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CV stands for Curriculum Vitae, a Latin term that loosely translates to ‘the course of my life’. Essentially a nice way of saying ‘a list of stuff I’ve done’. It’s a list of your skills, experience and work history.

Careers, particularly those that span multiple decades, are unlikely to fit neatly on a couple of pages so strong self-editing is a must. Why is that important? There’s a stat knocking about the internet that suggests that your CV gets scanned in a mere 7 seconds – and that’s if you’re lucky.

CV Library states that 75% of CVs get rejected by ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) software long before ever being seen by a pair of human eyes. The takeaway here is you need to get the headline information across quickly and concisely using all the right keywords.

The likelihood is you’ve been plunged into unemployment and haven’t been considering a move, you won’t have a CV or if you do, it needs some serious sprucing up. There are a whole host of free CV templating tools you can use across the internet such as Live Career or CV Maker but there is some basic best practice you can follow to secure the brevity and clarity we’ve talked about.


  • Keep it under 2 pages. Any more is overkill and could risk turning employers off.


  • Keep it simple. Fancy fonts and graphics might look cool but they can confuse humans and robots alike. Please note, there’s no need to include a picture and CAPITALS ARE HARD TO READ.


  • White space is your friend. Margins and spacing are a must. Too much text can overwhelm your reader.


  • Key information such as your name and contact details should be at the top. If the hiring manager wants to get in touch, they don’t want to be leafing through the pages to find your details.


  • Include a brief (one paragraph max) personal statement. Remember, keep it succinct. Who you are, what you do and what qualities you could bring to a new role.


  • Chronology is key. Start with your most recent work experience and work backwards including some key responsibilities and accomplishments under each role. Evidence the points if you can.


  • Bullet points are very effective at getting key information across without the need for superfluous context.


  • If you’ve had a long career with lots of roles, edit it down to the last 10 years relevant work experience.


  • Include details of any extended periods out of employment. Having kids, travelling or taking a sabbatical won’t be held against you but you do need to explain the gap.

Don’t forget you’ll need to customise your CV’s content for specific roles. Read the job description closely to see what details may be more pertinent to this role. You might choose to make some information more prominent, include or omit other details. It should go without saying you shouldn’t embellish or lie on your CV, it will only come back to haunt you at a later date if you can’t deliver on something you said you could.

Lisa recommends…

“Have a saved editable copy of your CV that you can customise. This will save you time and effort when tailoring your CV for each role.”


  • Back to those pesky ATS programmes- key words. Scour the job spec and pick out the relevant keywords and include the applicable ones in your CV.


  • Job titles can be fairly woolly when it comes to the parameters of the actual role so tweak them if needs be to overcome the barrier. For example, Head of Marketing/Marketing Manager. Again, steer clear of your ‘ninja’, ‘Guru’ or ‘warrior’ titles.


  • When detailing your skills and experience, show don’t tell. Numbers speak for themselves. For example, you might be a ‘hard working team player’ but what have you done that demonstrates it? It might be sales revenue, app downloads, website hits, or customer satisfaction ratings – whatever format your results might come in, include them.


  • Include your education, training and accredited qualifications if they’re relevant to the role you’re applying for and support your CV’s narrative. For example, if you’re going for a managerial position and have a long work history that supports that, your ‘C’ in General Studies GCSE is unlikely to contribute much to securing that role so don’t include it.


  • Finally is there anything else that supports your validity for a desired role? Have you had any relevant volunteering experience /won an award/acted as a mentor? All these seemingly small additions can help build a well rounded picture of your skills and experience that set you apart from another candidate.


  • Once you’ve completed your CV spell check it, proofread it and then proofread it again. Sloppy spelling and grammar won’t reflect well on you. Ask a trusted third party to look over it; they might even flag up some great personal qualities or skills you’ve forgotten to include.

Ready to take the next step? View the next chapter in our #GetHired Skills Toolkit.