How To Write A Perfect CV (And 10 Funny Fails)

Employers are growing harsher when critiquing CVs. Yours could be thrown into the rejected pile for the smallest fault. So how can you write a perfect, rejection-proof CV?

To help you navigate the minefield we've put together a list our top 10 CV tips. And 10 real CVs that got it very wrong!


1. Keep it to the essentials

You only have two pages to write your CV on, and an employer will on look at it for an average of 8 seconds. So keep it to the essential details!

  • A short personal statement explaining why you are the best person for the job and highlighting your key skills.

  • Your career history in date order. Listing your main responsibilities and the skills they gave you.

  • References. Either an academic reference and an employment reference. Or state that references are available on request.

You especially don't have room for negativity! There's no need to mention why you left a role, especially if it makes you sound this petty:

"I was pushed aside so the manager's girlfriend could be parachuted into my job."


2. Save your personality for the cover letter

Your CV should be exclusively about your experiences and the skills they gave you. Your covering letter should link these experiences and skills to the job description. You can also use it to write about your personality, values and thoughts.

But keep it positive!

Not every role you apply for will be your dream role. Maybe it's more a stepping stone. Or just a temporary job for money. But they don't need to know that! If you can't say anything nice, say nothing at all!

"My dream job would be a ballet dancer but once I figured out I couldn't do that I settled on metallurgy."


3. Emphasise the skills you've gained

The aim of CV writing is to prove that your previous experience makes you the perfect candidate for the role. Emphasise how many skills your experience has provided you with and how much you've learnt.

Even if your experience isn't that relevant you can still sell it. So rather than trying to prove you'll be the perfect office tea-maker:

"Experienced with numerous coffee machines and can make great lattes."

Instead you could prove you'll be the perfect office employee: "Working in several coffee shops has given me great transferable skills. Particularly team working, customer service skills and handling stressful situations."


4. Focus on the positives

This is your chance to shine! If your negative experiences can't be spun into a positives then leave them out all together. Prove how much you can do for the employer and what a great addition you are.

Maybe come up with something a little bit better than this person though...

"I eat computers for breakfast."


5. Fill in the gaps

If you have been out of work for a time period you will need to explain the gaps in your employment history. Don't rely on employers to give you the benefit of the doubt!

Put a positive spin it. What skills did you develop? Did you work on any personal projects? Volunteer work? Take a course? Whatever you did, come up with a better example than this guy:

"Watered, groomed and fed the family dog for years."


6. Play nice

"My ruthlessness terrorized the competition and can sometimes offend."

Some people might think ruthless terrorizing is great business practice. But this person just sounds like a nightmare employee to manage and an awful colleague to work with.

A better statement would focus on the skills "My determination and research skills gave us the edge over our competitors."


7. Back up your claims 

"I perform my job with effortless efficiency, effectiveness, efficacy and expertise."

Whoa calm down there buddy. He doesn't sound amazing, he sound arrogant. And probably a little bit delusional.

This doesn't mean you can't make great claims. But you need to provide evidence. It would have been a bit more believable if he had said something along these lines: "Working on this project improved my expertise, and also my efficiency when dealing with X software."


8. Don't be controversial

"Married, eight children, prefer frequent travel."

Hey, if you're the kind of person who wants a regular escape from their partner and eight children we're not here to judge you. But your potential employer is.

Sometimes it's better to leave some things out!


9. Use figures where you can

Which one sounds better?

"At Atlas I was personally responsible for the analysis of over 10,000 lines of data." or...

"I am a pitbull when it comes to analysis."


10. Check for errors

We can't emphasise this enough. Spellcheck it. Reread it. Get other people to read it for you. Reread it again! This CV is the first step to your dream career. Sending it in with silly errors will make you look careless. And no one wants to hire a 'rabid typist'.

"I am a rabid typist."


So get writing! Keep it short, keep it skillful and keep it positive.

Good luck!