4 Questions to think about when you write your CV

There’s no getting away from it, your CV is a sales document. Instead of typing the words ‘Curriculum Vitae’ or ‘CV’ at the top, put in ‘Why You Should Hire Me…’ and see how you write it. There’s little point just creating a list of duties or responsibilities; you will not get hired solely because of what you have done, but more because of what you have achieved within those duties and responsibilities, and how you can successfully build upon them and deliver in your next role.

Your whole CV should be your mission statement, your ‘This Is Me’ moment. It may be the door opener, getting you an interview, but when you get in front of a hiring decision maker you need a strong CV to present to. Written well, it can set the tone for an interview, manage expectations and enable you to play to your strengths.

When you write your CV, think about these 4 questions:

What are my biggest achievements?

Forget the CV format; just close your eyes and think of the 5 or 6 biggest achievements that have really meant something to you. They can be things that made a difference, or really stretched you out of your comfort zone, changed the way that the company did something, or required a lot of influencing. Whatever they are, they’ve got to be quantifiable achievements that will give whoever reads your CV an insight into how effectively you operate.

Where have I added value and made a real difference?

Too many CVs reflect a list of duties and responsibilities that look like they have been cut and pasted from a job description. You need to bring the CV to life, give it colour and substance, let anyone reading it know what you have done that really made a difference to your company. It doesn’t have to be a dramatic sea change, it can be something that simplified or enhanced a process that was already there.

What is most important to me about my job?

So many candidates list the ‘biggest’ duty under a job title. Invariably it will be something to do with managing people, or standing in for a senior colleague, or having taken a lead on a project, maybe around recruitment or talent. Whatever is listed first is quite often the thing that means most to you, the key achievement…you need to make sure that it’s relevant for the type of role that you want. There is little point listing management as your major responsibility or achievement if you aren’t looking to apply for a role involving management.

Why am I reading this?

Last question is not for the jobseeker, but for the person reading the CV. They’ve got a vacancy to fill and your CV has come to them, whether directly or through a third party. Why are they reading it? How does your CV fit with what they want? If they have to hunt for the clues and piece it together then chances are they’ll move on to the next one.











  • CJ

    Too many CVs that I see always put “I am hardworking, reliable, enthusiastic, punctual, team player….” on their personal profiles. I get so frustrated by this as patting yourself on the back won’t get you a job.
    Your points above are excellent – one should never make a statement on their CV without qualifying it.

    • http://www.computerrecruiter.co.uk CR Steven

      I disagree that it’s “patting yourself on the back” but I do think it’s given too much attention sometimes.

      However, it does work well in the right context, depending on what’s required of the role (and, of course, if the candidate is telling the truth and is what they say they are). We were recently recruiting for a SEO/social media role where we needed someone who was both technical and social, so someone saying something like how they were “friendly and approachable yet technical” certainly carries more weight than someone who simply says that they’re “hardworking, reliable, enthusiastic…” which a) unoriginal and b) should be a given, without the need to stress it.

  • Dougarnold

    I take your comments as read. It does however, sound somewhat like the pot calling the kettle grimy arse. If there is a hint of freestyle in the piece, one is ope to be criticized for not fitting in. One has to spout the right cliches to impress. If I tell a story of how I can sell fridges to Laplanders, I will be dismissed for failing to use the phrase, ‘customer service’. Also, I read a lot of job adverts that are meaningless gobbledegook, littered with management speak and clichee, clap trap and adjectival phrases that singularly fail to make the grade as sense, let alone sentences. Often a job vacancy is no more than hot air that shows the advertiser does not know what they are doing. Strange as it may seem, the biggest culprits are large corporate and public sector advertisers. Please ask for what you want, then you might end up with people applying with what they’ve got.

  • Cuttstrudy

    the problem with cv,s and asking questions at interviews is a minefield ..anyone can write a good cv and anyone can ask all the right questions at an interview .
    A great cv doesnt just list a load of pat me on the back bullet points with key skills of things im good at ..it simply wont get you the job , in a cv you need to add also what you do outside of a job , it shows you have a persoanlity , and shows a potential employer  exactly what you have to give to a company , and is a great indicator of how you,ll fit into a company / workplace too what really shocks me, is the amount of cv,s that have been re written and printed for  jobseekers on  these various back to work courses  , that quite frankly arent even up to scratch  no wonder most of them dont end up with jobs at the end of their course ….

    • Eileen

      That’s really interesting! I’m currently on one of those ‘back to work’ programmes and have had my CV changed by them at least 4/5 times, and i’m still NOT happy with any of those CVs. They simply do not reflect me as a person, my achievements, or what i’m capable of. Each time i query why they’re changing my CV yet again, they say it doesn’t stand out. then whey i tell them that their colleague changed it only 10 days ago, they say “I wish she wouldn’t get involved.” Yet this is the same thing every ‘advisor’ says to me about the colleague. No wonder i’ still unemployed!However, gotta think positive. New Year, New start etc. lol!

      • CK

        I work for once of those ‘back to work’ programmes and what I tell my customers is to take all our advice and then to create a CV that suits them best from that (although we do try not to have more than 1 advisor working with a client). At the end of the day (a cliché LOL) we make suggestions but no one can successfully interview from a CV they don’t like themselves

  • Blod

    I do some Career Coaching, so helping people to produce CV ‘s is part of my work.  The 4 points mentioned in this article actually ARE more or less the things which get people in front of a potential employer for an interview.  They need to show they have achieved something and what value that added – too many people say what they achieved, but not what the benefit to the company was.  If they can get that right, it works. We also teach people to list skills and experience which is relevant to the job for which they are applying. Some people can have  3 or even 4 variations of a CV – all totally truthful but written in a different style, with different skills and achievements listed for each job type.  I’ve actually got years of purchasing experience but my Purchasing CV is very different to my Career Coaching CV.  Different skills and achievements.  Bottom line – you need to show you are right for this particular job.  Being “off the wall” is not relevant. 

  • Ukc801697263

    I recently applied for a job, having had to ring the advertiser to find out the job role and what they were looking for. They had a quarter page ad in the local paper, full of how wonderful they were, and nothing about the actual job.

  • Common Sense

    I have been out of work a couple years now after working 30 years. With attending different
    courses on how to apply for jobs and been told by 10 different people on how to do a CV.
    You end up totality confused as to which is the best way. But even with the best CV you are
    not guaranteed a job. I agree with Dougarnold a lot of job adverts are full of clap trap and 
    mostly are minimum wage. Having kept seeing the same job vacancy come up with an
    agency in which the job description  goes as this you should be this and that etc, etc, no
    wonder its not filled. 

  • Common Sense

    With been out of work for a couple of years after  30 years of employment. I have been on
    numerous courses on how to apply for a job and how to layout a CV only to be told by 10
    different people. In the end you end up totality confused, i think these people are just out
    to make a name for themselves. You can spend far to long on a CV rather than applying
    for work, i can understand it if you are applying to be a brain surgeon or doctor but not in
    the norm of things. Job adverts themselves you need 2 hours to read them and by the time
    you done this the vacancy has gone. I agree with Dougarnold there is far to much clap trap.  

  • CK

    I would write about what you have learnt during that decade – patience, fortitude and strength of character, overcoming challenges, the ability to learn new skills (how you did things differently to compensate for what you could no longer do) and so on