Having a great CV is important to any job search…
Your CV is the initial chance to grab an employer/recruiter’s attention and could make or break your chances of finding a new job. Here is our step by step guide to writing a great CV which includes expert advice, a free CV template and brilliant tips for winning at CV writing. Use the list of questions below to navigate through our ultimate CV guide!
- What is a CV?
- When do you need a CV?
- What can a great CV do for you?
- Why do you need a great CV?
- What information should a CV cover?
- What should not be on your CV?
- How long should a CV be?
- How do I make my CV look good?
- Free CV Template
- What do I do with my CV now?
- Get Some Real CV Advice From An Expert
The definition of Curriculum Vitae according to Wikipedia is a summary of academic and professional history and achievements. According to the Oxford dictionary, it’s a noun. A brief account of a person’s education, qualifications, and previous occupations, typically sent with a job application
Leonardo da Vinci may have written the first ever recorded CV and things have moved along a lot since 1482 but when he wrote to the Regent of Milan to tell him of his work experience and ask to be considered for work, there were, however, a lot of things he did right.
He wrote an accurate and detailed overview of his work to date, it was written in beautiful Latin script (the language of the educated and professional, making it eye-catching). He emphasised his core skills (design, sculpting and building) and even went so far as to give examples how his skills could be used- to win wars, through the design and production of new weaponry, to produce creative sculptures of great beauty as well as contribute to Milan’s architectural building design.
So many people fail in writing their own CVs and almost all that we see can be improved with a tweak here or there. We know it’s hard but only you know what you have/have not done so we need your input to create a great CV. Contrary to popular belief a CV is not a summary of past experiences but is an ever-evolving document listing your skills, goals, accomplishments as they develop.
Irrespective of your level of seniority; whether a school leaver or with 40 years professional experience behind you, you will still need a document which summarises the skills, experience and achievements you’ve made and bring with you for any job application. The CV is your shop window, your chance to show the reader what you’ve done and the potential you bring with you.
Your CV is your initial way of grabbing the attention of the employer/recruiter and the way you’re going to secure your invitation to interview for the potential job of your dreams.
It’s highly likely you will need an up to date and accurate CV when applying for any job. You’ll either be asked to follow an online application process set by the company (from which you can cut and paste many elements already contained in your CV). OR you will be asked to submit a CV and cover letter to the employer/recruiter.
Note: this is also relevant for school leavers when making UCAS applications – the online process will require much of the information laid out in your CV too.
You may need a CV for an internal promotion, for the HR/line management to ensure you have obtained the level of experience they require for the role you will be undertaking.
You may need a CV if you are working with external stakeholders, perhaps clients or 3rd parties, you may need the CV to demonstrate the level of skills and experience you bring with your services.
If you run your own business, you may need your CV for your insurance provider or investors.
If you’re a freelancer or contractor – every time you pitch for new work you will want to show the client evidence of your value, by having a great CV to hand you already have this in one place.
Once your career is underway, it’s important to ensure your CV is always updated, you may need this for consideration of promotion or review by your clients.
There is a huge difference between an “okay” CV and a “great” CV. Having a great CV can be the variance of being put in the “yes, please” pile to be invited to interview as opposed to the “nah, not good enough” pile. If you’re lucky, you might even get the “thank you for your interest but not quite right for this opportunity” response to your “okay” application.
Writing a great CV is relatively simple but you do have to remember this is your only opportunity to make that first impression – it comes even before you step into a room for an interview. The CV is what the reader will know as you and is an opportunity to showcase your “shop window” with all your skills, experience and achievements which you will bring with you.
If there are 2 CVs, both with the same location, skills and professional experience, but one highlights the achievements made in each role (i.e. results they’ve made happen, the growth, the ROI, the increase and decrease of significant performance indicators, the talks they’ve spoken at and the white papers they’ve written). I know which one I would choose to meet!
