6 tips for improving your CV

Your CV (or résumé) tells a story. You want the story that it tells to be that you are an excellent candidate for the role that you are applying for. Your CV’s most important job is to make sure that you are selected to get an initial interview.

I’ve reviewed hundreds of CVs over the years. Applicants who make it easy for the person reviewing their CV to see that they are a great match the role have a much better chance of getting an interview.

Here are some things you can do to improve the story your CV tells to the person who is reviewing your application.

  1. Make it quick to scan and easy to read

    The design does not have to be beautiful but your reader likely to be in a rush and so you need to make it easy to navigate and read.

    Keep it simple. Make sure that it is not too busy. Make it easy to pick out keywords (bold/underline). Keep it reasonably well spaced.

    Be careful about using jargon. Who is going to be reviewing your CV? Are they likely to understand the jargon you are using? If not, avoid it.

    Keep it to less than three pages with all the most important information on the first page.

  2. Show that you meet the requirements for the role

    The person reviewing your CV should not have to guess whether you meet the requirements of the role that you are applying for.

    The person initially reviewing your CV maybe the hiring manager, or it maybe a recruiter or a member of the HR team. Either way they are unlikely to spend much time deciding on whether you are a reasonable candidate. Make it really easy for the person reviewing your application to see that you are right for the role they are hiring for. This may mean adapting your CV to the requirements of this particular role.

    Review the requirements of the role you are applying for. If necessary, update your CV to make it clear that you meet these requirements. You may also find it valuable to update the summary section in your CV (see the next point) to ensure it tells a story about how you are the right person for this role.

  3. Include a brief summary

    The person reviewing your application will form a story about you from your CV. Make it easy for them by writing a few sentences to tell the compelling story that you want them to see.

    This is an opportunity for you to tell the reviewer where you are heading in your career and why their role is right for you.

  4. Include your achievements

    The person reviewing your application wants to know what you are capable of and to be confident that you will be able to deliver in the role that they are looking to fill.

    Build their confidence by telling the reviewer what you have achieved in your roles. For each role you list in your CV make it clear what your impact was and why this mattered.

  5. Include testimonials

    The people who have worked with you in the past know better than anyone how great you are to work with. Ask some of them for testimonials which show off your relevant strengths.

    Include one or two of these in your CV to give the reviewer more confidence that you are the right person for their role.

    These testimonials will also build your own confidence.

  6. Get feedback

    It can be very hard for us to describe ourselves and our own achievements. Another person looking at your CV will be able to give you a clearer view of how you are presenting yourself. They are also more likely to spot mistakes and typos.

    Share your CV and the description of the role you wish to apply for with some people that you trust and ask for their feedback and advice. How would they view your CV if you were applying for the role? What is missing? What feels irrelevant? What changes do they suggest?

Good luck with your applications.

Note: If you are a hiring manager who is finding it difficult to make decisions about whether to interview candidates based on their CV/cover letters then it might be worth considering asking specific questions of candidates rather than asking for a CV. Collaborative Future have shared their experiences of taking a CV-less approach to hiring.

👏 Thanks

Thanks to Stu, Luca Rossi, Liam Bennett and Emily Alves for their comments and suggestions that contributed to this post.

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