How Do You Know What To Write On Your CV?

By Graeme Jordan (CV Writer / Interview Coach / professional Marketer)

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I recently read six books about CV writing. Some of them you will find in the libraries of our top universities. They were not good.

I speak to candidates all the time who have had CV advice from a multitude of professionals. I then transform their CV, and their results improve. What do I learn from these experiences? Most advice that candidates get about CVs is not good, or it is not applied.

This is very sad given the stressful nature of job applications. You cannot afford wasted time and missed opportunities.

The best way to make sure your CV is fit for purpose is not to speak to friends or colleagues, or even some recruitment consultants. It is to talk to people who actually employ those who do the job you want to do.  Then you can learn how to tell your story persuasively, in written and verbal form.

Here are some key principles that you should start with:

1. Some things are absolute

‘Socialising with friends’ is not a hobby that is going to impress employers. Running the London Marathon in 3.5 hours for charity could be worth stating.

You should not state your ‘Career Objective’; you should focus on what you can do for the employer. Hopefully, you have already decided that they are a good fit for you. If this changes during the process, you can politely withdraw. Otherwise, you need to focus on getting the job.

A summary of your value to the employer at the start is never going to do any harm.

You should not explain why you left any job, write anything negative about yourself, or criticise your previous employers (even if they were unimaginable cretins).

2. Most things are down to judgement

In most cases, hobbies don’t matter a great deal. Some demonstrate commitment and other abilities that are relevant to the job or commitment to your community.

You might want to use a chronological format or a skills-based one – whichever gives you a chance to best showcase your fit with the requirements.

A US resume is likely to work best on 1 page, while in the UK, two pages are typical and three is fine if you have the experience to justify it.

Each job requires different attributes. The most important thing you can do is match up your abilities to what they are looking for. Three things are needed for this:

  • Knowledge of the selection criteria
  • Self-awareness
  • Ability to communicate your value effectively and persuasively

3. Your friends and family will probably like whatever you put in front of them

They know you and (probably) like you. They would recruit you if it was up to them. The problem is, the recruiter probably hasn’t met you, and they only have the CV and your online presence to go on. The CV needs to get you the interview, so find out what they are looking for and focus on that.

4. Ignore the ‘rules’.

Your CV has to be effective. Every line of your CV needs to be relevant to the job and positive and about you. Anything else (apart from contact details, obviously) can be removed.

5. Recruiters have more in common than is acknowledged

I’ve written CVs for people across six continents. While culture is, of course, a massive issue affecting relationships between people, the job of a CV is the same anywhere. It is your marketing document, used to match you against a set of criteria for the purpose of shortlisting. That is why the process and decision-making from your point of view is the same.

Graeme Jordan is a CV Writer and Interview Coach who helps candidates at all levels in a range of industries to get interviews and get selected. See more at


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