The dos and don'ts for writing a CV
It's important to make a great first impression with your CV

The dos and don'ts for writing a CV

Here's what you need to know when updating your CV

You’re looking for your first job, your dream job, a better paid job or simply a change of scene – the first thing to do to get the result you’re looking for is to make sure your CV doesn’t stand between you and your goals.

A CV, or curriculum vitae, is a document that outlines your education, skills and previous work experience. Apart from the cover letter that should always accompany it, it’s the first chance a potential employer or a recruiter gets to assess your suitability for the job.

CV writing isn’t particularly complicated. Ideally, it should be informative but concise. It should be clearly laid out and, of course, checked for spelling and grammar. If you’re registered with a recruitment company, they should be able to go through your CV with you and give you advice on any points you’ve missed or where elements of your previous employment should be highlighted or explained in more details.

In addition to that valuable service, here are some dos and don’ts to consider as you begin to put together or update your professional CV.


Start with your personal details

It might sound obvious but it’s not unheard of for candidates to forge their name and contact details on a CV, especially if it’s being sent with a cover letter, but don’t assume the CV will always be attached to the other paperwork. You don’t have to include your age, gender or a photograph. You might also consider starting with a short personal statement to introduce yourself and give an overview of your skills, experience and ambitions, but keep it to just a few sentences.


Be concise and clear

Use clear headings to separate the various sections. Start with Education and list your qualifications, starting with the most recent, or those most applicable to the job for which you are applying. Experience comes next, starting with your current or most recent role and working backwards in time. Include your job titles, the name of the company or organisation, and summarise your role or responsibilities. Including a section on Interests and Hobbies is a good idea if there’s something of note, or something that is relevant to the job – but is better left out or kept very brief if that’s not the case. Finally, point out that References are available, although you don’t have to name any referees at this stage.


Include career gaps

People find themselves with a gap between jobs for all kinds of reasons, but they can be a red flag for recruiters or employers. Whether the extended time between jobs was through choice or not, don’t leave the reader wondering what was going on. Better to explain that it was a period of readjustment, it was circumstances relating to the Covid pandemic, or that you or a family had a period of illness, for instance, than leave questions unanswered. Most employers will understand and accept a genuine reason for a career break.



Share too much information

Include as much relevant information as you can in your CV, but leave yourself something to talk about should you be asked for an interview. That could be more detail about a specific project in a previous role, an award you won, or an additional role such as mentoring a colleague. Mention it on your CV, but leave yourself scope to impress with the facts when you’re in front of your interview. A good recruitment consultant will advise on this.


Overdo the design

You want your CV to be neat, well laid out and grammatically correct, but resist the temptation to try to be too eye-catching. Forget about fancy borders or graphics. Use a standard typeface at a size that is easy to read but doesn’t look like you’re trying to bulk out a shortage of information. And don’t feel the need to include Curriculum Vitae at the top, it should be fairly obvious to the reader what it is.


Make it longer than two pages

Unless it’s a very senior role with lots of relevant experience, good CV writing should allow you to get all the information onto no more than two sides of A4. If it’s going beyond that, you may be including too much detail. Remember, the person reading it may well have tens, if not hundreds of CVs to sift through, so just provide them with the information they need to put you through to the next stage.


Make life hard for the recipient

If you’re sending your CV electronically, create a PDF so that it will open on any system. If you’re sending in through the post, print it on good quality white paper, one-sided, and send it in an A4 envelope, rather than folding it, it will look neater and more professional when it arrives.

If you’re looking for a new job or want to switch careers, the ACS Staffing Solutions team can help! Contact us online or give us a call on 01604 704058.

Hannah Hewitt
March 29, 2023
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