CV writing tips and advice

6 mins
Sellick  Partnership

By Sellick Partnership

When it comes to looking for your next role, your CV is one of the most important tools at your disposal and is a skill that is highly underestimated.

Getting your CV to the best possible standard could open up many more doors for you throughout your career. It is therefore essential that you put as much time and effort as possible into getting it right to ensure whoever reads it has the best first impression of you.

Here are our top CV writing tips to ensure your CV stands out:

The basics of your CV

First and foremost, remember that a CV is a snapshot of you. Keep in mind how busy the individual reading your CV might be, so make it short, snappy and memorable. It is also important to consider how to layout a CV so that it is easy to read. Space everything out, use bullet points and ensure your language throughout is accessible so that the person reading your CV can understand everything, and ensure they get a real insight into you as a business professional.

Do you struggle when it comes to knowing what to write on a CV? Consider including the following sections:

Contact details and professional profile

The structure of your CV is flexible, but we would always advise that you start with your contact details including your name, email address, and contact number. Avoid including some key things about you such as your age, religion, race or marital status, as these are factors that should not be considered by employers during the hiring process.

You may also want to include a short biography in this top section to expand on your professional title and experience. This should be no more than a few sentences outlining your experience and what you are looking to achieve within your new role. This is your opportunity to make a strong first impression, so be concise and ensure that anything you put here is reflected in the rest of your CV. Remember that this section should be tailored to every position you are applying for and to highlight relevant skills and detail why you think you are the perfect candidate for that particular job. As a minimum you should try to answer the following three questions.

  1. Who are you?
  2. What can you offer the company?
  3. What are your career goals?

Your work experience and employment history

Next you need to include your work experience and previous roles to date. This is vitally important as it will showcase your skillset and give the employer a chance to see whether your skills are right for the role you are applying for. This is the section of your CV that you can really tailor to the role, and ensure you show the prospective employer that you have the skills to do the job that is advertised.

We would always advise you to present your information out chronologically, beginning with your work experience and employment history followed by your education.

You should list your most recent or current position first, followed by your previous four or five positions (depending on how much room you have); there is little need to go further than this, unless you feel the positions and experience you gained are particularly relevant to the role you are applying for.

Be specific about your most recent role, and the one previous as these will highlight your key skills that could be adopted into the role you are applying for. Earlier positions can be described in less detail. Remember to explain any gaps you may have had, whether they are due to deciding to have a career break, for study, or travelling.

We would also advise candidates to quantify any achievements where possible. For example, if you have increased productivity within your previous business, state that you have increased business output by a specific percentage. This is more powerful than just simply saying you increased business output. However, remember not to lie or exaggerate as it is likely the interviewer will find out as you progress throughout the process.

It is also important to remember that employers will want to know about any gaps in your CV, so try to fill these where possible, or be prepared to explain at the next stage.

Include your education and relevant qualifications

Add in details of your education, qualifications and evidence of further study. You may want to include accreditations such as GCSEs if you feel they are necessary. Include the name of the institutions and the dates you were there, followed by the qualifications and grades you achieved. If you have recently left education, you may write your degree, A-levels or GCSEs (or equivalents).

Additional sections you may want to consider for your CV
There are a range of additional sections that may strengthen your CV and highlight your skills. Here are just a few you can include if you have room.

  • Key skills: if you are writing a functional CV or have some abilities you want to show off to the employer immediately, insert a key skills section underneath your personal profile. You should aim to detail four to five key skills at most.

  • How to include references: including reference contact details should be avoided – not only are these likely to change frequently, but it is more professional to state that “references are available upon request.” Additionally, you are more likely to be contacted prior to interview rather than the employer going straight to your references.
Formatting your CV, the right way

In terms of formatting, the key is to keep it simple! Use a font size no smaller than 10 and typeface Arial. Always use bullet points to keep sections concise and highlight significant facts. Use appropriate headings and section breaks to ensure it is easy to read so that potential employers can find information without hassle. We would also advise candidates not to include a photo as this can contravene equality and diversity measures within businesses.

Always check for spelling and grammatical errors, as these will be picked up and will reflect badly on you. Remember that spell checking software does not correct words if they are spelled correctly but are in the wrong context (i.e. there and their) so keep an eye out for these common errors.

It is important to make sure you change your contact details after moving to a new house or obtaining a new phone number so that you are always reachable.

Finally, getting someone else to read over your CV is always helpful – ask family, friends or your Consultant to review your details. Additional reviews = increased CV writing tips.

What next?

Still need a hand getting your legal CV up to scratch? Here's a link to a Word document that our Legal private practice team has put together, download it now

We've also put together a generic CV template Word document, download this here

Alternatively, you can take a look at our candidate section here. We have tips on everything from brand you to interview tips. Or, you can get in touch with one of our expert team for more advice on how to write a good CV.