Despite the rapidly changing social media landscape and the evolution of social recruiting, for most people a CV is still the single most important document when searching for a new job.

First impressions most definitely count and the person reading your CV will likely take less than 5 seconds to form an opinion. Your CV needs to grab their attention as well as demonstrate the necessary skills and competencies required to do the job.

If you follow a few simple rules, you will end up with a well presented, accurate and concise CV that will give you every opportunity to secure an interview.

How To Write A Great CV - The 5 Golden Rules

Golden Rule #1 – Write The CV Yourself

Your CV must represent you and the language you would normally use. You will be expected to discuss your CV at interview, and the interviewer will certainly know if someone else has written your CV for you.

The first thing you should see at the top of your CV is your name and contact details. Your date of birth is not necessary, neither is your nationality nor marital status.

Some people like to have a ‘Personal Profile’ section next thinking it makes the CV look professional and makes them sound more interesting, however, it can have the completely opposite effect. I would recommend avoiding this section altogether.

To make your CV look dynamic, a good idea is to write a section detailing your key achievements. These must be compelling facts. Be specific, not general.

Once you have captured the reader’s interest, your employment history comes next. Remember to include job title as well as dates of employment (most recent job first).

Next, include a brief description of your duties and responsibilities using precise details and making skills tangible. This should be followed by key achievements for the role.

The ‘Education & Qualifications’ section comes next, beginning with the most recent first. Start with your most relevant professional qualification, then your degree followed by a summary of subjects and grades.

Training you have received should then be detailed in a separate section.

The section of your CV relating to your interests and hobbies should not be underestimated. Stay away from boring phrases. Try and list hobbies and skills that demonstrate a range of skills relevant to the job or that are, at least, transferrable to a workplace setting.

Golden Rule #2 – Keep It Brief

A CV should, ideally, be between two and four pages in length and will be both concise and informative. This becomes increasingly difficult if you are, let’s say, a career contractor who has had dozens of contracts over the years, however, as a general rule of thumb try and stick to between two and four pages in length.

A good CV will highlight the skills that are relevant to the job you are applying for. You should discard any skills that are not relevant and be careful not to over describe those that are left.

There is no need to mention your current or past salaries anywhere in your CV. Also, remove your referee’s contact details and replace these with ‘available on request’.

Golden Rule #3 – Be Truthful & Accurate

Always declare your reasons for any gaps in your employment history and feel free to explain briefly your reasons for leaving each position. Give credit where credit is due, however, do not over exaggerate.

Golden Rule #4 – Get The Language Right

Try and keep your CV written in the 3rd person where possible. This avoids overuse of “I” at the beginning of every sentence. Be aware of the relevant tense throughout, and use positive words that describe your skills confidently as much as possible.

On average, 50% of CVs submitted to recruitment agencies each year contain spelling and grammatical errors. This can be a real turn-off for recruiters and employers so try and avoid this at all costs!

Spell checking your CV is good start, however, this can still overlook some basic mistakes. A good way  of ensuring you avoid spelling and grammatical errors is to have a friend or colleague read over your CV for you.

Golden Rule #5 – Add The Finishing Touches

Presentation is the key here! Your CV should be easy to read and not cramped. To achieve this, your chosen font should be uniform throughout.

Headlines can be emphasised in bold or underlined or in italics. Times New Roman or Arial fonts size 12 will give your CV a very professional look. Avoid unusual fonts altogether. Bullet points should not be mixed and the indenting should also be uniform throughout.


Remember, your CV is never finished. It should be kept up to date. Your CV should also be tailored specifically for each role you apply for (this is a completely separate topic that I will cover at a later date!).

By following these 5 simple, yet golden, rules of:

  • Writing your CV yourself
  • Keeping it brief
  • Being truthful and accurate
  • Getting the language right
  • Applying the finishing touches

You will give yourself every opportunity to progress to interview stage. For help with nailing the interview preparation, read my post here.

How did you write your CV? Has your CV always received good feedback? Leave a comment below…