11 dos and don'ts of writing a CV

By Robert Half on 28th February 2022

Thinking of starting a new job, or even changing career paths? You’re not alone. The past two years have given many people time to assess their work situations and think about their next steps on the career ladder. In fact, we estimate that as many as 9.4 million workers will look for a new role in the first six months of 2022.

With so many people thinking about searching for a new job, it’s more important than ever that your CV stands out. Employers and recruiters spend an average of 6-8 seconds looking at your CV – so getting it right is vital. It’s difficult to know exactly what to include, and what to avoid, like these buzzwords we outlined recently.

We see hundreds of CVs every day, so we know what to look for. Below we have outlined all the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ so you can refresh your CV and send it out to recruiters and potential employers with confidence.

Don’t:

  1. Write your previous experience in chronological order. Your most recent and relevant experience should be showcased at the top. A chronological CV may be confusing and puts you at risk of being overlooked by employers. And don’t include too much detail on junior roles – a job title, dates and one line will do.  

  2. Share too much information in your personal statement. Potential employers do not need to know about divorces, break ups or custody agreements. Employers often form a negative opinion when candidates overshare on personal circumstances or drivers.

  3. Go into too much detail. Don’t give it all away up front – make sure you save something for the interview. If you can develop on your achievements and experience, or add something new during your interview, you are more likely to make an impression on the panel.

  4. Use company language or jargon. While you may be used to using certain terms or abbreviations, the person reading your CV may not be able to decipher your meaning. Try to use language that will be understood by everyone in your field or on the interview panel, not just your company.

  5. Include a photograph. Many companies are trying to reduce unconscious bias in their interview processes (e.g., using blind CVs) and including a photograph makes it harder to maintain balance.;

Managers are always looking for reasons not to interview someone, so avoiding the pitfalls when rewriting your CV can make all the difference. But it isn’t all about what you shouldn’t do, you also need to think about how stand out and keep potential employers engaged in what you have to offer.

Do:

  1. Include career gaps in your CV. Being vague can be a red flag in the shortlisting process. You don’t need to include too many details – one line will do. It shows honesty and positivity, rather than avoidance.

  2. Don’t write in paragraphs. It is important that your CV is clear and easy to read – recruiters and managers who are shortlisting look out for keywords rather than written text. Try writing in bullet points rather than full sentences.

  3. Keep your CV as short as possible. For junior roles, a CV should not be longer than two sides of A4, and for a more senior role (or a more experienced candidate) it could go onto three sides. If your CV is longer than three sides, consider what you might be able to shorten or remove.

  4. Think carefully before taking a risk. Unusual CVs can be exciting and refreshing, but they are also incredibly risky - particularly for white collar or blue-chip roles. Potential employers may think that you are all style and no substance; if you have the skills and experience, let your CV speak for itself.

  5. Work with a recruitment partner. Recruiters look at CVs all day so they know what will set you apart from the crowd. They will also have a better idea of what the client is looking for, and can therefore help you to draw out the most relevant skills on your CV.

  6. Tailor your CV. This is less important if you’re applying for a junior or generalist role, but if you’re applying for a senior specialist role it can make a big difference. You don’t need to change much, simply just draw out skills or achievements that are the most important for the role. Instead of using buzzwords like ‘hard-working’ or ‘commercial', which can turn employers off. Instead think about examples you can give that demonstrate the skills you would like to promote.

Here at Robert Half, our consultants want to help you fulfil your potential so you can be the best that you can be they help to place thousands of people a year. If you contact us one of our consultants can help you to stand out during your job hunt, or alternatively you can submit your CV here.

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