Key Things to Remember When Writing a Winning CV/ Resume

With my experience as a hiring Manager and Recruiter, I can tell you that the average time I spent initially looking at a CV was 60 seconds and if I’m really honest it often wasn’t even that.

If the CV was overly complicated with boxes everywhere and diagrams and bright colours making it look messy, the font was too small or it was like reading a novel, it got ignored. Also if it was way too simple meaning that the person who wrote it put little to no effort in its creation it also got rejected.

So when you’ve applied for a job and had no response, aside from the obvious in that you aren’t actually qualified or have the right skills for that role, here are some pointers in how to write a winning CV that will get you noticed:

Have a Clear Structure with Simple Headings

Don’t make the reader search all over the page or look at the margins for the information, make it clear on the page allowing the hiring manager to get to the good stuff quickly.

Recruiters and hiring managers want to see your relevant qualifications and any professional bodies you belong to, then any key systems knowledge you have (if it’s relevant to your profession) followed by your employment history and achievements, so remember keep it simple!

I often see lots of space taken up on the first page with photos and unnecessary sections listing key skills or just a list of buzz words because they’ve been told it makes the CV easily searchable and whilst this is true, it will get ignored. Instead, put those words and skills under the actual jobs, making them have context.

Regarding the photograph, again unless you are an actor or model, this has no place on a CV and takes up space. This is what your LinkedIn profile is for, so there is no need for it to be on your professional resume! I have often heard stories about hiring managers throwing away any CV with a photo on it without even reading the document, so don’t fall into this trap – you’ve been warned.

Keep Your Profile Short and Sweet

I often see 4/5 paragraphs written which is too much and probably again won’t be actually read. Better to write 2-3 sentences with a few salient points as an introduction to you before the reader moves on to your career history.

Key errors I see are:

  • Writing in the first person. This is a professional document with a couple of sentences about you, so keep it factual and in the 3rd person. Your LinkedIn summary can be written in the 1st person and have more detail.
  • The sentence “able to work within a team as well as by myself’ or something to that effect is probably the most common sentence I see written in a profile. Remove it! It doesn’t really say anything about you as an individual, other than you weren’t sure what to write here and thought it sounded good.
  • Writing comments such as ‘considered by my colleagues as an excellent communicator’. This is purely subjective and non-factual meaning it has no place on a CV. Again this is what your LinkedIn profile is for – instead of writing yourself you are highly regarded, actually ask those colleagues/ managers/ employees to write it for you with recommendations.

So, keep your profile simple and include points such as how long you have been in the industry; whether you’ve worked for multi-national companies or whether you’ve worked yourself internationally. Also which industries you’ve worked in and then a couple of key skills. This keeps it personal to you and acts as a quick summary which is all you need.

Include ONLY Relevant Information

I often advise my clients to have a master copy CV with everything on it and then to cut it down and tailor the document for each job they are applying for. This could involve changing the achievements you mention or moving key skills to the top of the list. You could also include a job summary before the key responsibilities to add a bit more information about the role and show relevancy.

Bullet Points

A CV is NOT a novel, and needs to grab attention, so keep it succinct and easy to read.

As mentioned above, a short job summary helps add relevant information, but keep this to a 1 sentence maximum to explain your role and then list in bullet points your key responsibilities remembering to match them to the job you are applying for.

DO NOT copy and paste those bullet points from a job description, it is very clear to a hiring manager and recruiter when someone has done this and shows a lack of real understanding of an applicant of their role or simple laziness and is a sure way to be rejected.


I would argue that this is the most important section of your CV. When it comes to achievements, common problems I come across include people being uncomfortable with what they see as ‘selling themselves’ or they list job responsibilities as achievements because they are unsure of the difference, but mostly I just don’t see this section at all.

So what is an achievement and why is it important?

To put it simply, it’s the add value or the things that set you apart from your competition. It is often easier to put down if you are in a sales role because you can talk about over-achieving targets, but really in any job if you have created, developed, initiated change, built, redesigned, improved or completed a piece of work, it can be termed an achievement.

Ask yourself whether that piece of work was just a normal part of your role or did it make a positive impact?

Then question whether you can quantify the outcome either in figures; monetary value; percentages or by way of explaining the actual result? If you can then it can be listed as an achievement.

Remember that if you were part of a team that completed a piece of work, make sure you explain what role you had and how you personally made a difference with your contribution.

The reason it has such a high importance for you is it shows potential employers your professional personality and how you will add value to their business.

Your CV is the key to your success with being able to impress a future employer or recruitment consultant so give yourself the best shot by getting it right from the start.

If you would like more advice or have any comments to share from this blog, then please get in touch with me at


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