How To Write An Interview Winning CV

So many people are finding themselves affected by the current climate as businesses are reevaluating their staff numbers and making redundancies in their workforce.

It doesn’t matter what stage you are at in your career - be it entry level or a senior executive, the one thing you always need is an interview winning CV.

What I find most interesting is that the more senior my clients, the less time they seem to spend on making the most of their CV’s, most likely because they think their experience alone sells them well enough. Your personal summary or statement though on your CV is the first thing a prospective employer will be looking at, in addition to your covering letter.

Primarily you need to catch the recruiter’s attention in the first 60 seconds, so an effective and dynamic cover letter is imperative, to stand out from the pile of applications that land on recruitment agencies and HR department desks.

Think of your CV as the first stage of the interview process. You wouldn’t go to an interview not intent on selling yourself, so don’t hold back when selling yourself on paper.

Personal summaries / Personal Profiles

When writing your personal summary or profile you need to be thinking of yourself as a valuable commodity you are selling. Think about it, if you were selling a pencil, you wouldn’t just say it writes nicely! You would list the complete benefits of that pencil; it has the ability to be amended with an eraser for ease of use, it may incorporate an eraser, it is available in various types of lead – hard or soft, HB grades etc. It can be purchased in multiple packs or as a single item – do you get what I’m saying, even the most simple product can have multiple unique selling points (USP’s), so just imagine how many unique aspects you have as an individual that you can offer your next employer.

A good check list is to ask yourself the following questions:

• Are you a good team player?
• Do you work well in a team and also under your own steam
• Do you motivate and support a team effectively?
• Are you a creative thinker?
• Do you have an entrepreneurial outlook?
• Are you an excellent project manager with an ability to see a task through to the end?
• Are you solutions focussed when problem solving?
• What are your interpersonal and communication skills like?
• Can you work effectively under pressure?
• Do you have a broad skill set, if so what are these?
• What does the job description ask for and are you able to clearly demonstrate that you meet these requirements?
• Are you used to meeting deadlines?
• What are your core strengths?
• What are your weaknesses and how do you compliment these?
• How do you promote best practice in your working environment?

These are key aspects that any new employer will be looking for when they are going through the recruitment process.

Summary of Achievements

For each previous position you have held, whether you were employed or self employed, it is important to bullet point 3-4 specific achievements you reached in EACH role, with the most recent job listed in date order, before you list your duties in that job. Some of the following are indicators of a valuable employee:

• Increasing sales or profitability for your company or department
• Being awarded for success
• Any type of promotion or acting up position
• Implementing new systems or programmes that improved productivity
• Successful completion of projects, perhaps in record time
• Developing new business
• Loyalty and commitment through difficult times within an organisation

Most importantly, don’t embellish your CV to the point that it is not believable or you cannot back it up with specific examples of your achievements. If you are highlighting that you increased productivity for your company, the interviewer is very likely going to ask you how you did this.

No Gimmicks

As much as we like to make our CV’s stand out, recruiters tend to dislike gimmicks when reading CV’s. Photos are debatable; I tend to leave them out unless a prospective employer implicitly asks for them.

You don’t have to include your age; an employer can easily work out your age range by looking at when you were educated and left school, college and university.

Overseas employment

If you are applying for a position out of your homeland, remember to state whether you have visas to work in that particular region and are free to travel.


Research the keywords for your industry, most large companies’ HR department have scanning software to review CV’s to quickly pinpoint the most ideal candidates before a human even looks at your CV.

Formatting content

Your CV should be printed on A4 sheets, if you are posting your CV rather than emailing it, try to use good quality paper like conqueror. Use a plain font like Ariel, Trebuchet MS, or Times Roman.

The following content layout is ideal for the recruiter, from beginning to end.
1. Contact details (name, address, country, email, phone numbers)
2. Personal summary
3. Most recent position including date started and finished unless you are still employed, job title, name of company, location of company.
4. 3-4 bulleted Summary of Achievements (important for every job you list)
5. Bulleted Duties in that role (important for every job you list, unless you are going back over 15 years or more than 6 jobs and then you can just list the job title, dates to and from and the company.
6. Next job and so on
7. Education, (Senior school – dates to and from, college – dates to and from, University (if applicable) dates to and from
8. Qualifications (most recent first, detailing grades)
9. Accreditation / Certifications / Training
10. Computer Literacy (detail the packages you are proficient on)
11. Driving licence – whether you hold one and state if it is clean
12. Outside Interests / Hobbies

How long should it be?

The guideline should be that a CV should be no longer than 2 pages but this is unrealistic when someone is of an age with extensive experience in their career. A useful guideline is no longer than 4 pages max. Three pages is an ideal length. Remember you have a cover letter to add further information you want to highlight.

The cover letter

These can vary depending on whether it is a speculative letter or for a specific job. An ideal length is no more than 250-300 words which is including your address in the word count.

• The first sentence or short paragraph should detail the position you are applying for.
• State why you are applying (not just because you need a job!) Give the recruiter a brief overview of why you are ideal for this position, what you can bring to the role, not just what you want from them, why you are interested in their company. In short, detail your professional attributes
• Include brief info on your personal attributes (ie good communicator, excellent interpersonal skills, ability to engage with people of all levels etc)
• Last line of the letter body should indicate that you would welcome the opportunity of discussing this role in further detail at their convenience.

Finally both your CV and cover letter should be PROOF READ CAREFULLY. Its amazing how many people enthuse about their attention to detail and then send an application littered with spelling and grammatical errors. Spell check is available on all word processing packages so there is no excuse for tardiness!

My next article will address preparing for the interview and being an expert at answering difficult questions.

Good luck and don’t forget, believe in yourself and those you meet will also believe in you.

Copyright Elizabeth Bacchus 2009

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