Shirley's Articles / Business Writing

Six Steps To Creating The Perfect CV

On the job hunt, your CV is your most important tool. It’s your first opportunity to sell yourself – your skills, qualifications and experience. It’s your chance to highlight what makes you an excellent candidate for the position. Employers regularly receive hundreds of CVs for the same position, so it’s essential that your CV stands out for all the right reasons.

Here are six steps to help you create the perfect CV:

1. Cut the fluff

Keep your CV up to date, especially with your most recent achievements, and make sure it’s clear and concise by including only relevant information.

List your experience in chronological order and, although it may be tempting, do not leave noticeable gaps. Be honest about what you were doing at the time, but present things as positively as possible. If you try to hide or gloss over something, a potential employer will probably pick up on it.

2. One size doesn’t fit all

Stand out from the crowd by researching exactly what the position entails and then customise your CV to show how you have those traits. Be specific and show how interested you are in the position by doing a little extra work. The hiring committee will appreciate it. Highlight particular skills, experiences and attributes that you think the organisation will be looking for. To tailor your CV for a specific job, you may have to change a few words and phrases here and there, but the time taken can be worth it.

3. Talk the talk

Shine lots of light on your good qualities and relevant skills, leaving out all negativity. Look for key words on the company’s advertisement or job description, and use them in your CV. You can also demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of your chosen profession by using relevant terminology, but beware of using too much jargon. Try to show competence, not arrogance.

4. Write it right

One mistake on your CV could be all it takes for it to be tossed away. Use a spellchecker, re-read it and, if possible, ask someone else to double-check.

You have a very short time to make the best impression, so keep your language short and concise. Use powerful verbs such as achieved, developed and strengthened, which emphasise your achievements.

5. Chop it up into chunks

Use bullets, short paragraphs and note form, with a clear, logical layout, and just the relevant information to make it easy for the potential employer to read. When you do this, you will have a much greater chance of interview.

6. Look the part

Employers see hundreds of CVs, so you may be tempted to add a creative flare to yours, thinking it will stand out. Well it will, but for the wrong reasons. Using lots of different fonts and styles may look more amateur than professional, and what looks good to you could be less appealing to someone else.

Use a professional, clean, clear font, all in the same size, with bold for emphasis on headings and sub-headings. Leave white space around the text to make the layout easy on the eye. Print on good quality, plain white paper. And most of all, try to keep it to a maximum of two pages. Employers just haven’t got time to read lengthy documents.

Remember, some employers may spend as little as 45 seconds skimming a CV before branding it “no way”, “maybe” or “potential”. Take some time creating your CV so you fall into the “potential” category that will gain a second glance!

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Shirley is an international bestselling author. She has established herself as a leading authority in email and business writing skills. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition sold over half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into 17 languages. Her book Email Essentials reached #2 in the USA for publishers Marshall Cavendish International. Find out more about Shirley at

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