17 May 2017

What Does a Perfect CV Look Like?

According to research, recruiters spend about 6 seconds looking at each CV before they make the call to read on, or simply chuck it.


Whether you are a first time job applicant or looking for your next career move, creating or updating a CV can be a daunting task. The most important piece of advice we can give you is not to generalise your CV. More is not better if it isn’t relevant. Your CV should be tailored to the specific job you are applying for, leaving out any information that is not relevant to that role. If you’re applying for many different roles, try to take the time to do quick edits in between.

First things first

Your cover letter is the recruiter’s first impression of you. Address it to the relevant person, include a short and succinct summary of your experience and why you would be perfect for the role. Stay away from generic phrases such as “self-starter /  problem-solver / team player” NO CLICHES.

So what DO you need in your CV?

  • Contact info right at the top.
  • Most recent experience first.
  • Achievements in each position – Costs saved, issues solved, revenue increased, physical examples of work, awards.
  • List any special or technical skills that you have relevant for the specific industry you’re in.
  • If you have held multiple positions in one company, do put these in. It shows your commitment within that company and that they realised your value by promoting you.
  • When you list the employer, include the sector, short sentence summarising what the company does or a hyperlink to their website.
  • Include your (updated) LinkedIn profile. Recruiters will stalk you on social media anyway. If your LinkedIn is updated enough, you won’t actually need an extensive CV – they prefer looking at that rather than a CV.

And what DON’T you need?

  • Personal information – Marital status should not affect your employment opportunities and therefore does not need to feature on your CV. You should however include location (main city) and if you’re willing to relocate.
  • High school achievements or marks.
  • University marks – just the degree is enough.
  • The infamous selfie – just don’t do it – no excuses. Get someone to take a professional-looking profile picture that you can use for LinkedIn. Car selfies, gym selfies, underexposed party selfies are a big NOPE.
  • Unless specifically asked for, do not include copies of your ID, passport or qualifications. You will be asked for this if it is needed.


Don’t mass apply to jobs. Properly read job specs to make sure that your CV is relevant to the job. You may think that you are maximising your opportunities, however, no recruiter enjoys their mailbox being spammed with the same CV 20 times a day. A much better approach would be to choose your top 3 or 5 positions / companies, find out everything you can about the role and if you stand a chance, invite the recruiter on LinkedIn, follow up with a phone call etc.

How do you show your personality?

You can include a short “About Me” at the end if you have researched the company and you know they have a specific culture or it’s a personality hire. VERY SHORT! They will want to know more about you if they think you’re employable based on the rest of your CV. If you have a blog, teach yoga, run marathons, speak a foreign language, play for a band in your free time etc. – something that makes you a well-rounded and interesting person, include that. Watching TV is not a hobby, you can leave that out.

Can you be creative?

Yes, creative design and layout, if done well, can attract the recruiter’s attention and it shows that time and effort has been put into the application. However, do note that paint and clip art are not creative tools. Also note that, at the end of the day, the content is more important than the design. If you are going to choose this approach, make sure that the formatting is done properly and that the application used to read the CV will not change this format for the recipient. Converting to PDF is always a safe move for a CV.

How long should your CV be?

Sorry folks, maximum two pages. Think about the person at the other end of your CV, you want to make their reading of your CV a pleasant experience don’t you? If you are worried about losing vital content, try to format your CV in creative ways to get it all on the page. Check out some templates here.

And what goes where?

  1. Name, contact info
  2. Special skills
  3. Most recent work experience to least recent
  4. Education
  5. About me / a personal touch
  6. References – Don’t be afraid to say “references upon request”, this is perfectly acceptable, especially if you are applying for a number of positions.

Check before sending

  • Spelling and grammar mistakes, double, triple, quadruple, get your friends, your mum and neighbour to check.
  • Please find attached …. Make sure it is attached
  • Try to address emails to the actual name of the recruiter or hiring manager if it is possible to find this information out.
  • Check that your contact details are correct

So, to answer the question, what does a perfect CV look like?

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