CV Writing

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Writing a better CV

The object of your CV is to make sure that you secure an interview of your choice. It also serves as a prompting tool during the interview.

A CV needs to quickly get the point across but you need depth too. Sure, it must be possible to skim over the document to get a flavour – but it must also be possible to read into some detail.

Did you know that around 80% of CVs, don’t do the job of conveying exactly what roles the candidate is suitable for? Take a long hard look at your CV and turn it into a document that works. Make sure that it says exactly what you do on the tin.

So you are capable of more than one role in industry? Have 2 x CVs! Don’t lie, but be specific on your CV. One CV could be your technical document and one CV for your management experience. Apply for roles with the most appropriate CV.

Tell the story from today – and go backwards. This is reverse chronological order. Use employer names, dates and the functional title that you accomplished along with the hardware, software and skills you utilised. You may have been called the “Global IT Manager”, but if your job was actually doing 2nd & 3rd line support for a 4 branch, 50-man business – make up a title that’s appropriate.

Structure your CV with plenty of white space. Don’t use 5mm margins and tiny font sizes. Think about business documents – they have plenty of headings, bullet points and white space. Copy what works.

Writing Your CV (I)

How many pages should my CV be?

It is generally accepted that 2 pages is optimum but I have seen good examples between 1 and 4 pages. 5+ pages is probably getting a bit too long. My analysis has shown that the average length of a CVs is 2 – 3 pages.

More than one version?

If you really are suitable for more than one type of job, then you ought to think of having more than one version “in stock”.

On the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with “tailoring” your standard CV for each job that you apply for. You may have technical qualifications that would lend your skills and experience down either of two technical avenues. Just make sure you put your more relevant experience further “up the page” for the job you applying for.

Remember which CV you sent for each job!

Keep note (perhaps a spreadsheet) of each job you applied for – and which CV you used. Take a note of the agency – and the end client. INSIST that the agency tells you the client name. If your CV ends up on the client desk from more than one agency, through no fault of your own, you are more than likely rejected. Clients don’t want “agency squabbles”.

How To Structure Your CV

Afford your CV the luxury of white space, simple bullet points – then detail when it’s needed. This is what we are aiming for.

  • Page 1 – A personal summary or statement of your personal objectives regarding your career
  • Page 2 – Software, tools, methods, qualifications, hardware, techniques – simple vertical lists
  • Page 3 + Your CV in reverse chronological order.

For each job, show:

  • Dates: From X to Y
  • Client Company / Employer
  • Your role / title (Software, tools utilised here)
  • Several paragraphs describing exactly what you did, how large a team you worked in, types of projects and technologies used. Problems and issues overcome etc
  • If you worked on multiple projects over the years, perhaps describe each one using a different paragraph or sub section
  • Utilise bold to highlight the major tools used. But don’t over-do it. If you were writing ASP using IIS Version 6 then highlight it accordingly – particularly if you are applying for a job where ASP and the .NET framework was part of the role

Writing your CV (II)

Top Ten Tips

  1. Black + White is best but if using colour nothing too quirky
  2. Use a font size that works well “on screen” – 11 point Arial seems to work well
  3. Be consistent where you use Bold and Underline
  4. Leave a proper margin – at least 1 inch (2.5 cms)
  5. Leave some room for reviewer comments – use ‘white’ space
  6. Using email? Think about your subject line and email body text
  7. Copy your contact details into the email body text
  8. Save as Rich Text Format
  9. Don’t use text boxes
  10. Spell check everything – and ask someone to proof read it.

How To Structure Your CV – The “Mechanics”

We discussed in the previous section white space. Make sure there’s enough white space that the page isn’t crowded.If you already have a CV, then make sure you change it to follow these guidelines:

  • At least 1 inch (2.5cm) margins
  • All tab stops must be identical
  • Be careful when using paragraph alignment
  • Don’t use “tables” if at all possible – they are not appealing when viewed on a monitor
  • Learn how to “right align” a tab stop
  • Use the footer to put your name and CV publication date


Keep the structure simple. Someone at the agency might need to change the formatting to a “house” standard. Does your CV lend itself to editing in the future?