CV Writing

Essential CV Writing Tips – Understand How Your CV is Read By Recruiters

To enable yourself to write a good CV I believe it’s is essential to understand how your CV is read by a recruiter. To provide you with an insight, I will describe my CV selection process below and  my thought process in justification.

It’s a common misconception that recruiters read every word of a CV. Having worked as one for 16 years, I can tell you that this is certainly not the case. This is why it is fundamental to keep your CV as short as possible, ideally no longer than 2 pages, and use all the typical CV writing tricks, namely a clear layout, good use of section headers and easy to read to ensure that key information stands out.

The role of a recruiter is, in its simplest context, to fill a specified vacancy for a Client. To do so, the recruiter will often work with a job specification, supplied by the Client, highlighting the role and responsibilities of the position holder and the specifications of the ideal candidate. Job specifications are similar to the vacancy adverts you see in the press or online, however should be far more detailed.

As a recruiter, when I received one of these job specifications, the first thing I would do was to find and highlight the keywords and requirements held in the specification. It’s a similar approach to that described in my recent blog on targeting your CV. Once this was completed I would turn my attention to the pile of CVs I had received in application for the role.

The First Scan Read

My first scan of a CV would never be focussed on the personal details or qualifications of an individual, this would come later. I would always begin looking at the work history of the individual. Who have they worked for over the last 5 years? Have they ever worked for the Client before? Are they working for a competitor? This information provided me with an instant impression of how relevant the individual was.

If for example if I was recruiting a Project Manager for the construction industry and had received an application from a Project Manager working for a competitor then I would have a very strong candidate at this early stage.

This is why it is key to have a clear layout with section headers that communicate your work history effectively.

CV Keywords

My attention would then turn to the keywords or “buzzwords” that were contained in the job specification. Maybe the Client requires someone to have worked on a particular type of project or even used a certain software package.

I have been lucky enough to be able to scan read documents and consistently pick out key information quickly all my career, however some of my colleagues were less fortunate and often missed information. Therefore, as the CV author, it is your responsibility to highlight these key skills/keywords to make the recruiters job easier. Some people favour using bold or italic text to highlight these, however in my opinion, this only makes your CV appear messy and disjointed.

I always favour placing these keywords in bullet points either in your key skills or job history sections. If used correctly, any recruiter shound spot these keywords highlighted in a bullet point whilst maintaining the visual appeal of your CV.

Personal Details

Only once I had completed the above scan reads, would I now turn my attention to the individual’s personal details. At this stage I would already know if they were suitable matches, due to  their work experience, and have ranked the individuals in order of suitability. 

To me, the personal details of an individual were the least important information on a CV if he/she was applying to an advert. This is because the individual in question had replied to an advert that clearly stated the location of the vacancy and therefore the location of the applicant was of no concern to me as he/she had indicated that they would consider relocation for the role just by applying.  

This is not to say that personal details are not one of the most important pieces of information on a CV and should always be at the top of every page of the CV. There have been many occaisions where an individuals contact details are missing or lost in the bulk of the CV for whatever reason. IF this was the situation, the individual never reached interview stage.


Top CV Mistakes

Top CV Mistakes

Here are the top mistakes that are commonly found on CVs. 

As a CV writer and my previous experience as a recruiter, I’ve read 1000’s of CVs and seen the most common CV Writing Mistakes time and time again. So I’ve compiled a list of the most common ones to allow you to ensure that they don’t feature on yours.

Unsuitable Headings

The first point of call for all CV writing should be to place your name at the top, ideally in the header section, so that it appears on every page. Sounds simple but time and time again, as a recruiter, I’ve had to search for the applicant’s name which is hidden amongst the rest of the personal details.

If laid out correctly, the header should instantly provide the reader with your name and contact details. This increases the readability of the CV and will stop any misunderstandings later in the process. Let’s imagine that you have spent 3 hours creating a CV with great impact appeal that leads you to making the interview stage. However as your name is hidden amongst the text a recruiter mistakenly places your CV in the “to be filed” tray thinking that it’s a rejected CV. What a waste of 3 hours and a potential opportunity!

CV Photos

The amount of CVs I’ve received over the years with attached photos is staggering and, although it’s expected in the USA and other countries, it is unnecessary in the U.K. You want your CV to be judged on the merits of your achievements, skills and work history. You do not want a recruiter to judge your suitability for a position based on your appearance at this stage.

Apart from this, a photograph is very subjective and no matter how professional recruiters are, there is always room for bias as they are, after all, only human.

No or inappropriate email address

This point follows on nicely from the one above. A CV is effectively a sales brochure of you, the professional. However why would you either omit your email address from your CV or worse still use an inappropriate email address.

Let me explain. Whether you love or loathe the technological revolution we live in today, we have to accept that the time when recruiters would use the telephone to contact applicants is on the decline. Instead we are applying for positions and recruiters are responding using email or social media as their preferred contact method.