The one who has clearly made a very positive impression, show me they go above and beyond expectations in their role. There are lots of clever ways to make this clear in a CV, which we share with you later in this blog.
With an awesome CV, you can communicate your skills and experience to a potential employer. If you’re clever, you’ll have adapted your CV for specific jobs ensuring you highlight the relevant experience you have had in line with that specified in the job advert/description. But the first step is just to create a great generic CV which can be used for all occasions, whether a job opportunity or other.
There are 2 questions here. “Why do I need a CV?” AND “Why do I need a great CV?”
You need a CV to showcase your skills and experience. To show the reader what you can do, what you’ve learned, what skills you have, what tools you can use and of course what you can achieve if given the opportunity.
You need a great CV to differentiate yourself from everyone else’s application. Job seeking and career progression are competitive and a good job is hard to get. You need to be ready from the get-go, your CV prepared and looking it’s best to ensure your application gets selected for the “to meet and interview” pile, rather than the “reject” pile.
According to Robert Meier, President of Job Market Experts “98% of job seekers are eliminated at the initial resume screening and only the “Top 2%” of candidates make it to the interview”. It’s statistics like these which spur me on to share knowledge on how to write a great CV.
How are you going to compete against the other 98% of applicants and secure the invite to interview (let alone nail the interview and get the job offer). You’ve got to ensure you’re doing everything correctly throughout the application process. Right down to having a great CV.
Here at clockworkTalent, our conversions are significantly higher than that, but this is because we are specialists both in Recruitment and in the Digital Marketing industry.
Almost everyone I speak to struggles to write their own CV. I hear excuses like “It’s hard to write about yourself”, “I don’t know where to start”, “I don’t know what to write” and more. Yes, I know it’s hard, no one finds it easy but once you’ve got a great CV saved, when you do see the perfect job, there will be no mad scramble to write a rushed CV. You’ll already have an up to date one ready to send. At a push, it might need a little adjusting or tweaking to make it perfect for the specific job advertised.
So to get started, here are some quick changes you can make to improve your CV instantly:
CV’s are subjective and everyone has an opinion on what they should / should not look like. Over the years we’ve developed a recipe which seems to cover all levels of experience, seniority and industry sectors.
Firstly, the CV needs to be headed up with your Contact details: Contact Details: name, address (town and country if you prefer), mobile and email – along with website/blog if you run one. We tend to put this centred in the header at the top of a page. It is essential you have your contact details. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to have a CV with no telephone number!
The 5 headings you then need to write your CV under are:
1- PERSONAL PROFILE: We recommend writing this as if you were telling your parents or your headteacher where you are in your professional career. A synopsis of your qualifications, achievements, core skills/strengths, passion and ambitions. This could include your industry sectors, territories, customer verticals, budgets, sales deals, where you’ve been published and more – whatever it is, make sure it’s relevant to the jobs you’re applying for or already in.
2-SKILLS & TOOLS: Bullet pointing core skills you bring with you, the facts of what you are good at doing but keeping it relevant to the job you are applying to. Next, bullet point the tools you are accustomed to using in your job. This is an excellent way of showing a decision maker how deep your experience goes and how knowledgeable you actually are.
3-PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE: This is a chronological listing of all the work you’ve undertaken, identifying the employer, the dates and the job titles you’ve held. We want the most recent first otherwise I’ll get bored wading through your early newspaper rounds and 6 weeks work experience at the local nursery. Hit us with your most recent work, so hopefully, it’ll be really relevant for the job your applying to and I’ll be hungry to read more!
If you’ve been promoted within one company, separate these out with dates– it’s a good thing to showcase to a potential employer (that someone else rated your work and promoted you through the business).
You then want to briefly outline your responsibilities and then list your achievements; whether these be team size, budgets, client wins, industry verticals, where content has been published or reporting on KPIs, CTR, ROI, audience reach, engagement, conversions, ranking, campaign traffic and more.
