How to create a winning CV

Morgan McKinley 15.08.2013

Writing your CV seems like it should be easy to do. How tricky can it be to write down where you've worked and what you did when you were there? But, in reality, it's far from straightforward. 


  • Contact details: Your CV should be headed with your name and full contact details. Make sure your email address or personal website is business appropriate.
  • Profile: Include the key skills and experience you have that are relevant and avoid talking about your personality or softer skills unless you can back them up with evidence.
  • Employment history: The information included under each role you've had shouldn't simply be a summary of your job description. Under each job, highlight activities you were involved in that relate directly to the job you are applying for. Include achievements, such as how you met or exceeded any targets set and how you added value to the organisation. Wherever possible, try to quantify your achievements. No matter what role you worked in, you should find a way to demonstrate your positive impact on your team, organisation or customers.
  • Relevant skills and experience: If your earlier career history or extra-curricular experience is more relevant to the role you're applying for than your current role, use a heading like "relevant skills and experience" or "career achievements" to bring together the information and evidence.


  • Lack of relevant information: Many candidates make assumptions about what's important to the employer and therefore, fail to provide the relevant information in their CV. e.g. exact dates of employment, academic results etc.
  • Too generic: Many candidates write a broad CV because they want to keep their options open. But unless it's clear who you are and what you do, then recruiters won't know what to do with you.
  • Errors: Many CVs have errors in them and are often rejected on that basis alone. Your CV must be impeccably presented if you want to demonstrate your professionalism and attention to detail. Always ask someone else to check it over for you.
  • Poor language: The use of jargon, clumsy expression or clichés can sabotage the chances of even the most capable of candidates. Your communication skills are being judged by your use of language in your CV.


  • Research: Find out exactly what the employer you want to impress is looking for, then write a CV that exactly matches their requirements.
  • Evidence: Prove what a great candidate you are by including examples of achievements, improvements you made at work or problems you solved.
  • Two pages: Aim for a two-page CV. Any more than this and you are likely to be waffling, but any less and you have not provided enough information.
  • Proofreading: Thoroughly check your CV for errors and ensure that what you have written makes sense. Then ask someone to double-check it for you.


  • Be negative: Avoid any criticisms of past or present employers or mention any difficult periods in your career history. Your CV needs to be very positive.
  • Photo: Do not use a photo with your CV unless you are specifically asked to.
  • Rely on one CV: Expect to have a number of CVs that you change depending on the job you are applying for. Always tailor your CV to the specific role you are applying for.
  • Use fancy layout: Avoid unusual fonts, columns, tables etc. in your CV when writing it in a Word document. The formatting can so easily go awry when it is read by a recruiter.


  • Have you included a current phone number and an email address that you check regularly?
  • Do you have all the correct dates in your CV and any gaps in your CV such as travelling etc. explained?
  • Is your CV relevant to the job you are applying to?
  • If you're emailing your CV, make sure to save the document in your own name. If it's just 'CV.doc' it will get lost in a see of other CVs the recruiter received.
  • The chances are that your CV will be scanned in 30 seconds, so keep everything clear and concise.
  • Always tailor your CV for the job you are applying for.
  • Always get someone to read over your CV before you send it off

If you are interested in working with Morgan McKinley to plan your next career move and would like to discuss your CV, please contact myself or another member of our recruitment team.


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