ‘Managed the marketing team for a new product launch’

Write: ‘Managed the launch of a new product. Leading a marketing team of 10 members this project was completed two months ahead of schedule, resulting in an 80% increase in forecasted sales.’

DON’T USE PRONOUNS: A CV is a factual not subjective document so pronouns (e.g. Me, My) are not used.

USE ACTIVE WORDING: This technique emphasizes your skills and achievements. The focus of the sentence is on YOU!

Instead of writing: ‘New company wide IT system that I pioneered was introduced increased profitability by 65%’

Write: ‘Pioneered company-wide IT system increasing profitability by 65%` and ACTIVE VERBS: Companies relate these key words directly to transferable skills.


Top Tips

• Get someone to proof read your CV. Check that all Americanization’s are corrected (such as specialised/specialized) and remember spell check will not pick up errors such as stationary/stationery.

• Make sure your CV is to the point. Unless the company requests a longer or shorter CV, the general rule is to use no more than 2 pages.

• Always use black text on a white background as standard. CV’s are often faxed or photocopied and colored text does not reproduce clearly.

Avoid passive verbs use active verbs:

Delivered Instigated Demonstrated Facilitated Proficient

Authored Evaluated Coached Implemented Volunteered

Instructed Investigated Instructed Ensured Awarded

Liaised Established Appraised Promoted Refined

Collated Simplified Effectively Launched Launched

Influenced Designed Understanding Pioneered Enforced

Persuaded Identified Empathised Established Decided