4-EDUCATION, TRAINING & QUALIFICATIONS: again chronological, most recent first… especially if you’ve had recent industry training or certifications. This demonstrates clearly that you’re still learning, keeping up to date and pursuing personal development. Bold the qualifications you obtain, not where you studied or the institutions. The lengthier your career the less detail you need to provide about your education i.e. if you’ve had 20 years in the industry, please don’t list out each and every O level you took.
BUT of the flip side, if you’re a relatively new entrant to the industry list your education, all of it – that you got 10 A* grades at GCSE is really interesting, especially if you didn’t go to university.
OR if you went to Uni and got yourself a First Class Degree, why haven’t you mentioned this in your personal profile at the start of this CV? Do you really think the reader is going to read all the way through your CV and change their mind because at the end they read you got a First? Mention it in your personal profile as shown in our CV template, so the expectation from the offset is positive?!
5-INTERESTS / HOBBIES: Here is your opportunity to show us who you are on a personal basis. If you can make it relevant to your career, great but actually it’s also interesting just to find out a little about you. Employers are hiring individuals not just bums on seats!
For instance, I will always remember one professional who collected Dolls Houses. Nothing wrong with that, just a little unusual – she was great, we found her an awesome job and I will always remember her because of her dollhouse collection! Make yourself memorable by sharing your personal interests too.
Make sure it is the right way up, as the chronological order runs from most recent first. Reading a CV which was upside down, I was bored silly reading about the part-time job someone had whilst at school 10 years ago and it was only persevering through their early career that I got to where they are now and how fabulous they have become.
Leading with most recent first means you won’t risk losing a reader early on.
Errors or inaccuracies. It will be your downfall if you are hired on a CV which wrongly represents you. It’s as good as lying and there are examples of people who have been dismissed or sacked after lying on their CV. So no matter what, make sure you are honest and accurate.
Titling, it as “CV” or “Curriculum Vitae”, we know it’s your CV, don’t label it. Instead, ensure your name and contact details are at the top! I can’t tell you how many CV’s I’ve read and then struggle to find their contact details.
Poor spelling is a pet hate for many employers and it completely turns me off a CV. Some people argue this, saying the spelling is not important- which whilst I hear them, it does place a question where there needn’t be one and reflects on attention to detail and the care with which you are prepared to present yourself and perhaps your work.
If stating when the CV was last updated in the header or footer, make sure you update this… nothing worse than seeing a CV listed as last updated 4 years ago. On a matter of personal opinion, I hate these time stamps and feel they are unnecessary, a little like heading up a CV as “Curriculum Vitae”.
Not updating your most recent job, making sure the dates are correct and you also update the dates on the prior job to ensure there was an end date to it.
Using childish or inappropriate contact details – both for email and voicemail. For instance, someone’s email address was along the lines of email@example.com or when I rang to discuss a job and heard a man’s lairy answerphone message.
Always account for the gaps between employment i.e. if you took time off for travelling, tell us or if you were working on your own project, tell us! With gaps in your CV, we make assumptions, we’re only human so try and help us by answering those questions before they get asked!
Be consistent – if you write in the 3rd person, do it all the way through or if you add personal touches, make sure you carry them on all the way through. Same goes for the style of writing, if you’re updating your CV, don’t suddenly write the update completely different to the original and leave it. Make updates continuous and consistent.
If you use a CV template to write your CV, make sure it is appropriate. For instance, the latest craze is infographic styles which whilst looking beautiful don’t allow many to reflect their experience accurately in detail. Unless you are a graphic or web designer with a portfolio to share in addition to the minimalist CV, it’s unlikely these are suitable.
Too much white space and potentially too little detail. Again, dependent on your level of experience and career path but while a CV may look beautiful aesthetically with lots of white space, it still has a job to do. It’s supposed to summarise who you are to an employer providing evidence of your skills, experience, education and achievements.
Don’t trade the function of a CV for aesthetics because we know who’ll get the invite to interview!
There are so many mistakes that can be made when writing a CV, we dedicated a whole blog post to it!
