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CV hints and tips

What turns a mediocre CV into an interview winning one? Are recruiters really interested in the Saturday job you had at Sainsbury’s when you were 16?

Your CV is your ultimate selling tool and an opportunity to get your foot in the door for an interview. Research suggests that recruiters make a decision about your CV within 20 seconds, so it’s important to make sure it looks good as well as scoring highly on content.


  • Unless you’re a recent graduate, your employment history should be the first section of your CV after your contact details and personal statement (if you have one). For each role give the ‘to and from’ dates you worked there (month and year) along with the company name, location, job title and department if it’s a very large organisation. 
  • When talking about your current and previous jobs, list your achievements with the main duties of the role. Try and make the achievements section longer than the job description and give figures and evidence where possible - e.g. ‘reduced costs by 15% by implementing  x’
  • It’s useful to give a one sentence summary describing each company in your employment history. Give their size either by turnover, number of employees or number of partners for a firm. Give the industry they operate in. 
  • If you have relevant work experience there’s no need to list all your GCSEs/O-levels, A-levels or degree modules individually. Summarise your education - e.g.  ‘11 GCSEs A-C, 4 A-levels A-C including Maths’. You can go into more detail about A-levels onwards if the job you’re applying for specifically mentions good academics.
  • When talking about your ACA qualification, give the year you gained membership.  Say if you passed all your exams first time.
  • Do not include your date of birth. Age discrimination legislation dictates that employers can’t use your age as a means of assessing your suitability.
  • If you include a section on your hobbies and interests, make sure you’re able to talk about them in an interview.  If you write that you’re an avid reader, be prepared to describe the most recent book you’ve read.
  • Account for any gap in your career history.  If you were travelling or took a break to raise a family give the dates as part of your employment history and a short explanation e.g. “May 2007 – January 2008 Travelling in Central and South America.”
  • There’s no need to include the details of your marital status, children or a photo of yourself. These are irrelevant to your application.
  • If you have a long work history, don’t list your early roles in detail. You can either list the job titles, companies and dates only or group them together with a summarising title such as ‘various audit roles’.  Don’t list irrelevant roles such as Saturday jobs.
  • Don’t include referees - you can state that they are available on request. If your application progresses the recruiter will ask you for them.
  • Don’t write your CV in the third person. 

Format and layout

  • Use a font that’s modern and fresh such as Arial. Times New Roman often looks dated.
  • Use a minimum font size of 10 or 12 pts.
  • Stick to black text and don’t put things in boxes. When your CV is printed out or photocopied, colours and formatting might affect its readability. If you’re sending a hard copy use white paper.
  • If your CV is longer than three pages it’s too long. Two pages is ideal.
  • Watch your formatting. Make sure your paragraphs and bullets are aligned and use subheadings to break up text. Keep sentences concise.

Finally, always get someone to check your CV for spelling mistakes and typos and to make sure it reads well. Be prepared to tailor your CV for different job applications, emphasising particular experience and achievements to match the requirements of an advertised role.