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Ten Quick CV / Resume Tips

If you look for advice for crafting a CV online you’ll find a lot of it.  Some of it is pretty good, some of it is woeful, and some of it takes something that applies specifically and assumes it applies generally (photographs on CVs springs to mind, depending on the country it ranges from essential to absolutely not).  What is the point of this article? Am I not just adding to the problem? Er yes, yes I am.  But we’re a recruitment company so I feel like some sort of CV advice is kind of expected.  And we’ve done it before, writing an article on CV advice is not even a new idea internally. But an article now has some advantages, our Head of Social Media can cut the article down into fancy looking graphics that gives us content for days and people do search for CV advice so why shouldn’t we be the company they find? What I am going to try to do, is focus on what generally works in our sector and you can decide if it applies to yours or not.  The order of the list is entirely arbitrary, some of these are probably not that important, and some might be more so.   

10) No one cares about your hobbies (mostly). 

If you’re listing hobbies that you might put on a dating profile or what most everyone does when they’re not working (‘I like going to the cinema and reading’) then stop!! No one cares.  No one has looked at a CV and said, ‘Well we were going to reject this candidate but now that we’ve seen that they go the cinema we have to entirely change our thinking’. By having a hobbies section you are cutting down CV real estate for more exposition elsewhere on the stuff that does matter.  

There are two small exceptions.  If you have an achievement that really is unusual – you’ve been to space, you’ve climbed a super large mountain, you’ve invented a bestselling app; then it might be worth including that because that is different and may be a talking point on interview.  And talking points on interviews can be beneficial.  Then secondly if you have a hobby that would normally be covered by ‘no on cares’ but is particularly relevant to the job, it might be worth leaving in.  For example, if you love to travel AND you spent 6 months in Japan and are now applying to a Japanese company then maybe you leave that in.  It’s not going to tip the scale, but it is a jumping off point to show that perhaps that gives you a small advantage over other candidates who haven’t been to Japan. 

9) Bad grammar and poor spelling are tying your own shoelaces together before starting the race. 

It may not be your strong suit but ask a friend to check your CV or just use on spell and grammar check, most browsers have one built in and for the most part they’re pretty sophisticated.  I think people are much more likely to overlook a typo such as having ‘pursue’ autocorrected to ‘peruse’ than obvious grammatical errors such as its/it’s or ‘Not k’woWing wheRE to ‘use’ capitals, aphostroph’es and inverted ‘commas’. 

The why of this is pretty simple, if you have a lot of applications then poor grammar/spelling is an easy and objective reason to reject an application. 

8) Dump the profile/objective/opening statement 

Unless you’re going to change it for every single application, you’re going to end up with generic nothing statements that don’t say anything.  You’re much better off putting something specific and relevant in the application email itself if you can. Again, the point here is real estate, the unnecessary sections mean you might be cutting relevant stuff elsewhere.  

7) Bullet the sh*t out of everything. 

  • Bullet points are easier to read 
  • That’s because they split the information into bite sized chunks  
  • Long meandering paragraphs are harder to read 
  • They’re fine for click bait articles but not for your CV 

6) Stop overselling stuff  

If you have half a page of copy on the one day’s trial you did at a law firm four years ago no one will take you seriously.  If the day at the law firm is all you have in your work experience, try and focus on other things – aspects of your degree etc.  The fact that you showed up for a day’s work is not going to convince me to let you handle well anything serious at all, actually.  

5) Be ruthless in the edit 

Contrary to popular advice on CVs three pages is fine and two pages can be too much.  If you have a lot to say that’s relevant use an extra page, if most of that is fluff you’re likely doing a 6) and you need to cut it down.  I’ve had university graduates get in touch with a four-page CV and even the fact that they go to the cinema and read books has not helped persuade me of the quality of their application. 

4) Stop underselling stuff 

You’ve been in your current job for the last 5 years.  Two sentences are not enough, nor is ‘responsibilities similar to previous position’.  Nooooooo.  What have you been doing for all that time? Don’t assume that people know, they likely don’t.  There may be things you’ve done that you take for granted that would be super important for a new firm hiring you.  Put everything in that you can think of then edit it down.  Hopefully you now have more real estate because you’ve cut in other areas. 

3) A CV is not a biography 

The jobs you did when you first started out, the ones not remotely relevant to what you’re doing now, you can leave them off.  CVs should be truthful, but they are a document to sell you to a particular employer and no one will care about the milk round you did when you were 16.  Are milk rounds still a thing? When did GenX become old? We all used to be cool, Nirvana loving, living free types. 

2) If you are using any variation of the phrase ‘I work well in a team or on my own’ please stop. 

I hope I don’t need to explain this one, message me if you need an answer. 

1) Examples are fun. 

This applies to interviews as well.  One of these is definitely more persuasive:   

‘Demonstrated great ability for teamwork’  


‘Key contributor to a project team of four that delivered X result in Y time frame.  My input changed the direction of particular project points that increased overall profitability’.  

 If you’re just using adjectives ‘I’m charming, sophisticated, intelligent and witty’ whilst it might be completely true (as it obviously is in my case) it is much better to show than tell.  In a CV that means a reference to a specific example. 

Pete Fellows is the charming, sophisticated, intelligent and witty Managing Director of Fellows and Associates.  He’s also an author of the novel Zeroworld.  Available as an ebook or in print. 

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