Or does it?
In January 2020, recruitment expert Rita Chowdhry claimed to have created the ‘perfect CV’, a one-sided, 450-word CV designed for senior management positions in business, finance, or healthcare that she claimed will guarantee the applicant a six-figure role.
Whilst we cannot make you the same promise, what we can do is give you our best tips, tricks, and nuggets of wisdom that we have learnt during our many years helping ambitious businesses find the very best talent out there.
Overhauling your CV can seem like a herculean task, especially when you have conflicting pieces of advice thrown at you from all corners of the internet. A quick Google search for the ‘perfect CV’ will throw up all sorts of results, not to mention a plethora of businesses offering to create this perfect CV for you. But we’re here to save you from parting with your hard-earned money and help you craft a CV that is right for you.
“What is most compelling for me is seeing what the individual has actually achieved in their roles. Make a point of really highlighting all of the significant contributions that you have made in each role you have performed.”- Léon Milns, We Are Adam Director & Co-Founder
Where are you applying?
Depending on the job that you are applying for, and if you are applying direct or through a recruitment agency, you may wish to submit different CVs.
As we covered in our ‘Things Recruiters Wish You Knew’ blog, submitting a PDF CV to a recruitment agency could actually end up harming your chances at landing an interview. On the flipside, if you are applying directly to a creative agency, taking the time to create a well-designed CV that not only showcases your experience, but also your creativity and skills, is likely to go in your favour.
If you are applying for a position within the professional services industry, a professional and clean looking CV is likely what you should be aiming for, as an overly designed CV may distract the hiring manager from your experience and skills.
If you are applying through a recruitment agency, don’t be afraid to ask your recruiter for their advice. Would they prefer a PDF or Word document? What do they think the hiring manager will respond to? Recruiters are fountains of knowledge and spend a lot of time getting to know the clients they are helping hire for, so you should make use of that experience!
What should you include?
Of course, the majority of your CV should be taken up by your work history. This is what is going to be of most interest to a hiring manager or recruiter and will be what showcases your experience and skills. But what else do you include?
“It is very important you are clear and accurate about the dates you worked, what you did and start from present date and work backwards (in case the reader isn’t interested in what you did 15 years ago). Most interviewers will be more interested in what you did currently and recently.” – Richard Gahagan, We Are Adam CEO & Co-Founder
A personal statement is optional, but often a good way of getting a bit of your personality across, so many jobseekers choose to start their CV with a personal statement before launching into their work history.
“I like to see achievements and the commercials behind them when looking at CV applications. For me, it’s the old adage of "so what?", and I think that this will set you apart from the competition.” – Vanessa Jackson, Director, We Are Adam HR.
Do you have any key professional achievements that highlight you as a good fit for the role? Maybe you managed a team through a difficult period of change, or led a successful project to drive business growth – make sure to make a note of this, either in the description of the role in your work history, or in its own Special Achievements section.
“Outlining key metrics you have achieved can really make you stand out and show what you're capable of. If you didn't do it, don't claim to have done it - chances are you'll be caught out.” – Kayleigh Yarwood, Senior Consultant, We Are Adam HR.
When filling out your work history, try to keep it as concise as possible, without excluding any details that showcase your skills or achievements. It is very much a balancing act and may take some rejigging to get right!
“If you have a lot of career moves in quick succession, or you have a recent career gap, it can often be useful to have a quick sentence explaining why. It doesn’t need to be too detailed.” - Vanessa Jackson, Director, We Are Adam HR Division.
You should also include your education details, especially if you hold a degree or other qualification that is relevant to the position that you are applying for. However, you do not need to dedicate half a page to this - a small section should be sufficient.
What should you skip?
To avoid falling foul of any unconscious biases that the hiring manager may possess, it is best to leave details such as religion, age, and sexual orientation off your CV. The same goes for a photograph, as very few businesses these days should require them.
When it comes to your personal interests, have a think about if you should put them on your CV or not. If you do, make them worthwhile. A lot of hiring managers have stated that they are sick of the phrase ‘socialising/spending time with friends and family’ on CVs, because what does this even mean? They want to see what your real interests and passions are.
“It is your call on if you think an employer will or won’t want to see your personal interests, but my view is that having them on there shows that you’ve got interests outside of work, and you don’t just go home and sit in front of the TV all evening.” – Richard Gahagan, We Are Adam CEO & Co-Founder
Try to avoid cliches, too. Phrases such as ‘I work well both as a part of a team and individually’ have been used so often now that they barely have any meaning left. Instead, try to provide an example of how you can work well in a variety of environments.
How long should it be?
Ah, the age-old debate of how long a CV should be. Some, like Rita Chowdhry, believe your CV should be a single page only. Probably the most popular opinion is that it should be no longer than 2 pages, an opinion favoured by the likes of The Guardian newspaper.
It has been found that, on average, hiring managers decide within 8.8 seconds of looking at a CV whether to progress a candidate for the role or not – something you should consider when creating yours. Try listing your tasks and responsibilities as bullet points instead of sentences and make any personal statement as concise and punchy as possible.
“It should be perceived as a 2-page CV – it shows that you are concise and can get to the point when required. But there is no harm in adding an “appendix” for any big projects you have been a part of, or key achievements that you feel relate to the role. This can be presented as ‘optional’ for the reader, keeping your actual CV to a 2-page limit.” – Richard Gahagan, We Are Adam CEO & Co-Founder
There are, of course, exceptions to these ‘rules’. For very senior positions, a three-page CV is often considered the standard, giving more space to providing real-life examples of their skills and experience. CVs for roles within academia can also get to be quite lengthy.
The simple things
"You'd be surprised how often I come to ring someone and there's no phone number on the CV. Include a mobile number and email address as a minimum, plus a link to your LinkedIn profile. You don't need to put your full home address, but a broad idea would be helpful, i.e. Greater Manchester. Even if you are prepared to work anywhere in the UK, this is useful info. If you are prepared to travel or work remotely then say so.” – Lindsey Wroe, Principal Consultant, We Are Adam HR
There are some non-negotiable things you should be doing without fail on your CV. And yet they often get overlooked by jobseekers.
Check your spelling and grammar! You would be surprised at how many CVs we see that are chock-full of spelling errors.
Check your formatting. View your CV on more than one device, to make sure that your entire CV doesn’t shift around when viewed on a screen different to your own. Stick to standard fonts, too, as that fancy font you use may not be installed on every device.
Don’t overuse jargon. If you are applying for a very specific and technical role, some technical language may be beneficial, but be sure to consider that the hiring manager may not be as au-fait with this jargon as a specialist, and your CV should be accessible to them, too.
Put some contact details on your CV. You would be surprised at how many CVs hiring managers receive that have no contact details on them – this makes it very difficult to get in touch if they wish to progress your application!