Tel: +44 (0) 20 3535 1274

9 tips for writing a mistake-free CV

In the UK, employers receive an average of 60 CVs for every job vacancy they advertise, therefore it’s vital to create a good impression first time around.

HR managers use your CV to assess not only your skills and education, but also your ability to communicate information clearly and effectively, and badly written CVs quickly find their rightful place in the recycle bin.

Here you’ll find a few tips on how to make sure that your CV looks polished and professional.

Make sure to explain acronyms where necessary

If you are lucky enough to have worked for NASA, the BBC, or the NHS, then you’ve worked for such well-known organisations that it isn’t necessary to write out their full names. However, your five years spent working at WBMC might leave recruiters scratching their heads, unless they already know it’s the World’s Best Marketing Company.

Good practice is to write the name of the organisation in full at the first mention, followed by the abbreviation in brackets, e.g., World’s Best Marketing Company (WBMC), and thereafter just use the abbreviation, WBMC.

Spellcheckers are only as good as the people using them

Your CV should show employers what benefits you will bring to their organisation. If their willing to overlook your CV then you’ll have a great chance to effect there business positively.

One of the sentences above is nonsense, but it still managed to slip under the spellchecker’s radar.

As well as taking care during the writing process, it’s a good idea to ask another person to read through your CV; it’s often surprising how many mistakes a second pair of eyes can pick up.

Capital letters don’t make words important

Many people believe you can make a word seem more important or impressive by putting a capital letter at the beginning. However, this is rarely the case. Would you be happier if you won the Lottery, or the lottery? Probably neither, it’s the word alone that carries the importance.

When it comes to job titles, common practice is to write them in lower case. You may want to tell people that you currently work as a Marketing Manager, but recruiters will be much happier to hear you are a marketing manager.

In other cases, the rules are not so clear. For example, President Barack Obama was elected in 2009, but he is also the first U.S. president born in Hawaii. Both are correct.

If in doubt, the best tip is to keep your style consistent. Use a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence, and keep the rest of the sentence in lower case, often called ‘sentence case’ – for obvious reasons.

Take extra care with apostrophes

Perhaps the most misused and misunderstood item of punctuation, apostrophes and their usage can mean the difference between a CV that displays great writing ability, or one that goes straight to the recycling bin.

As a general rule, use an apostrophe to signify possession (my manager’s advice has been helpful) or where a letter is abbreviated (They’re the company’s senior executives).

The most frequent error to avoid is using an apostrophe to make a plural. No apostrophes are required in this sentence, for example.

People are plural, organisations are not

One of the most common mistakes seen on CVs is talking about a company or your employer in the plural, for example, ‘I helped ABC Goods increase their sales’. Here we are talking about one company, therefore best practice is to use the singular, ‘its sales’.

Confusion arises when we are not sure if we are talking about the organisation or the people who work there. HR managers are expecting you to describe what you did for the company, not its management team, so if in doubt, stick with a singular description.

Talk about yourself in the first person

If the information he is giving you in this article is useful, try to apply his tips when you next update your CV.

Describing yourself in the third person, as above, is very confusing for the reader, so make sure to only talk about yourself in the first person, e.g., ‘My experience shows I am able to work under pressure’.

Be careful with numbers

Having 7 years of management experience won’t necessarily impress your future boss, they’d much prefer you had seven.

Make sure to write out the numbers one to nine as full words, e.g., ‘After six years in my current role I am now looking for a career change’. Standard practice is to start using numerical symbols from 10 upwards.

Beware of bullet points

Although a useful way to condense information, bullet points are a grammatical minefield all of their own. As a simple rule, use a full stop at the end of a bullet point if you have written a full sentence:

·         Increased sales year on year and received a promotion after my first 12 months of employment.

However, if the bullet point is an abbreviated sentence, known as a ‘fragment’, it's common not to use a full stop:

·         Increased annual sales

You can live a happy life without semi colons

Many people use semi colons incorrectly in an effort to impress; this rarely works.

Although sometimes useful where a comma is not enough but a full stop is too much, using semi colons to separate items in a list, e.g., ‘I have worked in sales; marketing; human resources; operations’, gives the reader the impression that you are trying too hard. Also, avoid ending bullet points with semi colons, another common error:

·         Improved CTR rate;

·         Undertook multiple sales projects;

·         Helped streamline recruitment processes;

·         Etcetera.

For more information about putting together a strong CV, and for in-depth career advice, visit InterActive’s online careers centre.