CV’s: Two Key Do’s and Don’ts

Over the past few years, it would be fair to say that I’ve seen a fair share of the good, the bad, and the downright ugly…

A great CV opens doors to interesting conversations, and fantastic opportunities. Understandably, learning these skills can make or break a career.

It’s a surprising statistic but, on average, your CV will be scanned for a total of just 6 seconds before its acknowledged as a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. As a result, it’s absolutely vital to make an instant impact, and provide incentive to read on… and then reply.

Creativity is key. But at the same time, there are a few golden rules. There’s an overwhelming amount of advice to digest, available through a number of different channels. However, to keep it simple, here are my top few ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’, which may well provide the key to success, and an interview for your dream job…

DO: Present with Clarity 

The 2 page limit is a myth. I would much rather a candidate use 3 (or 4, or 5…) pages, and give real consideration to ‘readability’ – or, in reality, ‘scanability’.

If your career spans 20+ years, 2 pages won’t do you justice. Far too often, key skills are skimmed over… or conversely, in an attempt to pack in all the detail, the reader is forced to negotiate a wall of text.

Leave clear, white space. Then, review from 2 meters away – does it still look like a CV? It should.

As a general rule of thumb:

  • New line
  • New line
  • Brief summary. New line
  • New line
  • Company name. New line
  • Duration of service. New line
  • Job title. New line
  • New line
  • Summary of position/remit. New line
  • New line
  • Achievements and deliverables. New line for each
  • New line
  • New line

DON’T: Write Prose 

A confession: The only CV I have read from front to back is my wife’s. Including my own.

It’s vital to be sympathetic to a line managers time limitations. Remember: they’re probably recruiting because they’re swamped, so make a conscious effort to offer a solution, rather than another task.

Make no mistake, it’s still important to tell a story and include all the relevant detail. Once you’ve captured their interest, you’ll also need to provide a platform for the interviewers to ask questions from.

But, the number one goal is to capture their interest, quickly. Be honest and ask yourself: will my CV stand out from the crowd?

An additional note on the above: don’t mess with a classic. I’m often asked about the merit of a skill based CV. In truth, I think this format is actually a much better way of highlighting relevance. However, it doesn’t follow convention. Imagine you were reviewing 30 CVs and, halfway through, you suddenly had to tackle an entirely new format. In most situations, the interviewer would struggle to adjust, and simply move to the next applicant. 

DO: Focus on Measurable Achievements 

Imagine you’re seeking to recruit a Digital Marketing Manager. You’re presented with two CVs. Which of these would you interview?

Candidate A:

  • Responsible for all digital acquisition channels
  • Ownership of email marketing strategy
  • Management of one digital marketing executive

Candidate B:

  • Responsibility for all digital acquisition channels. I have grown ROI for 2:1 to 4:1 and improved conversion rates from 3% to 7%
  • Ownership of email marketing strategy, resulting in an increase of 132% revenue from existing customers
  • Management of one digital marketing executive, who I have worked with over the past two years and promoted from a graduate

Can candidate A do the job? Yes. Do you have any idea how good they’ll be? No. Measurable achievements offer something close to guaranteed, which is worth its weight in gold.

DON’T: Use Cliches or Superlatives 

Are you an exceptionable communicator? Great – demonstrate it quantifiably. For example: perhaps you’ve brokered a co-brand partnership with a leading brand, working with their marketing director and CMO.

Do you work well under pressure within a team environment? When was this; who was in the team; and what did you achieve?

Do you innovate? Fantastic – post a link to your most creative piece of work.

Are you a millennial? No. No you’re not.

There’s a huge amount of information to digest on this one topic alone… and of course my opinion is one of many. Ultimately, the most important thing is to ask for help and advice from those you trust.

I’d be delighted to discuss any questions you have in complete confidence. Please feel free to drop me a line on 0203 008 6827 – or send a not to