Roy Duncan

14th June 2019


CV tips are available from the internet in abundance, yet many of the thousands of CVs that I review over a year appear to have been prepared with little thought on how effective they will be in the market place.  Indeed for better or worse, often the CVs tend to reflect the personality of the candidate!   Are you giving recruiters the wrong idea?

This article presents some simple ideas that can help you to build a CV and get you on to interview shortlists.  If you are an employer it may help to set the bar to decide which applicants are worth short-listing.


It’s a marketing document 

The first thing you need to consider is that your CV is a marketing document created to sell the person it represents.   It must include the following information:

  • Name, general location  and contact details
  • Unique and/or key skills
  • Qualifications and experience
  • Key achievements
  • Career objectives
  • What you can offer a prospective employer (targeted towards the job)


Content and structure

Having thought about what you have to offer, you will need to get all of this across as succinctly and clearly as you can. To do this use a standard format – easily found on-line – and adapt it to provide a consistent and easy to follow structure such as:

  • Name, main qualification location, contact details – on top of first page
  • Profile – This should also be on the first page and briefly explain what you are – ie Financial Controller, key experience, what you have to offer and what you are looking for
  • Achievements and core skills/competences – usually positioned below the profile in bullet points or may be combined
  • Current / most recent role – should be on the front page

This approach will enable anyone who is reading your CV to understand quickly what you are about and whet their appetite. You now need to add some meat on to the bones:

For each job:

  • Job title, Employer and dates (in reverse chronological order) and whether job was part-time
  • Brief overview of the organisation. what you did and your main responsibilities
  • Your main achievements in the role and how you added value


  • This is a key header
  • Qualification, institute and date/s are sufficient
  • Avoid listing the whole course syllabise – unless you are applying for your first job

Skills and IT

  • Include Languages, software skills,  training and CPD and courses etc.

Personal Details:

  • Again keep it simple – if you do have an interesting hobby add it!  I was once put forward for a job by an agent who spotted in addition to my relevant key skills that I attended drama improvisation classes – that drew attention to my application an dedifferentiated me from other applicants



First of all, ideally no more than 2 or 3 pages.

Secondly, The 3 S’s – Structure structure and structure!  It is no good having all the skills and experience if your CV looks a mess.  Here are a few simple tips:

  • Avoid cramming and use white space to your advantage
  • Fonts – no smaller than 10 and select a font that is easy to read in print and on screen, such as Ariel, Calibri, Geneva, Tahoma, Time New Roman, Verdana etc.  Avoid Courier, Gothic and any curly types.
  • Bullet points, white space and formatting– Bullet points are useful when highlighting, but keep it simple and avoid numbered lists.  Use the entire page – don’t try to cram it.
  • Job title on left with company name underneath, date on right – helps to draw attention to your jobs and progression.
  • Consistency – use the same font and heading format throughout – this enables the reader to follow it easily.
  • Easy to read and understand – reverse chronological order and complete
  • Use a template and adapt it – do not copy directly!

Language and writing style

It is okay to paraphrase, especially in list format; however make sure your style is consistent.  Here are some helpful tips:

  • Use strong verbs such as created, solved, identified, saved money and avoid vague phrases such as ‘I was involved in …’ , ‘ assisted with…’ etc unless that is what you did.
  • Use the active voice wherever possible
  • Avoid use of obscure or ambiguous acronyms
  • Avoid long list of skills
  • Lack of clarity whether you are really looking for part-time work or just aiming to get back into work
  • Lack of flexibility by both prospective employee and employer

Reviewing your CV

  • Before you send out your CV it is essential that you review it for errors in grammar and spelling and check it for ambiguities and inaccuracies.   Ask a friend to review it.  You must also:
  • Review it for accuracy of dates, job titles and content
  • Be prepared to discuss or support everything that is included on your CV
  • Tailor it to the role

Once your CV has gone to the agency or client, it is a good idea to call them and “check” that they have received your CV and application.  This will help to get noticed and gain an advantage over other applicants.

Last words

I hope that you have found my tips and suggestion to be helpful and useful.  Watch out for future tips and thoughts on CV matters and related topics. Good luck with your search.

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