Register | Login

Your CV

A strong CV is crucial to ensure you are properly considered for the kinds of opportunity you wish to pursue. It is the single most important weapon in your job-hunting armoury.

There is no shortage of advice on CV preparation. However, the advice is very variable in terms of quality and can even be contradictory. If, as a consequence, there is no definitive guide, there are at least some universal guidelines that we can share with you. 

We should start by pointing out that recruitment consultancies rarely use the CV that you have prepared. Most will lift the information from your CV and put it into their own format. That said, generally, they will use your description of your work experience, verbatim. 

CV presentation

Your CV needs to be typed and emailable. If you keep a copy on your PC or on disc, this also makes it much easier to update and amend. If all you have is a hand-written CV, however good it looks, it will need to be typed. A recruitment consultancy may do this for you, but it will slow things down, at least a little, at the start, and, in the modern technological age, will not create the ideal opening impression. 

A nicely spaced and well organised layout will help create the right first impression, but do not use colours, logos, unusual typefaces or any other formatting which will need to be stripped out before the CV can be used. The key to good presentation is content. 

Although sent by email, your CV should always be accompanied by a covering email / letter, which should briefly draw attention to the reasons (which should be easily found in your CV) as to why your application is worthy of consideration. If you bear in mind that recruitment consultants and recruiters get hundreds of CVs, you need to use your covering letter to make your CV stand out and go to the top of the pile. 


At the outset, you should aim to account for all the years since you left school, in chronological order. Do not leave gaps, which may cause irritation and suspicion in equal measure, and do check, along with both your spelling and grammar, that all is correct and logical. Mistakes picked up on your initial contact with an organisation will do nothing for your credibility. 

Personal details

Your personal details should be brief and include your address and telephone number, marital status, current salary and whether you hold a driver's licence. Details such as your NI and passport numbers, your place of birth, your robust good health, your children's names, your political or religious orientation and your membership of MENSA, are not required at this initial stage. 

Professional & academic records

Your professional and academic record should be comprehensively covered, including the schools or colleges you attended when completing O and A levels. Leave out CSEs unless they are grade 1. Provide the number of O levels (or GCSEs) together with A level subjects and grades if they were good, but only the number of A levels if they were poor. Further education should be covered with the dates for college or university attended. List the course title, grade achieved and date of award. Indicate any study that was undertaken on a part-time or distance-learning basis. 

List professional qualifications with dates of completion, indicating first time passes where appropriate. If you are part-qualified and still studying, indicate your progress to date and estimated date of completion. If you are part-qualified and have given up, leave it off. Do not include in your CV anything which could raise doubts in a potential recruiter’s mind, unless there is no option. 

Employment history & professional experience

Your employment history should be summarised with a list of employers and dates and then supported by a more substantive description of your professional experience. This is probably the greatest challenge when writing a CV and, as recruitment consultants, the area that we would be most critical of. 

Most people have average academic and professional records and their best opportunity to shine is by describing their work experiences as effectively as possible. Time spent on this is rarely wasted and we are often surprised at the blasé attitude that some people take. To attend one interview, allowing for travelling time, will normally take 4 hours. Working on this aspect of your CV is unlikely to take longer and can often be the difference in securing the interview that may have a profound effect on the rest of your life. Treat it like a business report: relevant, concise and full of interest. Presenting a rehash of a generic job description is a missed opportunity. If you were going to interview someone, what would you want to know? 

Focus on your job title, record of any promotions (with dates), details of staff supervised, reporting and functional responsibilities, type of work completed, systems and areas covered, skills and technical knowledge acquired, significant achievements and exposures to operational management. It is unlikely that anyone is going to spend more than 2 or 3 minutes scanning your CV so it is up to you to provide them with the reasons to meet you. 

Your most recent employment (depending on length of service) should be given most exposure and this progressively reduced for previous employers. Experience gained prior to moving into corporate governance should be described only in summary. Also give your reasons, particularly if they are positive career development reasons, for leaving one employer and joining another. Moving for a higher salary or more convenient location are valid, but not compelling. 

Responding to advertisements

When responding to a job ad, it is legitimate to amend your work experience to suit the demands of an advertisement. However, if you do use different versions of your CV, keep a record of every version sent. 

Unless requested, do not include copies of certificates, letters of commendation, reports, your latest personality profile or photographs of yourself. Do not make statements referring to your honest and diligent nature - that should be taken for granted and serves more to raise the question. 

Personal interests

By all means personalise a CV by including interests and achievements outside of work. Keep these brief and genuine. Too many interests, particularly those which may conflict with work, may give the wrong impression. 


At the CV stage, you should leave out details of referees, particularly concerning your current employer. If you have not provided details, then a reference cannot be taken up before you have accepted a position, thus avoiding a very rare but potentially embarrassing situation. References can easily be provided as and when they are necessary. 


Finally, no matter what the temptation, do not lie on your CV or include anything that you cannot substantiate at interview. In reality very few checks are made, but if you have secured a position on a misrepresentation of a verifiable fact, you will not only be dismissed, but may also be prosecuted.

This information was kindly supplied by recruitment specialists, Lechley Associates.