32 CV writing tips for 2020
If you’re looking to land a new job, you need a quality CV that will impress employers.
From formatting and style to content and language, it’s crucial that every element of your CV is flawless.
So we’ve rounded up the best CV writing tips to help you land plenty of job interviews in 2020 and beyond.
1. Do your research
The very first tip to consider comes well before you start writing your CV… Researching your target roles.
For your CV to be successful, it needs to contain the skills and experience that your desired employers are looking for.
Hit the job boards, scan through lots of relevant job adverts and make a list of the most sought after requirements for your target roles.
Once you have this list, you know exactly what skills and knowledge you should be highlighting in your CV.
This is a crucial step – without it, you will simply be using guesswork to create your CV
2. Break text up
Huge chunks of text are off-putting for readers and make it difficult for recruiters to pick out the information they need.
If you were reading hundreds of CVs every week, would you want to wade through a paragraph like this one below?
Make it easy for recruiters to spot your talents by breaking text up into easily digestible sections.
3. Add a punchy profile to your CV
The top of your CV is hugely important, as it the very first thing a recruiter or hiring manager will see upon opening it.
Make a big impact by selling yourself with an attractive CV profile.
Keep it short and sharp in order to hold readers’ attention, summarise your most valuable skills and highlight the benefits of employing you.
Quick tip: If you worry that your spelling and grammar might not be correct, try using a free writing assistant tool like Grammarly to eliminate the risk of making mistakes.
Check out some good examples of winning CV profiles here.
3b. Check out our new CV writing video guide!
4. Use a core skills section
A core skills section is a bullet pointed list that sits just under your profile.
It can include anything from industry experience and qualifications to skills and IT knowledge.
The purpose is to give readers a very quick snapshot of your offering so that they can see that you are a good fit for their vacancy at first glance.
For best results, tailor these points to reflect the requirements of the jobs you are applying for.
5. Use a professional email address
Every part of your CV will be judged by employers, so it needs to reflect your professionalism at all times.
If you’ve labelled the top of your CV with an email address like email@example.com, it won’t create the best first impression.
Don't do this
6. Show your impact
When writing your CV role descriptions, it’s important to show your responsibilities.
But it’s even better to show what impact your actions have for your employers.
For example, instead of just writing:
"Sourcing and approaching potential customers."
Expand to show your impact:
"Sourcing and approaching potential customers to generate leads for the sales team and build pipeline."
You may not be able to do this for every point on your CV, but always try to where possible.
The infographic below shows some great ways you can show your impact
7 ways to prove impact in your CV
7. Structure your CV for easy navigation
With recruiters often receiving hundreds of CVs for every job they advertise, it pays off to make yours easy to read.
Use the diagram below to structure your CV and ensure it is easily navigated and readers can find the information they want without any hassle.
8. Give a high level summary of your roles
Delving into the nitty gritty details of your roles without first setting the scene, can be confusing for readers.
Give your role descriptions some context by heading them up with a high level summary that explains what the employer does, where you sit within the organisation and how your role benefits the employer.
Now the details of your roles will make a lot more sense to recruiters, because they will be able to see how your work feeds into the overall success of your employers.
9. Avoid generic clichés
CV clichés are terms like:
These phrases may appear impressive at first glance, but they don’t actually tell recruiters anything factual about you.
If you want to show employers that you are a hard-working team player, don’t simply state the fact; instead use examples of the results you have achieved within team settings to prove it.
10. Tailor your CV to every job you apply for
Although your CV will be tailored towards the general type of roles you are applying to, you can give each application a boost by tweaking the CV even further, every time you apply for a different role.
Assess each job advert before applying and make sure that your CV is highlighting the most important requirements for each one.
If you are hiding any crucial skills that are required for a particular role, at the bottom of your CV, then make sure you move them up to the top of the CV for that application and make them prominent.
One quick and simple way to tailor your CV is by swapping your core skills around to reflect the requirements in the job advert.
11. Use a simple font
Don’t over complicate your CV by using an over-elaborate font. This is a really basic but important CV writing tip.
Keep your font simple to allow easy reading and a professional outlook.
A font like Arial, Tahoma or Calibri will work well
12. Add a professional title
Head up the top of your CV with a professional title next to your name, to instantly show recruiters what type of candidate you are.
Tailor your title towards each role you apply for and you will appear as a suitable candidate from the very moment your CV is opened.
13. Do not add a photo to your CV
Unless you are applying for an acting or modelling job, a photo is unnecessary and can even look a little cheesy.
Employers are interested in the skills and knowledge you can bring to them, they are not too bothered about what you look like.
Save the space on your CV for compelling content.
14. Do not use logo images
There is no need to include the logos of the companies you have worked for; they will make your CV file size unnecessarily big and often confuse CV scanning software.
Keep your CV simple by writing the names of all your employers
15. Include plenty of detail on your current or most recent role
Your most recent role is the area of your CV that will be scrutinised the most by recruiters and employers, so it’s imperative that you provide enough detail to explain it fully.
The CV below gives an example of roughly how much space your current role should take up.
16. Shorten older roles
If you are an experienced candidate with years of experience, there’s no need to write huge amounts of detail on your older roles.
Recruiters will be focusing on your recent work to understand your current capabilities, so shorten older roles down to brief summaries to give readers an idea of your career path.
