Insider CV writing tips and application advice

I am writing as someone who has supported recruitment panels in different institutions and worked in an International HR department. I have seen hundreds of CVs (resumes), good and bad. Based on what I have learned, here are my essential tips to avoid making common CV mistakes.

  1. Choose a consistent style, which reflects your professional personality and the job description.
  2. Use Grammarly for proofreading. It may seem petty but even small typos will be held against you.
  3. For most professional roles in the UK, do not use a headshot. For legal purposes, recruiters do not want to appear that they are hiring based on your looks, age, gender, ethnicity, disability etc. Plus, these can be very creepy, avoid.
  4. Similarly, do not include your DOB.
  5. Only include your interests if you can make them relevant to the role. Do not go too personal.
  6. Subtle use of colour can be helpful to make you stand out on the computer screen during the initial HR sift. However, remember that your CV will probably be printed out in black and white for the person actually making the final decision. Therefore, make sure your CV still looks slick when printed.
  7. Make your CV easy to skim for your busy HR person, who could be looking at hundreds of CVs per role. You should concisely highlight your keys skills matching the job description and using robust evidence of transferable skills.
  8. Use a simple to read font such as Arial size 11 or 12. Put yourself in their shoes.
  9. Put month and years dates instead of just length of time on the role.
  10. Use key search words from the Job description in your CV and save the document in Word instead of pdf so it remains searchable using HR software.
  11. I usually save my CVs under the job title, my name and the date. For example, HR Assistant Joe Bloggs Jan 2018. Think about making everything as simple and straightforward as possible for the person reading your CV and so that it does not get overlooked.
  12. Putting your full address is not usually required, just put your town or city instead. This protects your private data and frees up valuable space on the top of the page.
  13. Do not use your private email address. I have a specific job search email account and this is listed on my CV. This will keep you more organised and prevent you being spammed in the future.  
  14. Do not list referees at the CV stage. I usually put “references available on request” in the footer.
  15. Get two honest friends to proofread your draft CV for feedback, one friend who works in your industry and one who does not to get check readability. 
  16. Avoid overuse of industry-specific acronyms. Recruiters will often have no idea what you mean.
  17. Honesty is the best policy. Seriously, do not exaggerate your experience.
  18. Submit or email your CV and cover letter at 9 am so that you will be at the top of the inbox in the morning. A lot of the CVs at the bottom of the pile are not read, so do whatever you can to make sure your CV is at least seen.
  19. Agency recruiters are looking for someone who has already done the same role and can easily step into the advertised role. Also, highlight how you have the edge over the other candidates with the same experience, so they can really sell you and negotiate a higher pay from the client.
  20. Use active voice and tell what you did personally.
  21. Keep a list of new skills when you start a job and save the job description. It will make CV writing easier when you next apply. Also, update your Linkedin Profile and add connections regularly. 
  22. Do not wait for the deadline, submit your CV as early as possible. Interviews and hiring can take place before the deadline.

Let me know if you have any other tips in the comments.

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London writer and very curious nomad 🌍 I like science, comedy, politics, travel, photography, fabulous food and yoga. I don't like Bullsh*t and dairy.