Talent at first sight – CV top tips for those starting out

Does your CV scream “read on”? Or is it just full of cliches that have been used by many candidates before you?

As a recruiter who has looked for a job in the past, I still swear by the advice I was given by my recruiter when I was looking for my first job: “make sure that the top third of your CV grabs the attention of the person reading it”.

To be honest I wasn’t 100% sure what they meant by this until I started writing it. Initially, I felt like this meant I needed to squeeze everything into the top third, but as that was not possible, I had to get creative! Now in my role as a recruiter and finding myself in the midst of a pile of dozens or hundreds of other CVs, I have an even greater appreciation of this advice.

Remember, your CV is our window to your skills and experience, so why wait until the end of it to tell us how talented you are? Most employers simply don’t have the time to read your CV in its in-depth entirety, so here are some top tips to keep that top third clear, concise and relevant.

Name and contact details:
Give yourself enough space to talk about your skills and experience. Your name is important, but it really does not need to be in font size thirty! Two font sizes bigger than the size of the main body of text is more than enough. Bolding and underlining are also good features for making this section stand out.

CV writing skillsLook at how you can claim at least two more lines back by reducing the font size of your name and using just one line for the address and one line for your contact details. As a recruiter, we hope that you are aware of  and are happy with the location of the position before you apply. If so, your address could be shortened or better still removed. That’s another crucial  line back!

That all important profile:
This is your opportunity to show employers why you’re amazing! It’s important that you don’t reiterate all the common cliches in order to fill the space. Give yourself a maximum of four lines to begin with, and highlight your key strengths, experience and interest. Remember, this serves as an appetiser to encourage the employer to read the rest of your CV for more detail or better still, to contact you.

Good start: “I am a recent media communications graduate with X:X honours degree. I’m looking to secure a position within your marketing team where I can implement and further develop my creative and copy writing skills, drawing on my previous experience in product marketing operating in a fast paced environment.

Bad start: “I am a recent graduate with good team working, and communication skills.” There is nothing individualistic about this statement. You can show off your communication skills with a well written CV and demonstrate teamwork through your work experience examples.

If you get stuck for words, ask those around to read over your CV and give you feedback or better still, use a thesaurus.


Achievements/technical skills:
Depending on the role you are applying for, a search-friendly CV is a must and there is no better place to demonstrate your achievements/skills than at the top your CV.

If the role is project based, then your achievements is the best information to start with highlighting the key outputs in the roles you previously worked in. Remember, responsibilities are very very different to achievements.

Responsibilities: shows how your experience makes you the ideal candidate for the job you’re applying for.

Achievements: shows that you are able to make improvements either practically or personally, to the business or the working life of the company you worked at previously.

If you are applying for a more technical-based role, it would be beneficial to start your CV with your technical skills. As information evolves, there will inevitably be tools that you have not used before, but being able to display what you have used will show that you have previous experience and demonstrates an aptitude to learn new tools.

Don’t make up your achievements, but at the same time, don’t underestimate the times you have gone above and beyond to support or lead on an important project. Likewise, from a technical perspective, unless you write everything with pen and paper, you must have used a system. If you have forgotten the specifics, then reaching out to an ex-colleague could be your best bet.