Therefore a professional email address and social media presence is essential. The use of gimmicky emails such as  or is not the message you want to convey. Stick to more professional sounding addresses and browse your social media presence to check that too conveys the right impression of you.

No clear section headings

To increase the readability of a CV it is advisable to break the CV up into relevant sections. These sections should each have a header that is differentiated from the bulk of the CV text by using bold or underlined text, just like this article.

No bullet pointing

Recruiters read hundreds of CVs a week and the initial read is always one that picks out keywords that’s highlighted on the job description they are looking to fill.  To increase your chances of making that first selection, you need to ensure that the pertinent information is clearly visible and the easiest way to achieve this is with the use of bullet points.

The following demonstrates how easy it is to read the information contained within bullet points.

  • Responsible for data handling and carrying out econometric analyses on a research project about consumption around retirement
  • Co-author on an article about caseworker behaviour and clients’ employability
  • Contributor to a report on the effects of the Danish pension reform of 1999
  • Responsible for the construction of a questionnaire targeted disability pensioners

Reverse chronological order not used

Writing your CV in reverse chronological order is the most advisable order should you be using the chronological CV format. Using this order requires you place your most recent work history at the top of the employment section of the CV and work backwards in time. This ensures recruiters will read the most relevant information first rather than reading all about your first employed position 30 years ago. If you wish to make the selection for interview I can guarantee that this is far more likely to happen if you employ the reverse chronological order.

Excessive details of interests

Adding interest to a CV is a good idea if your are involved in a voluntary role as recruiters look favourably on this or if your outside interests demonstrate skills useful to the workplace such as team sports.

However the listing of all your interests is unwise as it only adds to the length of your CV and could distract the reader from the more important aspects. This is especially true if you list the following as your interest.

“Horse rideing, like going pub when havent got my kids and doing stuff with them when they anit at school”

I can imagine the recruiters thoughts on these interests for various reasons.

Including date of birth

This used to be a stipulation for all CVs 10 years ago however it is no longer the case for 2 reasons.

Firstly we live in a society which discourages discrimination, and rightly so, however putting a date of birth or your sex on a CV places the recruiter in a predicament as if an applicant doesn’t make the initial selection for whatever reason, he/she could accuse the recruiter of doing so on the basis of age or sex.

Secondly, under data protection guidelines, the inclusion of a date of birth on a CV is considered unwise as, should these details fall into the wrong hands, they could be used for the basis of identity theft.

Therefore its is advisable that they omitted from a CV.

Referees included

I always recommend that this information should only be provided when it’s asked by the interviewer during the latter stages of the recruitment process. To include it on a CV only adds more detail and therefore creates more distraction. In addition to this, if you are sending the CV to a recruitment company, the reference names may be added to a headhunter list for the same position and could become the competitor that prevents your appointment to the vacancy.

Spelling, grammar and typos

The CV is a promotion tool for you. Why send a CV that hasn’t been triple checked and is littered with mistakes to a recruiter? Spelling in these modern times is unforgivable as modern day spell checks are excellent, if you have set the correct language in the first as there are subtle differences between English and American English.

Typos are another mistake that are very common as they aren’t picked up by the spell checks. The only way to avoid these is to check, check and check again. You could ask a family member or friend to proofread your CV.  Alternatively you could seek out a professional on sites such as


When you talk to recruiters the common consensus is that it should be either 1 or 2 pages long. I recommend Clients they should use their intuition on this subject. If you are just starting out in your career and maybe have 5 years or so experience, then a 1 page CV should be more than sufficient. However if you are a senior manager or executive with 25 years experience then a 2 page CV would be more appropriate.

Under no circumstances should a CV be longer than 2 pages as the readability is lost and so will the key achievements amongst a wealth of waffle!

Ensuring that your CV doesn’t contain these mistakes will place your CV in the top 10% and increase the chances of your selection for interview. 

Thanks for reading this blog post and I wish you every success in your search for the next step in the career ladder.



Funny CV Blunders To Avoid!

CV Writing Blunders

A light hearted look at some CV blunders that have been found on peoples CVs. Some you couldn’t have even made up!

1.  ACHIEVEMENTS  – “I came first in the school long distance race”

2.  HOBBIES – “Horse rideing,like going pub when havent got my kids.looking after kids and doing stuff with them when they anit at school.”

3.  EMAIL ADDRESS – Lazysod@……

4.  ACHIEVEMENTS – “Being sober”

5.  ABOUT ME – “My favourite colour is Toupe, cos it rhymes with Dope”

6.  REASON FOR LEAVING – “It was hard work”

7.  PERSONAL PROFILE – “I be no stranger to double-entry. I loves numbers, and my wife and I loves journals and ledgers! Can also do tricky sums when I puts my mind to it. Computor litrate.”