17. Keep colours conventional
You want your CV to stand out, but make sure it stands out for the right reasons.
Using neon colours in an attempt to grab attention is a big mistake will cast doubts over your judgement.
It’s OK to add a splash of colour (especially when applying to create a modern CV look) but don’t go crazy with it.
Keep the colour coding professional looking and don’t use more than 2 font colours throughout.
18. Avoid using skills graphs
Skills graphs like the one below are designed to give recruiters an idea of your levels of proficiency in certain areas.
The problem with them, is that they offer no real tangible scale to readers.
If somebody tells you they rate themselves as a "15/16" in Photoshop, you still don’t really know how good they are.
Instead of using skills graphs, quote real tangible facts that recruiters can relate to.
Length of experience – “3 years HTML coding experience”
Qualifications and training - “Windows certified”
Scale of tasks – “Led a team of 5 in the management of a £50k event”
19. Tidy up your page transitions
Your CV is a professional document so it needs to look immaculate.
Keep your page transitions nice and tidy.
Don’t allow them to look sloppy like this one:
20. Keep your CV to around 2 pages in length
Whilst there is no set-in-stone rule regarding CV length, it’s best to try and keep your CV to around 2 pages.
2 pages is just enough space to tell readers your story without boring them.
Busy recruiters and hiring managers often see hundreds of CVs in a week, so they won’t want to read a 7 page CV. If yours is coming in too long, you need to shorten it down by cutting out irrelevant information.
If your CV goes a tiny bit over or under 2 pages, don’t panic... It won’t cost you the job – just try to keep it as close to 2 pages as possible.
21. Use professional language
Your CV should be a gleaming example of your written communication skills, so ensure that you write in a consistently professional manner.
Recruiters will assume that your CV language reflects the way you will communicate in the workplace, so construct your sentences properly and use a wide vocabulary.
Quick tip: If you struggle to write in a professional style, use a free grammar checking tool like Gramarly to improve your writing.
22. Use bullet points in your roles
Use bullet points in your roles descriptions to make them easy for recruiters to skim read.
Nobody wants to wade through a big chunk of unbroken text to find the information they want.
23. List your roles in reverse chronological order
Employers are mostly interested in your recent work to assess your current capabilities, so start your CV with your most recent role to ensure it receives immediate attention.
24. Explain gaps in your employment
If you have taken time out to travel, study, complete a personal project, or even due to illness; be transparent and include it on your CV.
Leaving an unexplained gap will make recruiters suspicious, and trying to cover gaps by falsely extending other roles may land you in trouble when it comes to reference checks.
Time spent outside of work can often involve plenty of skills (for example travelling requires organisation, planning, social skills etc.) so you can always put a positive spin on a career break description.
25. Send your CV in Word format
MS Word is the most commonly used CV format, so sending in Word will ensure that your CV can be read and passes through any CV scanning software.
Also, there will be occasions where recruiters need to quickly make edits to your CV before sending on to hiring managers. For example some organisations require recruitment agencies to transfer all candidates CVs into a company standard format before submitting – and sometimes they will just need to remove contact details before forwarding.
Sending your CV in Word means it is readily editable and recruiters will be able to get your CV across to hiring managers more quickly than if you had sent in PDF and they had to chase you for a Word version. This will help you to get your CV in front of decision makers before other candidates.
26. Give your CV document a professional file name
The filename of your CV will be visible when sending applications, so take a few seconds to name it professionally.
Something simple like first name - surname CV will suffice.
Avoid using a messy name like Daves CV first draft 030934
27. Use space wisely
You have limited space on your CV, so make every square inch count.
Set your page margins fairly small so that you have lots of room for text and try not leave any big blank spaces through poor CV formatting.
28. Proofread your CV
It only takes one spelling or grammar mistake to make a recruiter doubt your credibility, so proofread your CV 2 or 3 times before taking it to the job market.
If English isn't your first language or you are simply are not confident in your use of grammar, try a free proofreading tool like Gramarly.
29. Do not include unnecessary personal details
Details like your full address, date of birth and marital status are surplus to requirement in your CV and take up space unnecessarily.
The only details you need to include are your name, email address, phone number and general location you are looking to work in.
You can also add a link to your LinkedIn profile if you feel it will benefit your applications.
30. Be truthful
Don’t be tempted to falsify qualifications or make up jobs that you haven’t done.
A white lie may get you through to interview stage, but the interviewer could quite easily catch you out if you don’t appear to know what you are talking about.
Also, most companies will run reference checks after making a job offer, so it’s not worth risking your reputation.
So yes, use a bit of creativity and sell yourself, but don't overdo it.
31. Divide your CV sections clearly
To allow easy navigation of your CV by recruiters, ensure that each section and sub-section is clearly separated and divided.
Use bold heading and page borders for best results.
To add a border in Word simply click the lower border button in the tool bar when you've finished writing the text in it... see below
32. Include facts and figures
Backing your achievements up with tangible figures is a great way to quantify your value to employers.
The examples below are the kind of figures that employers like to see in order to gauge the level of impact you make.
- Managed a budget of £100k
- Led a team of 6 staff
- Increased revenue by 10%
- Worked across 5 locations
- Resolved 95% of complaints within 2 day guideline
Further CV writing tips
Hopefully, the above CV writing tips should give you plenty of guidance for writing your own CV.