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15 CV Tips To Get You An Interview, Straight From Employers’ Mouths

Career Stalling - Loading Bar: Cv And Shortlist Of Candidates

You could be the world’s greatest when it comes to interviews, but if you can’t write a good CV to impress an employer or recruiter you’ll never have the chance to shine in person at an interview.

We like to think we know a thing or two about how to put together a good application, but when it comes to your CV, the most important opinion belongs to the recruiter reading it. 

With that in mind, we asked employers what advice they had for jobseekers just like you wanting to make it off the page and into an interview. 

Gaucho restaurant sign

Rachel Rojas is the Head of Recruitment at Argentinian restaurant chain Gaucho, with over a dozen restaurants and growing throughout the UK.

1) Don’t include a photo

While countries like Germany expect to see a photo accompanying a CV, it’s not the norm for most jobs in the UK, and for Rojas, “more often than not, they’re off-putting”.

A picture may speak a thousand words, but when it comes to your CV those words will just be a distraction

2) Give reasons for leaving

A brief summary of your reason for leaving (known among recruiters as your RFL) “gives an indication of drivers and a deeper understanding of the candidate”. 

3) Remove irrelevant experience

A CV isn’t the place to list every skill in your toolkit. It’s somewhere to show why you’re the perfect candidate for a specific job, so include only the information that demonstrates this.

If you don’t have any relevant experience, be sure to be upfront about it, and show that you’re eager to learn: “I have not yet had any hospitality experience but I have heard a lot about your company and would love the opportunity to learn about the industry with a company such as yours”.

4) Detail the new skills learnt in jobs

Duties across roles and positions can often be quite similar, so Rojas recommends including “a quick outline of what new skill or experience was gained” in each of your roles to help set you apart.

5) Stick to the truth – especially if you’re a previous employee

Rojas has a word of advice for employees that reapply for positions at a company they’ve previously worked for. While you’re encouraged to apply if you think you’d be good in a particular role, there couldn’t be a worse time to lie about your position or tenure at that company – “we can find out!”

The Sterling Choice logo

Richard Hanwell is Associate Director at The Sterling Choice, a recruitment company with over 20 years of experience in the Food, FMCG and Engineering sectors both in the UK and globally.

6) Write a CV for your audience

While an applicant who attached wings to his CV for a Marketing Manager role at Red Bull made an impression on Hanwell, he doesn’t think such a move would have been so good for an Engineer or Production Manager role.

In these cases, a hiring manufacturing or factory manager will want to see “experience and abilities, clearly and quickly”. In this case “a good old fashioned CV with bullet pointed responsibilities and key achievements is much more likely to secure you an interview quickly.”

7) Think twice about using boxes, graphics or charts

With this in mind, there really is something to say for ‘plain’ CVs.

Infographic CVs might be a growing trend, but too much going on “can detract you from being able to read the resume quickly and easily”. For someone whose day job involves reading multiple CVs, being presented with something easy to scan makes their work much easier.

As Hanwell explains, “if you think that we naturally read black print on white paper and from left to right, then that is what we pick up best.”

Another reason to skip the fancy graphics? CVs are often uploaded onto company portals, and many of these “do not allow you to upload the resume if it is too complicated.”

Want to know more? Check out Adzuna’s guide to making sure your CV gets seen.

8) Don’t write your life story

It’s CV Writing 101, but many people don’t use bullet points or format their CV properly, and instead “have written their career to date with paragraph after paragraph of storytelling about their working life”.

This is a guaranteed way to annoy anyone tasked with looking through your CV. “If we can’t see very quickly where an individual is currently working and what their responsibilities are then there is a tendency to move on to the next CV.”

Lookers logo

Karen Reville is resourcing operations manager at multi-franchise car dealer group Lookers, representing 31 volume and premium car manufacturers throughout the UK and Ireland. Her advice covers a big issue for many jobseekers: gaps in employment.

9) Don’t leave recruiters guessing about CV gaps

It’s advice that will never go out of fashion: don’t make employers leap to conclusions about why there’s 18 months missing from you CV.

If you took time out to do something like raise your family or travel the world, you should definitely mention it. Unexplained breaks can negatively affect your chances of landing the role.”

10) The minimum length of detail in a CV is 5 Years

Reville suggests that ‘most employers require the previous five years of your job history at the minimum for their referencing purposes.’ So don’t just stop at three years because the two years before that you were raising a child or were struggling to find work.

11) Use a covering letter to go into more detail

While you’ll want to explain time out of work, the focus should be on skills and experience gained while in employment as much as possible.

Let employers see that you meet the demands of the role, and then explain away doubts they might have about missing information.

As Reville puts it “significant gaps can be addressed later in your CV, or in your covering letter if it has been fairly recent.’

12) Stick to the truth (again)

We’re not naive enough to believe that nobody has ever gained from telling a porky or two on their CV, but we’re in agreement with Reville when she says that “honestly is almost always the best policy” when expanding on breaks in employment. Of course you should put a positive spin on any situation, but completely making things up will only lead to trouble. 

Love Energy Savings logo

Claire Pension is Head of People and Compliance at the Bolton-based Business Electricity Comparison site, Love Energy Savings.

13) Leave out unnecessary acronyms and jargon

Using some common industry jargon so that your CV shows you have the experience requested in a job ad might be unavoidable but bear in mind that the person reading your CV might not have as deep an understanding of the role as you.

Because of this, overusing acronyms and jargon doesn’t make you look smart – instead, ‘it’s annoying and doesn’t add anything to your application other than time spent decoding it.’ In other words, the exact opposite of getting off on the right foot.

14) Be Clear, Concise and Coherent

Follow the 3 Cs of CV writing and you’ll “make it as easy as possible for the employer to identify your experience”. The result? “Odds are you’ll be likely to make it to the interview stage.”

Bring Digital logo

Tom Rosillo, Operations Director at Digital Marketing Agency Bring Digital.

15) Pay attention to detail

It’s a cliche, but what an important one it is: if you don’t pay attention to detail while writing your CV, you risk not getting an interview. As Rosillo puts it, “I will simply not take a candidate to the interview stage if their CV has spelling mistakes, bad grammar or hasn’t been formatted correctly.”

But it’s only a CV, right? Wrong, it’s a reflection of how you’ll work in future. “If a candidate can’t take the time to get their CV absolutely spot on, then they aren’t going to give the work they carry out for our business the attention to detail it requires.”

And with our research showing that three in four CVs contain a spelling error, it’s clearly an issue that affects most of us.

Now that you’ve made sure your CV is employer-friendly, why not see how much it’s worth? Upload it to ValueMyCV and find out how much you’re worth today.