8.  COVERING LETTER – “This is my CV I am intrested in any job opening use have avaiable if u could please send a vercation that you reciceved the email”

9.  PERSONAL PROFILE – “I do have convictions (drug offences) which are spent some 30 years ago for when I was 16-18 and have a caution for 4 years ago for criminal damage”

10.  HOBBIES – “Marital Arts” (Possibly meant martial arts?)

11.  KEY SKILLS – “Perfectionist with a keen I for details.”

12.  HOBBIES – “Space Travel”

13.  EMAIL ADDRESS – Batfacedgirl@………..

14.  EMPLOYMENT HISTORY –  “Whilst working in this role, I had intercourse with a variety of people”

15.  HOBBIES – “i like playing sport, which i fined gives me a winning appitite for life’”

16.  KEY SKILLS: “I would like to assure you that I am a hardly working person.”

17.  HOBBIES –  “enjoy cooking Chinese and Italians”

18.  JOB HISTORY – “Career break in 1999 to renovate my horse”

19.  SKILLS – “Fantastic ability in multi-tasting.”

20.  SIZE OF EMPLOYER: “Very tall, probably over 6’5″.”

21.  SKILLS – “Speak English and Spinach.”

22.  STRENGTHS – “Ability to meet deadlines while maintaining composer.”

23.  SKILLS – “I have technical skills that will simply take your breath away.”

24.  MARITAL STATUS:– “Celibate”

25.  SKILLS – From an IT Engineer, “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”

26.  EMAIL ADDRESS – hotsexyluv@…….

27.  KEYS SKILLS – keeping family home clean, tidy and hygienaic undertaking basic DIY.operating domestic taskslike cleaning,washing,cooking.dealing with emerengencies smoothly.dealing with health issues,superivsing,supporting,guiding and organising children.

28.  CV GAP – Candidate explained his gap in employment by saying it was because he was getting over the death of his cat for 3 months!

29.  KEY SKILLS – “But wait…there’s more. You get all this business knowledge plus a grasp of marketing that is second nature.”

30.  PRINTED CV – Candidate sent over their CV printed on the back of their current employers headed company paper

31.  SKILLS – “I can type without looking at thekeyboard.”

32.  JOB HISTORY – “Left last four jobs only because the managers were completely unreasonable”

33.  SKILLS – “I am a rabid typist”

34.  HOBBIES – “My interests include cooking dogs and interesting people”

35.  COVERING LETTER – “I am extremely loyal to my current employer….Feel free to ring my office if you are interested in my CV”

36.  KEY ACHIEVEMENTS – “Received a plague for Salesperson of the Year.”

37.  EDUCATION – “I am about to enrol on a Business and Finance Degree with the Open University. I feel that this qualification will prove detrimental to me for future success.”

38.  HOBBIES: “donating blood – 12 litres so far.”

39.  KEY SKILLS: “Quick lerner, good at mats amd speling”

40.  KEY ACHIEVEMENTS – “Oversight of entire department.”

41.  EDUCATION –  “University: August 1890 to May 1993”

42.  WORK EXPERIENCE –“ I’m working today in a furniture factory as a drawer”

43.  EMAIL ADDRESS – homeboy@……

44.  KEY SKILLS – “I have extensive experience with foreign accents.”

45.  QUALIFICATIONS – “Here are my qualifications for you to overlook.”

46.  COVER LETTER – “Please disregard the attached CV; it’s totally outdated”

47.  REASON FOR LEAVING – “After receiving advice from several different angels, I have decided to pursue a new line of work.”

48.  KEY SKILLS – “Am a perfectionist and rarely if if ever forget details.”

49.  WORK EXPERIENCE – “Night stalker in Tesco”

50.  HOBBIES – “painting my toenails in varying colours”

source responsewebrecruit

Target Your CV Writing

Targeted CV Writing

How to target your CV writing for any job advert

Having been a recruiter for 16 years I can tell you from first hand experience that recruiters, who wade through hundreds of applications, do not read every word on your CV. Instead they only scan read applications for only 30 seconds if you are lucky.

Therefore you have to ask yourself one simple question when applying for a specific role. What are the recruiters looking for? The answer is always found in the job specification or job advert.

Your CV should should scream out, “I’m the perfect person for this role” and this is how you should go about achieving that

Every job specification or advert will be split into two sections. First will be the outline of the role they are looking to fill, which is normally a brief paragraph but contains hidden keywords which need to be highlighted. For example the opening paragraphs may be:

Business Development Manager
 The Role

We are looking for someone to join our existing business development team. The primary objective will be to generate new business opportunities with prospective clients, although there will also be a smaller amount of ongoing relationship management after we start working with a client. This relationship management can provide an opportunity to introduce our other services where appropriate but the overall objective is to ensure that the client remains happy with the service that Periscopix continues to provide.