To be honest a CV shouldn’t be any longer than 2 pages, although I have seen everything from a tiny ½ page to a spiral bound 40+ page epic biography. Needless to say, I didn’t use either of these 2 CVs in their original formats!
Using the layout outlined earlier in “What Information Should A CV Cover”, you should be able to write enough about your career to “tease” an employer into wanting to meet you. It’s your shop window, not the whole department store! Depending on how lengthy your career has been as to how detailed it really should be and how you write it.
For instance, if you’ve already a lengthy career to summarise, why not elaborate on the more recent roles and reduce the early career (which perhaps are not as relevant) to one-liners – don’t delete or omit them completely as I still want to know where your career started.
Similarly, if there are 1 or 2 jobs more relevant with exceptional achievements to mention, elaborate on these and pare down the descriptions for the irrelevant or early roles. I.e. don’t dedicate a ½ page to your first ever job and 10 years later have a one-liner for your most recent role. Be sensible, an employer is more interested in your more recent work and achievements.
CV design is really important, it can either draw a reader in or turn them off from the get-go. Make sure the layout is clear with strong headings and is concise. We suggest following the template we’ve outlined earlier.
Writing in 3rd person is a clever way to help a reader absorb many achievements and statements of strengths and results. This is psychological and tricks the mind into interpreting them as fact rather than “bragging” or “arrogance”. We often see less experienced professionals uncomfortable with this style, so whilst it is very acceptable it is more common the more senior end of careers.
Using the American Psychology Association (APA) style created in 1929 article published in Psychological Bulletin laying out basic outlines with some variants. Basic rules include: left margin justified, right margin not. Times New Roman font, size12 etc.
Consistency in CV formatting goes back to artistic principles of no more than 3 changes to the font in one document i.e. size, colour and font type. This allows the mind to absorb the content easily. The same goes for consistency with space, headers, bullet point etc.
The rule of “proper” writing can go out the window for CVs, but you do want to make sure it reads well, using correct grammar and spelling. You can abbreviate into clear and concise, punchy bullet-pointed sentences as you’re not writing your dissertation!
If emailing it, make sure to send in pdf format to “fix” the look of the document
Adding a hyperlink for your personal blog or portfolio instead of listing the URL, makes it look at lot cleaner,
Listing career progression in one company under one company heading- As was discussed earlier.
So now you’ve got an excellent CV, probably written in word format. May I suggest saving a PDF copy, this is so you know when you send it, the effort you’ve made in creating the right visual impression will hold.
NOTE: some recruitment agencies and employers will require your CV in a specific format. Using software other than these two i.e. Canva, InDesign, Photoshop, and templates from places like Pinterest can mean that the recipient can’t open, save or consider the CV. This may cause them to not bother with requesting a different format.
Whilst being different is great, sometimes you may hinder your application process by being too innovative. Hence having a traditional copy is always recommended! Especially as processes become more automated with Artificial Intelligence and in-house ATS used by employers.
If you would like one of our expert Digital Marketing Recruiters to take a look at your CV and offer some real, honest advice to improve it, Get In Touch!
Having worked your way through all of the above, you’ve now got yourself the best CV.
Next steps depend on what your agenda is! Are you proactively looking for a new job? Are you just getting ready so when you see the perfect job you have the CV ready to send? Are you looking for more clients? Are you pitching yourself for freelance work? So many different reasons to have a great up to date CV!
If you’re a Digital Marketing professional or work in the Online industry and are looking for career progression or just an exciting career opportunity, why not get yourself registered us, a specialist recruitment agency which hires only Digital Marketing and eCommerce roles for Brands and Agencies. The companies we partner with vary greatly across the UK and some overseas, you can read testimonials from former projects we’ve worked on here.
To speak with one of our Recruitment Specialists please send your CV to jobs@clockworkTalent.com. You can also follow our social media pages: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn & Instagram for the latest Digital Marketing job opportunities & news.