As a recruitment agency, we’ve seen our fair share of CVs, and we know what works and what doesn’t. Making a standout CV is essential for anyone looking to make their next career move. Remember, your CV alone is not going to get you the job, but to get you to the next stage of the hiring process. In this article, we’ll share our expert tips to help you create compelling CVs that catch the eye of hiring managers. We’ll explain what a CV is, walk you through the steps to write an effective one, and provide a handy template and example to get you started.

What is a CV?

CV stands for the Latin term curriculum vitae, meaning ‘course of life.’ It’s a document that highlights your most relevant experience and attributes related to the job you’re applying for. Submitting a CV is standard practice for all job applications, whether you’re aiming for an entry-level position or a senior role. A typical CV includes your professional experience, educational background, and key skills. You can also include additional sections such as achievements and hobbies, provided they are pertinent to the position.

What is the purpose of a CV

The primary purpose of a CV is to make a strong impression and grab the attention of the hiring manager. An all-too-common mistake it to try and cram too much information on a CV making it too busy and lose impact. It doesn’t need to tell your life story, just give enough detail to pique the interest of the hiring manager so they want to interview you. While a CV alone won’t land you the job, it serves as a crucial tool to secure an interview, where you can then better present your knowledge, personality and fit for the job. A well-crafted CV showcases your skills, experience, and accomplishments in a way that convinces the employer you’re worth considering for the position. The goal is to stand out among other applicants and create an opportunity to demonstrate your fit for the role in person.

What should I put in my CV?

Contact information

It might seem obvious but make sure you include a way for employers to contact you in. a prominent location on your CV. Add your full name, location, phone number and email address. While you could include your full physical address, just the town/ city for basic reference normally is enough.

Professional Experience

Arguably the most important information on your CV for hiring managers is your work history. Listing your most recent role or experience first is best practice. If you list them chronologically, with the oldest first, it makes it a little harder for the hiring manager to see your most relevant experience and remember, with a with a stack of applications to go through your CV’s job is to make a good impression as quickly as possible.

The key information to include is the dates employed, job title and company / organisation for each. You can then add your key responsibilities, experience gained and achievements in the role. Keep it as brief and focus on your career highlights.

If you have a long work history, try to only list the jobs that you have in the past 10 years and be sure to highlight only the most relevant experience. For example, if you have plenty of work experience your high school grades are no longer relevant.

Relevant Skills and Qualifications

This can include technical skills, such as proficiency in software or languages, as well as soft skills like communication or leadership abilities. Certifications, licenses, and any training relevant to the job should be listed here. Tailor this section to the job you are applying for by prioritising the skills that are most important to the role.

Professional Associations

Including professional associations and affiliations can demonstrate your commitment to your field and show that you are engaged with the professional community. List any memberships in professional organizations, any leadership roles you hold, and any relevant networking groups. This can also include any ongoing professional development you are undertaking, such as courses or seminars.

Academic History

Your academic history should detail your educational background, starting with the most recent qualifications. Include the name of the institution, the degree or certification earned, and the dates attended. You can also mention any honours, awards, or significant projects you completed. Unless you are a recent graduate, secondary school subjects and grades are probably not relevant – You’re not getting hired based on getting an A in PE! 

Add hobbies and interests

While not always necessary, adding hobbies and interests can provide a more rounded picture of who you are and can sometimes give you an edge, particularly if your interests align with the company culture or the job role. Include hobbies and interests that demonstrate positive traits such as teamwork, dedication, or creativity. Be mindful to keep this section brief and relevant.

Optimising your CV

You CV is no good if nobody sees it. Optimising your CV for Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) can give your application the best chance of being seen by the hiring manager. These systems are used by many businesses and recruiters to scan your CV for keywords relevant to the job description. Here’s how to ensure your CV passes the ATS screening:

  • Use Job Description Keywords: Carefully read the job description and incorporate relevant keywords and phrases into your CV. These often include specific skills, qualifications, and job titles.
  • Incorporate Industry Terminology: Use standard industry terms and jargon that are likely to be recognized by the ATS.
  • Avoid Overloading with Keywords: While it’s important to include relevant keywords, avoid overloading your CV. Make sure the content reads naturally.
  • Use Both Acronyms and Full Forms: For example, if the job description mentions “SEO,” include both “SEO” and “Search Engine Optimization.”
  • Place Keywords Throughout: Distribute keywords throughout your CV in the professional experience, skills, and qualifications sections rather than clustering them in one area.
  • Utilize Synonyms: Different companies might use different terms for similar skills, so use synonyms where applicable to cover all possible keyword variations.

CV Formatting tips

The best CVs are brief but impactful. Here are a few tips to format your CV for success:

Use the expected Structure

Best practice is to list your work history with the most recent experience first. Although listing your experience chronologically with the oldest first might seem logical, it can delay the reviewer from seeing your most relevant experience.

Keep it Brief

Aim for 1-2 pages.  Focus on your most important and relevant information to keep the hiring managers attention. Use bullet points and short, impactful phrases. Avoid lengthy sentences. Each word should serve a purpose, helping to convey your qualifications quickly. Avoid filler words and jargon that don’t add value.

Use Clear Sections

Differentiate sections with distinct font sizes and styles for headers. Make your section headers bold or slightly larger than the body text to improve readability and navigation. This helps hiring managers quickly find the information they need.

Use a Professional Font

Simple is generally best. Sans serif or traditional serif fonts like New Times Roman or Arial work well. These fonts are easy to read and widely accepted in professional settings. Avoid overly stylistic fonts that can detract from the readability of your CV.

Avoid Images

Skip graphics and headshots unless requested by the employer. Images can distract from your qualifications and make the CV harder to read. Focus on clear, text-based content to convey your message effectively.

Add a Summary

Include a brief opening statement about your professional goals and what you offer. This should be 2-3 sentences summarizing your career objectives and key strengths. Tailor this to the job you’re applying for to make a strong initial impression.

Side note: Use a professional email address. For example gives much better than This small detail can impact how you are perceived by potential employers.

Use the same name format across all documents to avoid confusion. Ensure consistency in your name presentation on your CV, cover letter, email address, and any other application materials. This helps employers easily match your documents.