Most of our opportunities are generated through existing relationships, word of mouth and via our marketing activities. We make a small number of highly targeted unsolicited approaches, hence the role may include a certain amount of ‘cold calling’, but the majority of your time will be working on qualified leads and opportunities.

Our key objective is to build long term relationships with our clients. We take a highly ethical approach to sales, are respectful of our competitors and never promise more than we can deliver.

In these paragraphs the Recruiting Manager has highlighted the key job specific skills that the role requires the appointed individual to have. i.e.

  1. Generate New Business
  2. Ongoing relationship management
  3. Element of cold calling
  4. Working on qualified leads
  5. Building long term relationships

Having identified these skills in the job description of the advert, you need to turn you attention to the next section of the job advert which is the person specification. Here we return to our example job advertisement.

The Individual

Previous experience in our sector is not needed but some experience in a commercial environment, ideally in a sales or business development role is desirable. We do not have a 'hard selling' culture but instead look to to establish sustainable long-term relationships with clients to the mutual benefit of both organisations. We're happy to fill in any industry knowledge gaps but you will need the aptitude to learn about paid search, web analytics and programmatic advertising in order to understand how digital marketing can best be utilised in different scenarios and to assess the effectiveness of existing campaigns.

There will be a steep learning curve but we will provide the necessary training and you will gain experience within each of these departments to gain a full understanding of our proposition.

You will also need enthusiasm and drive and be able to organise and prioritise you own work effectively. You must be personable, confident, persuasive and articulate with the ability to work independently. You should expect to deal with a wide range of clients ranging from very small to very large and with contact points of varying levels of seniority and understanding of our sector.

You must have excellent written English and be able to produce clear and structured written proposals, ranging from short documents or emails to extensive RFP responses.

An undergraduate degree at 2:1 or above is preferred although we will consider other candidates in exceptional circumstances.

In every person specification you will find 2 types of skills highlighted. Primary skills (sometimes referred to as job specific skills) which are essential to the role and Secondary kills (sometimes referred to as Transferable Skills) which are common skills to everyday life and are ideal not essential for the role. Our person specification above highlights the following primary and secondary skills

Primary Skills
Sales or Business Development Skills
Ongoing relationship management
Building long term relationships
Working qualified leads
Undergraduate degree 2:1 or above
Aptitude to learn
Excellent written English
Produce written proposals
Excellent communicator
Ability to work independently

Secondary Skills
Knowledge of paid search, web analytics and programmic advertising
Ability to prioritise own work
Experience of working with Clients of varying sizes and at all levels of seniority

Now that you have analysed the job advert you know exactly what the recruiter is looking for and therefore you can begin the CV writing process accordingly.

To increase the chances of your professional CV making the selection for interview, the primary skills highlighted in the job specification should be at the forefront of your CV writing, ideally in the top half of the CV where they can be easily spotted.

If using bullet points for a key skills section, ensure those that are more relevant for the job role are at the top. The secondary skills should be located in the appropriate sections of your CV but should never take precedence over the primary skills.
Quantify and support your skills

The most common mistake when tailoring a professional CV to a particular job advert is to add the skills but not providing supporting evidence. By adding context to a skill you are highlighting it even further and making it harder for the recruiter to ignore your CV.

Let me give you an example. You may have Business Development experience within the paid search sector and placing it on your CV at the top of your professional profile or key skills section would force the recruiter to notice this. However if you supported this skill with a quantified number, your CV would be placed at the top of the pile rather than the bottom.

Let’s suppose you were a recruiting manager and received CVs from 2 individuals with very similar experience and skill sets but the opening paragraphs were different. Which of the 2 following individuals would you invite for interview?

Candidate 1
An experienced Business Development Manager with experience working within the paid search sector

Candidate 2
A highly successful Business Development Manager with 5 years experience working within the paid search sector producing sales in excess of £1.5 million.

I know which candidate would be selected for interview if I had received these CVs

It’s a fact that numbers are more easily distinguished on a page and draw the recruiter’s eye to that sentence. Therefore not only does it support a skill but it also promotes that particular skill effectively to the recruiter.

Targeted Covering Letter

Having taken the time to analyse the job description and create a focussed CV that has impact, don’t make the mistake and send it to the recruiter with a generic covering letter. It is widely accepted throughout the industry that a generic covering letter reduces the chances of your CV being read by the recruiter significantly.

It is important to spend as much time creating a focussed covering letter than it is creating the CV in the first instance.

Putting this targeted approach into action will significantly increase your chances of securing that vital interview. However, if you are still struggling to secure an interview then one of our experienced CV writers would be happy to review your CV and provide you with some expert advice. Our services can be found on the website , any of the social media links below or by calling us on 0203 488 2214