Maxwell Stephens

How to Make Your CV Stand Out From the Rest

Top tips

It has often been said that you should consider your CV from the point of view of a person who is potentially going to be giving you a job. It’s easy to create a great looking CV that you like, but that might not actually be a CV that will get you the job. In short, what you pass on to a hiring manager may appeal to you, but may not appeal to them, and this is definitely a case of giving the other person what they want.


Even the most rudimentary internet search will bring up a number of sites about how to write your CV, some right, some less so.  If you follow the wrong advice, you could spend much of your working life wondering why you never get the jobs you want, and not knowing it is because of the one document that you thought was exemplary, but actually isn’t.  While there is no right way to create a CV, there are certainly a number of rules that you would be wise to follow. Here, we review some of the fundamental rules and look at how you can get your CV in front of the right people rather than in the bin.


With that said though, it is important to understand that with CV’s, there is no one size fits all, and a good CV should be tailored to fit the job that you are hoping to get.  That means that you should tailor it to fit the job expectations, but it should still follow the intrinsic rules of CV’s.


Size is an issue

As you progress through your career, you will gain an increasing number of skills and will have expanding experience to add, but despite your ever growing skill set, you should always aim to fit your CV onto the minimum sides of A4 possible, and shouldn’t ever reach more than four pages. That isn’t much to play with, and maxes out at about 2,000 words.

If you have to go to three pages (nb: half a page looks rubbish to an employer, so never go for two and a half) then it must all be relevant. If you fill out three pages and have a certain amount of padding, then cut out the padding and keep it short!  You can make more, less, using a few simple editing tricks such as;

› Use a different font – Some fonts are physically bigger than others, so compare them.  Serif fonts – Times New Roman etc. are generally smaller than Sans fonts such as Ariel, but some employers don’t like the details or flourishes that the Serif fonts have, so choose wisely. With that said, never, ever, use Comic Sans. Ever.

› Change your margins   Even a slightly wider margin spacing will have a big effect on your page-use.

› Use tables – with two or three columns for data such as exam results and courses attended, as they save space.


Make a Statement!

A good CV will usually open with a personal statement, and this will tell the employer your hopes and aspirations. This is a part that can be massaged to meet the criteria of the job that you are after, and can demonstrate your ambition.  Your personal statement is a time for you to break away from the usual CV fare and to shine, so make use of the two – three at the most – short paragraphs that it should take up and really tell the employer what you have done and your aspirations. If you’ve done your homework, they will be similar to career progression in the company that you are aiming your CV at!


Get the basics right

Many hiring mangers have cringed at the lack of basic English and whopping spelling mistakes that litter some CVs.  As a general rule, a spelling or grammar mistake is a short cut to the bin. With word processor software having both spelling and grammar checkers, there is simply no excuse for poor use of English, so write it, check it, get someone else to check it, and then read through it again. And if you are in the UK, make sure that your settings are UK English – there’s nothing like getting a CV from someone in Somerset or suchlike filled with American spellings! Ya all!


Fancy is just plain wrong

Programs such as MS Word are filled with all manner of extras designed to make your lost puppy posters and party invites look good. Do not be tempted to use fancy borders or background images on your CV. Plain paper only, use heading as appropriate to make a certain section stand out, and make the words that you use the eye-catching part of it.


Don’t waffle, and don’t lie!

The people reading your CV are likely to be wading through a great stack of them, and will generally only read the personal statement, list of qualifications, and skills to begin with, and from there, decide whether to put it on the ‘possibles’ stack or in the bin. You need to be in the former so make your CV to the point, and make it interesting too.  A hiring manager will consider around 20% of a CV to be embellished  – as opposed to just made up – and it is okay to amplify your achievements with the use of good English, but don’t lie. Everything on a CV is checkable and some hiring managers will confirm qualifications and previous positions at random. If you are caught out, you’ll go in the bin, so don’t do it.


Your CV is a story about you, and demonstrates why a particular company should take you on. They will be looking for honest, intelligent people with the right qualifications and skills, who are likely to fit into a role and grow with the company.  You need to make sure that’s you, and even if it means tinkering over a couple of weeks, or resorting to professional help, it is always worth doing well. Just like the job that you are going for!


Looking for extra guidance? By downloading our new e-book, The Perfect CV – Questions, Answers and Tips, we will guide you through the process of writing your Curriculum Vitae, ensuring that you include all the necessary skills and qualities that you possess. We asked our key clients some questions to find out what exactly they look for in a CV, and what they will discard straight away.

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