Five tips to a winning CV

Five tips to a winning CV

I saw thousands of CVs in my HR career and it never failed to surprise me how bad they could be!

From being six pages long to tonnes of spelling & grammar mistakes and cover notes stating the wrong job title or, even worse, the wrong company name – to highlight a few of the horrors.

If you’re thinking about applying for a new job, whether internally or externally, you’ll only have seconds to impress the hiring manager/recruitment consultant/HR team. So it’s important you get it right the first time otherwise you’ll simply waste your time and theirs.

1.List your achievements

Go through your performance appraisals and your email folders and write down all your accomplishments and then highlight the top ones in your CV.

Make sure that you highlight key figures such as ‘I increased sales by 20%, I reduced costs by 10% or I recruited ten people every month’.

The number of accomplishments you have may depend on how long you’ve been in that role. So, if you’ve been with a particular company for a year then you may only have three bullet points, but if you’ve been with them for ten years then you may have seven achievements that you want to state.

Above all make the CV no longer than two pages.

2.Talk to a recruiting company

Recruiters can get a bad name but I’ve worked with some fantastic ones so it’s definitely worth building relationships with those in your industry.

They can give you advice on your CV, the buoyancy of the market and the realism of your salary expectations. They’ll also ask questions to understand what you are looking for.

They can then additionally look for opportunities on your behalf – roles that you would perhaps not have come across because they weren’t advertised on their website or LinkedIn.

You can download a list of recruitment companies HERE that I have put together so that you don’t have to spend time googling, you can concentrate to contacting them and getting that new role you deserve.

3.Be truthful

If you have said that you led a team of fifty then have ready examples of how you did this, what were your successes and your challenges and what you learnt.

If you’ve lied on your CV then be sure it will come out – maybe not at interview but definitely once you are in the job. And then it’s simply uncomfortable for everyone and you risk losing your job.

4.Tailor your CV to the role that you are applying for

Read the job description thoroughly and make sure somewhere on your CV you’ve covered all the requirements as best you can.

If there’s a skill on the job description that you don’t have then that is absolutely fine – but think about how you’ll learn that skill once you start so that it’s not a problem for the recruiting company.

5.Vary the vocabulary on your CV

I have seen CVs where each line begins with managed, implemented or introduced. This shows lack of imagination and laziness so don’t do it!  You can download a list of 180 CV power words HERE that I have put together that CV experts recommend, so have that by you and introduce them throughout your CV.

I quite often got asked whether to include a photo or not on a CV or cover letter.  I personally didn’t attach one but I would love to know what you think. Get in touch with your thoughts and connect with me on LinkedIn.


Caroline Arnold 

Executive Coach 

T: @carnoldcoaching

F: Caroline Arnold Coaching