Home » Blog » CV basics » Top CV Writing Tips

Updated : 03/15/2023

Research has shown your CV has between 6 and 15 seconds to catch a hiring manager’s eye. Otherwise, all the hard work you put into it and the interview you so richly deserve goes into the “NO” pile. Your CV design and content must not only get to the point, it has to be interesting enough to hold onto the hiring manager’s attention when they do give it a closer look. It has to walk a tightrope, being both concise and specific. These twelve solid CV tips will help you grab hiring managers’ attention and ensure that you impress them with your skills.

1. Customise every CV

The days of creating one CV and making dozens of printed copies are way in the past. These days, every CV that a candidate sends out should be carefully customised to the actual job position and company. How is that accomplished? Study the job listing and be sure the content on your CV matches the job summary and the necessary qualifications. You want to make the hiring manager see firsthand that you possess the necessary experience, skills and qualifications to be hired for the specific position.

2. Review CV examples for your specific industry

There is no reason to start a CV from scratch when there are CV examples for just about every industry in the world. Take a few moments to research online and review examples from your specific industry for effective direction. Be sure not to copy the examples exactly. Rewrite each CV section to represent yourself in the best possible way.

3. Set up your CV to be reverse chronological

When reviewing CV types, you will see a variety of ways to organise the information on your CV. While there are industries that are best suited to a functional or combination CV, it is typically suggested that you stick to the tried and true reverse chronological format. This CV lists your most recent experience first. This will give a hiring manager an easy-to-read listing of your work experience.

4. Include keywords as used in the specific job posting

As mentioned, your CV should be written for each specific job role that you are applying for. This is also important for including important keywords in your CV. Keywords play a vital role in being recognised through applicant tracking systems (ATS).

Where do you find the right keywords? Read the job description slowly and thoroughly. Notice which specific words are used to describe the job summary and skills requirements. It’s suggested that you include as many of those keywords in bullet points where relevant on your CV. Those keywords will help your CV be recognised by the applicant tracking systems.

5. Include recent and relevant work history

It is not necessary to include every job that you ever held on your CV. Instead, include the job roles that highlight your career experience and skills that will meet the qualifications for the specific role you are applying to. In fact, you should only list your jobs from the past 10-15 years. Unless it’s relevant to the position you are applying for, delete any information before that.

Besides outdated information, you don’t want to simply cram your CV with unnecessary information. A hiring manager needs to see what is relevant. A simple CV will be appreciated by the hiring manager to see at a glance that you possess the experience, skills and qualifications that the company is looking for.

Despite the changes in the way we find employment, the basic functionality of your CV is still the foundation of getting an interview and, hence, a job. Follow these CV tips to create a winning CV that will earn the interest and respect of potential employers.

6. Write a powerful career summary

Since the career summary section is placed near the top of the CV, it is one that you should spend extra time thinking about. You want to make an impression right at the start. It’s the area where you need to include your strongest attributes in just a few sentences. You can mention your current job role and a quick summary of your professional career experience. It should not say that you are simply looking for work but instead match the job description that you are looking for. If you are seasoned in the industry, you can mention your years of experience and major contributions. If you are entry level or changing careers, simply state your reason and passion for joining this new industry.

7. Highlight achievements and use numbers

A hiring manager reads many CVs for a specific job. You need to write a CV that will make you stand out. Most CVs are simply a bullet-listed reiteration of activities. It’s rare for a CV to focus on accomplishments. While hiring managers are certainly interested in skill level, they are even more impressed with your contributions and how your creativity and innovation can benefit their operations. A CV can show hiring managers that you are results-driven.

Where possible in the sections featured on your CV, include any pertinent numbers that help quantify your success for that particular achievement. These numbers and facts will impress the hiring manager and give them a good look at the highlights of your career. List your most impressive and important achievements first.

8. List education after work experience

If you have a decent amount of work experience in your chosen industry, you will want to list your job experiences ahead of your education. However, your education is still important so be sure to list it following your work experience. Rather than mention your specific GPA, do mention any high honours that you achieved. In other words, be sure to showcase a summa or magna cum laude status or the fact that you were in an honours programme.

You may also include any continuing education, online courses, and professional development, as part of the education section on your CV. This will show that despite having already worked in the industry, you are still willing to attain any skills to further strengthen your career.

9. Keep your CV to one page

Although CV length can be debated, it is typically suggested that a job candidate should try to organise a CV to fit into a one-page format. The more condensed you highlight your attributes, the more chance you have that the hiring manager will read the entire CV.

A one page CV is ideal if:

  • A candidate is applying for an entry-level position and possesses a limited amount of experience.
  • A candidate has less than a decade of work experience.
  • A candidate has held more than one position with a single employer.
  • A candidate is in the process of trying to change careers.

The only time you should consider a two-page CV is if you have more than a decade of related experience.

10. Use proper font and margins

You have one chance to make an impression so it’s best to be sure that your CV is set up as easy to read and as professional looking as possible.

  • Choose an easy-to-read, 10 or 12-point font like Calibri, Cambria, or Arial with 1.15 line spacing.
  • Be sure your margins are even on all sides as this will make your CV easier to read and look neater.
  • Divide your CV into clear heading sections.
  • Bold each section heading.
  • Reduce or eliminate any extraneous whitespace.

Remember, despite what CV format you select to meet your specific industry, your main goal of creating a CV format should be on readability for the hiring manager.

11. Proofread your CV

You have taken your time crafting the perfect CV that highlights the best parts of your career history. It’s equally important to take the time to proofread your CV. Proofreading goes further than just a CV that has no typos or grammatical errors. You need to check dates, capitalisation, bolding, indents, fonts and other formatting. You cannot rely solely on spell check. Ask a friend or family member to review it on your behalf. Accept any advice provided to you and make adjustments where needed.

12. Save your CV as a PDF

If emailing your CV, make sure to always send a PDF. You see, a well-formatted CV on your computer may look different when the hiring manager opens the document. A PDF is an actual image rather than a text file so it remains intact. The formatting is saved as you set it, no matter what computer a hiring manager is using.

These 12 steps will help get your CV read by the hiring manager and invited for an interview. As explained, be sure to include only relevant information and specific keywords to meet the job description that you are applying for. Organise your CV to highlight your achievements and make you stand out among other candidates. Proofread the finished CV carefully for typos and other errors. Then, save it as a PDF. You will then be ready to apply.

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