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A guide to the perfect professional CV

Posted on from Frazer Jones

Job applications are high as they've ever been and your CV/resume is critical to getting your foot in the door. Here's your go-to guide on how to make a great first impression, and ultimately, get that interview.

As the saying goes “you only get one chance to make a first impression” and that is certainly true of a CV. With the volume of applications for each position increasing, the person that initially receives your CV will have very little time to go through in detail so your experience needs to stand out. It is important to remember that your CV is a selling tool speaking on your behalf. It needs to be a strong, achievements focused document which will ensure you stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Many of these tips will be familiar to you – some not so – but the fact of the matter is that as an HR professional, you will have written many more job descriptions than you will have your own CV and the two should be very different.

Formatting and layout

Use bold letters and underline company name and dates only, and bold for your current position/title which should be listed on a new line.

You should ensure your CV uses a font that is easy to read e.g. Arial – (size) 11, and laid out in a clear structure:

  1. Personal information
  2. A summary about you
  3. Employment history/achievements
  4. Qualifications
  5. Additional information

Structuring your CV

Personal information: full name, address, email, contact number and a link to your LinkedIn profile.

Employers and commercial recruiters will put your name into LinkedIn. Ensure your profile is up to date and put a link in your CV. If you are an expatriate, state your employment visa status.

Personal profile/summary

This should be a few lines only and is a mini-advert about you – summarising who you are, what your ambitions are, and what you are good at. Avoid popular clichés such as 'reliable', 'team player', 'strong leader and ‘excellent communicator'. These are overused and most likely overlooked by whoever is reading your CV. Instead describe your qualities/skills and achievements in terms of what you have successfully delivered or contributed to.

Employment history – experience and achievements

If you have a long career history you should summarise this in a table format with employer, and employment dates (month/year), position/title and this can then be followed with an outline of the scope of your responsibilities and achievements in each position.

Here are some important points to consider:

  • Do not simply list your day to day responsibilities. It is important to detail how well you carried out your role through your list of achievements (accomplishments over and above day to day responsibilities)
  • Use bullet point lists, positive language and action words “achieved”, ‘designed’, supervised”, or “transformed” for example
  • Ensure that your examples have a baring on or reflect the requirements of the role(s) you are applying for
  • Remember that potential employers are looking for evidence that you can add value to the job and the organisation so ensure that you demonstrate that you are commercial by quantifying your successes. How did you save costs, increase performance, strengthen engagement etc?
  • Do not exaggerate or be economical with the truth (i.e. overstating your experience or accomplishments) as you will be found out at interview
  • Do not leave out any period of employment for whatever reason – ensure that your time is accountable and that you can explain any gaps at interview, whether travelling, job seeking or caring for a relative
  • Do not give reasons for leaving any of the jobs on your CV (except where redundancy has been the cause) otherwise it is far better to explain your moves in person at interview
  • Salary information should be left off the CV
  • Only use technical/professional jargon where necessary


List your professional and higher education qualifications a well as any recent vocational training. You should start with your most recent qualification and work back. Only mention courses of study that are relevant to the job, not every training course you have ever attended.

Do not forget to:

  • Include genuine foreign language skills (where you have a level of proficiency for business)
  • Note any publications or thought leadership features and/or external positions you hold


This section should be no more than a couple of lines. Be prepared to talk about anything that you list here at interview so if you have any interests that could be controversial, perhaps leave out. You can add your hobbies, social positions and voluntary work. This is your chance to show your personality and motivation.

There is no need to:

  • Indicate race, nationality, marital status, children, religion or political preferences on your CV
  • Indicate your computer skills (unless relevant to the job)
  • Include your present salary details
  • List referees (this can be done at the appropriate time)

Remember to

  • Keep your CV brief. The document should be no longer than 2-3 pages, clear and succinct.
  • Re-draft your CV for different applications. No two jobs are the same therefore highlight the experience that lends itself to the roles that you are applying for. Ensure that it contains only the most relevant information that is significant for this application.
  • Be creative! It’s ok to move beyond the typical format of black and white, new times roman typeface – be creative so that your CV stands out although do not overdo it so that it detracts from the content.
  • Proofread the document several times and perhaps ask a friend to look over. Bad spelling, punctuation and grammar can be the death of an otherwise good CV.

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