How to write a job-winning CV

Writing your CV has changed over the last ten years.

Gone are the days when you wrote your CV to impress the hiring manager. Today you’re writing your CV to pass an applicant tracking system (ATS), and then the hiring manager review.

I’ve discussed extensively across this website how to write your CV to pass an ATS by using job advert and job description keywords, but what do hiring managers really want to see on your CV? Below 15 hiring managers tell you what they want to see on a candidate’s CV and what tips you should be following when you’re writing your CV.

How To Write Your CV

Hiring Manager One – While there are many issues to consider when preparing a CV, my personal top three tips would be;

  • Focus on achievements; the recruiter is always more interested in the value-added in previous roles rather than a simple tick list of skills
  • Make the CV relevant to the position; one size does not fit all
  • Presentation and proofreading is critical; grammatical errors and poor layouts make it easy for a recruiter sift through multiple applications

Hiring Manager Two – Be specific about measuring any performance in your role. Too many times, CVs have a list of responsibilities without giving detail on how individually that person has contributed, influenced or performed within their remit. Examples include:

  • Whether it is bringing down debtors days by “X” thus improving cash flow by “Y” allowing the business to invest that into a new “Z”
  • Introduced a new sales and client management process which led to an increase revenue from “a” to “b” and an improvement in over all profitability to “C”
  • Reducing costs across the group from “X” to “Y” saving “Z” by implementing a new STP

Hiring Manager Three – Beyond the obvious requirements of correct, spelling, grammar and punctuation, a great resume tells a story. It should convey the individual’s career progression, increased responsibility along the continuum, and focus within the career path.

Where ever possible, accomplishments should be quantifiable. The best resumes whet the appetite of the reader and create enough interest to make he or she want to find out more.

Hiring Manager Four – I advise candidates to recognize that we live in a skills-based-hiring world. And while I’m no fan of this hiring approach, I suggest they edit CV’s to contain titles, duties, and keywords or phrases, and experiences listed in the job ad.

The harder part of CV writing involves sharing other facets of your personality without sounding too scattered. Recruiters want to “type” people into a job category, so fitting that category is important. At the same time, showing a little personality helps, but don’t overdo it. Striking a balance can be tricky.

Hiring Manager Five – The first half of the first page of your CV, is what will attract and hold interest. Check your grammar, spelling and presentation. Focus on the employers needs not your own, while selling yourself but be honest. The first part of your CV is about ability, quality and achievement, while the second part of your CV should evidence what you do or did.

Hiring Manager Six – Your CV should focus on your “quantifiable” achievements in your last three roles or previous 5-to-8 years. A good CV also explains to the future employer what it is you learnt in each position and how that’ll impact their business. Tailor all CV’s to the position you’re applying for.

Hiring Manager Seven – Most successful recruiters see hundreds if not thousands of resumes each week. Many do not spend more than a few seconds on each – searching for something that will shed light on the quality of the person in front of them, and their ability to do the job they are searching for.

The area I find to be extremely important on a resume is the the top 1/3 of the resume. This is the place that a candidate should draw me in, and get me excited to read more. No matter if its a “career highlights” section, “relevant projects” or even “education” – whatever you feel will help me get to know you and why you are the best fit for the role I am hiring for – this is where it should be listed.

Hiring Manager Eight – My thoughts – Your CV should try to give the impression to the reader of what kind of person you are. Yes your career is important, but what about your hobbies, what books he/she has read recently, opinion about the industry the company operates in.

Hiring Manager Nine – Maximum of three pages if you have a decent amount of experience;

  • The first page is really important so make sure it’s really sharp with first third of the page a summary and profile about you and what makes you tick, covering your values, character, and what you like doing the most, and any relevant ambitions you have. Then a short section on key skills bullet points relevant to the job you you would like to be considered for.
  • Then the final third of first page, be really clear about dates, job title talk about the last two roles or positions held and clearly explain the challenge you undertook, the results you achieved and what you had to do to achieve those results, i.e. what added value did you bring.
  • Page two and three if necessary, the same, clear on dates and job title. Then for each role be clear about the challenge undertaken and the results achieved in the role. Do mention relevant targets met or exceeded. Do mention individual responsibility AND team work where appropriate.
  • Finally name and contact number is usually enough, leave out DOB, hobbies, esp property development! How many children you have is not relevant!

Hiring Manager Ten – My view would be that candidates have to get into the minds of the people making decisions, these people not having personal knowledge of the individual applying, or potentially the deep technical knowledge of the area within which the applicant specializes.

Too many candidates are too thin on the information provided or assume people reading their profiles will really look into who they are and read between the lines on their CV. Your CV is your chance to make yourself a must interview candidate and your profile must leave nothing to chance or assumption from the client side.

You must tick all the boxes that a decision maker will look for when looking over multiple profiles without the time to really look into who the candidate is, and sell yourself over the competition.

Hiring Manager Eleven – The following nine are most important for me;

  • CV Layout
  • Exec summary – explains in a few lines what you do, what level, what function, what sort of company
  • Key strengths/achievements – a few bullet points outling arteas you are partcularly strong
  • List jobs (reverse chronological). concentrate on achievements rather than responsibilities. use numbers – budgets, size of teams etc
  • Interests – be careful what you put!
  • Families/kids details – NO! Will that help you get the job?
  • Education/quals – leave at the end.
  • Cut out waffle – isn’t everyone energetic, passionate etc etc?

Hiring Manager Twelve – From my perspective, the information on a CV needs to be easily accessible. Very few people will read your CV in its entirety, but will be seeking certain elements as a starting point when deciding whether to engage with you or not.

As such a CV should be laid out in a predictable, chronological manner with bullet pointed responsibilities and achievements in each post clearly laid out.

A CV does not also need to be one page, particular not unless you happen to be a new graduate. Don’t clutter your CV by trying to cram it into a short space. The most controversial of the CV debates is whether or not to include a photo. I am firmly in the yes camp and would go further and include a video if well made. This transforms the CV from black and white text into something with humanity, which makes it much harder to summarily dismiss.

Hiring Manager Thirteen – First and foremost a cv needs to get passed the recruitment softwares automated screening process and / or be picked up in a recruiters search. Great candidates cv’s have all the right keywords that a recruiter would search for.

Advice you could mention: candidates should read multiple job description of suitable roles from the companies that they want to apply to. Modify their cv to suit with those same keywords.

Hiring Manager Fourteen – I always tell my candidates to make the first page of the CV stand out. Think about what the employer will be looking for and ensure that those areas of your experience and/or skill set are highlighted early on in the CV.

You never know how much time someone will actually put into reading a CV and you don’t want to be overlooked because something critical is hidden on the last page. Obviously this is general advice for job seekers. If I am representing a candidate my consultant comments will highlight the key selling points for them.

Hiring Manager Fifteen – The following five points are most important for me;

  1. It’s okay to have a “standard” resume, but when you are applying for a specific position, take the time to customize your resume so that you are highlighting the experience you have that is relevant to the requirements of the position.
  2. If you have more than ten years of experience, it’s okay to have a resume that is longer than one page, but try to keep it to two. You can always have a longer version to share once you’ve reached the interview stage. Provide more detail for recent jobs and less detail for earlier ones.
  3. If you are a manager, be sure to specify how many people you have managed, and at what levels.
  4. Wherever possible, provide examples of ways you have saved the company money or time.
  5. Finally, be CERTAIN to have someone else proofread your resume; you always need another set of eyes to catch mistakes.