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Candidate Tips

Candidate Tips | 12 Hints on writing a good CV

Sell yourself

You can structure your c.v. in any way you choose so use this to your advantage. Make sure you highlight the most positive features of your c.v. by placing them most prominently in the document. Whether this is your skills, qualifications, professional memberships, employment history or something else entirely place the feature you feel is most impressive at the start followed by the second most impressive and so on. Remember that the majority of people looking at your c.v. will make a decision within the first few seconds whether to move on or examine your details more closely so give them as much as you can as quickly as you can to encourage them to read on.

Contact Details

Put your full contact details on your c.v. preferably on every page within a header or footer. Do not rely on contact details on an application letter or accompanying Email as these may well get separated from your c.v. at some point in the application process.

Be Honest

You may think that a "little white lie" on your c.v. will stack the odds in your favour but it is very unlikely to be worth the risk. Firstly there's no such thing as a "little white lie" on a c.v. you're using to apply for a job as any inaccuracies are likely to be grounds for dismissal from your new role. I know of one candidate for a very senior role who at the time of writing their c.v. was awaiting the result of an appeal on their grade for a masters degree. They were so confident their appeal would be upheld and the expected first granted that on their c.v. they recorded the result as a first without mentioning any appeal. A recruitment consultant placed them into a new, and very senior, permanent position on the basis of this c.v. prior to the appeal being rejected. A few months later the candidate's new employer received a complaint from one of their clients regarding misrepresentation of qualifications, an investigation was instigated and the candidate who’d told the "little white lie" was dismissed from their new job. From the information I have, I believe that this candidate would almost certainly have still been offered the job with their genuine c.v. as the grade of their masters qualification was never raised as a vital issue. So the moral of this story is that lying on your c.v. is simply not worth the potential repercussions. Quite apart from the likelihood that your falsehood will be discovered during interview you will always be at risk of summary dismissal. The other point to remember is that the factors you consider to be disastrous to your future career prospects may well be viewed more tolerantly by potential employers as they are, generally speaking, looking at longer term prospects. So be honest, accept the facts, and you may well find the problem's not as big as you think it is.

Personal Motto/Statement/Objective

This is a purely personal point of view but unless you've got something truly groundbreaking to say, and in all reality you probably haven't, then just drop this from your curriculum vitae. I know this section is a standard option with most c.v. wizards but having seen thousands of c.v.'s I've very rarely seen anything in this section that was in any way worthwhile. "To find a position in which I an utilise my skills/maximise my potential/demonstrate my ability etc etc". To anyone who sees a lot of c.v.'s, and most of the people you need to direct your c.v. to will have done, is likely to, at best, ignore this section. As I mentioned this is a personal opinion, and you must decide for yourself what is best, but I would advise simply leaving your personal motto out of your c.v. or if you must include it then place it towards the end of the document.

C.V. Must Haves

There are certain sections of your c.v. that will raise doubt immediately if you don't include them. The foremost amongst these are employment history, qualifications and professional memberships. If you don't have one of these it's probably worth expanding upon (with the possible exception of professional memberships) as these sections will be the first that are looked for.

C.V. Dates

Recent UK age discrimination legislation has meant that no-one can force you to reveal any dates on your c.v. but you should consider carefully whether you wish to take up this option. While the spirit of the age discrimination legislation legislation is undeniably to be welcomed it is hard to deny that it is considerably easier to read a c.v. containing full date information than one which doesn't. My personal preference is to have all available dates including qualifications and employment simply because it gives a more complete picture of the candidate. If dates are removed it becomes considerably more difficult to tell whether a candidate has spent an average of 3 months with each employer, which would at the very least raise various questions, or 3 years. I've placed a number of candidates aged over 60 into positions and none of them have taken the option of removing dates from their c.v. but it is certainly an option available to candidates.

Explain/Don't Assume

Spell out exactly what your previous employment positions have involved because although it may be obvious to you it isn't necessarily to everyone else. You could explain your duties in various ways for example: the number of staff you were responsible for, the projects you worked on, the monetary value of the projects. It is particularly important that you give these extended details as certain job titles, for example Project Manager can mean very different things within different companies. It is particularly important that you fully explain your roles if you're tailoring your c.v. to a specific job specification. Again the same basis remains true, explain what you've done and don't assume that it can be inferred from job titles etc.

Consider Your Audience

Generally speaking your c.v. will initially be directed to a recruitment consultant or a HR professional. Ideally these people will have specialist knowledge within your sector but in the worst case they won't and will simply be measuring you c.v. against certain preconditioned criteria. Either way, make life as easy as you can for them by putting your most relevant details as prominently as possible. Bear in mind that generally speaking they will see hundreds of c.v.'s each week so the more obvious you can make the factors that make you suitable for the company/post the more likely you are to be short listed to be forwarded to senior management for more detailed consideration.

Simple format

Your c.v. needs to be easy to read. Don't be afraid of using bullet points as, properly utilised, this can be significantly easier to digest than pure text. Be wary of using gimmicks. Coloured paper, landscape format, unusual font etc will make you stand out from the crowd but not necessarily in a good way. Your best chance of getting reasonable consideration is to utilise a simple straightforward format and ensure that it easy to access all relevant information.


In an ideal world no c.v. would be longer than 2 sides of A4 but this is not always possible. Don't get too hung up on c.v. length but bear in mind that a c.v. should be a "taster" designed to garner enough interest to gain an interview in which you can expand upon your experience. As such aim for 2 pages and focus strongly on your most relevant qualifications and experiences.

Include All Your Skills

Make sure you don't limit yourself by missing key skills from your curriculum vitae. Include all software packages/IT skills in addition to management, social positions or positions of responsibility which may be relevant although not directly work related.


There is an increasing trend towards including a photograph of yourself on a curriculum vitae. This is an excellent step for you to take provided you have a suitable photo. If you don't then just don't include a photo, you don't have to so don't worry about it. In short if your photo portrays you as professional, reliable, dynamic and communicative then include it on your details. If your photo shows you relaxing on a lounger by a pool then, probably, leave it off.

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