3 Ways To Create A Winning CV That The Experts Don't Tell You


When you've spent more than 15 years as a recruiter you get to read a heck of a lot of CVs. In fact I've probably read more CVs than I've had cups of coffee, and believe me I like to drink a lot of coffee. So I feel I've probably seen every conceivable type of CV or resume. The majority are ok, they're fine, not terribly inspiring but not dreadful either. A small percentage are really good but an even higher percentage are really bad. So I felt I had to pull back the curtain and reveal some of the mysteries around great CV writing. I want to let you in on a few secrets that will help you to create a CV that gets put to the top of the pile, a CV that is so interesting it gets read right through to the end, and a CV that will actually help you to advance your career rather than sabotage it. 

We're not all gifted with the ability to write good copy, it's a skill that those who do well have developed and honed with lots and lots of practice. They're professionals. So I'm not saying that your CV has to read like an award-winning novel, but it does need a few essential elements to make it work. And if you take these three tips on board and implement them in your own CV, I can guarantee that you'll be ahead of most of the people competing against you for your next role. 

  1. Make it easy to follow

It sounds so obvious, but have you ever found yourself reading a story and suddenly you’re lost? You don't know how it happened exactly but it’s all become a little confusing, and now the story doesn't make sense, it's doesn't flow. Maybe it’s because the grammar doesn't work or there is no flow to the story itself, which can feel a bit jarring, but whatever the reason, you can start to get irritated. If your career story isn't easy to follow, if it doesn't flow for the reader, then they'll experience confusion and irritation and won't want to keep reading. We don't want this happening, after all your CV could be the difference between being called for an interview or not.  Read it yourself and critique it or ask someone close to you to read it and give their honest feedback. Does it flow and make sense, is it easy to follow? If the answer is no, even for someone who already knows you, then how can a complete stranger make any sense of it?

  1. Easy to understand

Here’s another obvious one, that many people overlook. Your story needs to be easy for the reader to understand in terms of who you are and what you've achieved in the past. As we know easy does not mean it's simple to do. As an example, we all know that the recipe for staying healthy is simple - eat less / exercise more - but if it was that easy  to put into practice, there wouldn't be a multi-billion dollar industry dedicated to it! Trying to take something that's complex and write it in a way that's easy to understand can be challenging but it's essential. I've seen how CV writing has evolved in the last 15 years. Once there was a need for quite complex, formal, 'businessy' or corporate type language, but that's no longer the case. Now your story should be written in an easy to understand language that we use in everyday speech.  Ask yourself; does it make sense to someone outside of your company or industry? Is it easy to understand? Have you written each sentence in its most simple format?

  1. Show your value

I love to see a CV that clearly separates responsibilities from achievements. What I mean by that, is that I want to understand what you did that set you apart from your colleagues doing a similar role. What difference did you make? How did your unique approach and style generate positive results for the business or team you worked for?  I find a lot of people struggle with this one because they don't think of themselves as adding value in their work. But if you take a moment to think about it, you're getting paid a really decent salary and that's in the expectation that you're giving value in return. So what is that value?  

And if you want to command an even higher value (i.e. salary) in the future then it's critical that you demonstrate the value you've delivered to date.

There is lots and lots of opinions and advice out there on how to write a CV, and especially how long it should be.  But to be completely honest, if you get these fundamentals right the length doesn't matter. You'll have taken the time to clarify your achievements, you’ll have communicated them simply in writing and in doing so, you’ll have ensured that you can speak fluently about them during an interview, or over coffee and that's what's going to help you land that next promotion.