7 Tips For Writing A CV That Has Impact – And Where People Get It Wrong

woman happy typing on her laptop after reading up on all our tips for writing a CV with impact

As the founder of a recruitment agency, I am often asked what tips I can give to job seekers on writing a CV that will get noticed.

There are a number of common pitfalls the average job seeker makes when writing a CV. These pitfalls can build up barriers to prevent the securing of a great new position. So, before you apply for a new job that you are excited about, read my top 7 tips below to limit your chances of disappointment and to encourage success!

Tips for writing a CV with impact

Use an industry-recognised job title

One of the mistakes I regularly clock on a CV is the use of a job title that makes no sense to anyone external to the current employer. Over the years, I’ve seen a variety of random job titles, including “Ninja”, and “People Technician”. If you’re a Network Engineer and that’s what you do in your current role, that’s the title you should use on your CV and any job application you make!

Put yourself in the shoes of a recruiter or HR professional. They rely on straightforward methods to sift through applications, and will frequently engage in “word matching”. They will most likely be using an AI-driven tool to crawl through CVs and categorise CVs based on the keywords they have entered. If they’re looking for “Network Engineer”, and you use the job title “Engineering Ninja” – they may miss out on your CV.

This also applies if you are a self-employed contractor. Never label yourself as the “CEO” on your CV. You might be a CEO for tax purposes, but practically, that title doesn’t convey the essence of your role or what you can offer a business.

Optimise for searchability

In a similar vein to my last tip, make sure your CV is optimised throughout to make sure it is easily picked up by recruiters.

Recruiters often review multiple CVs per hour, so your CV needs to stand out. Listing your skills prominently on the page can greatly enhance your visibility. You need to anticipate the search criteria recruiters might use when scanning your CV. For instance, as a recruiter, I’d likely search for “AWS,” but this could be listed as “Amazon Web Services.” In such cases, I recommend you include both the full term and the acronym on your CV, e.g., “Amazon Web Services (AWS),” to ensure that your CV is visible in all searches.

Keep your CV relevant and concise

A widespread mistake I have seen before is when a CV has clearly just been added onto, not edited, at the end of each role. Fast forward 10 to 15 years, and there’s around 6 pages devoted to outdated technologies and irrelevant experience.

In my view, if your experience is older than six years, or if your previous roles and skills are no longer relevant, they should be covered in just a few lines at most on your CV.

This strategy will also ensure your CV remains readable and concise. I recommend keeping it to 2 to 3 pages maximum. The most extreme case I’ve encountered was a 34-page CV detailing 20 years of experience. No one will read a document that long, especially if they have received 20+ other CVs.

I also recommend streamlining your CV by scoring yourself against each skill, such as “Teamwork – 7/10.” I prefer a score over years of experience, as it better reflects competency. Be selective about what you list, especially if it involves legacy technologies, you’re not keen on revisiting. Always keep it concise and to the point!

Specify your preferences

Job seekers should not start the job hunting process until they have mapped out exactly what they are looking for and what they are willing to compromise on. Unfortunately, many job seekers do not do this before applying for roles, so the CVs aren’t clear and recruiters end up wasting their time.

Therefore, when you are writing a CV, make sure your stipulations regarding what you want for your next role are clearly stated at the top. For example, when writing your CV, specify that you’re looking for “Contract jobs only and outside of IR35”, or “Permanent positions within a one-hour commute of Worcester WR1 1AB”.

Doing so states your intentions clearly and limits miscommunication. It also means you aren’t spammed about jobs you would never take!

Use metrics

Time and time again I see claims and declarations about ability and experience, without any evidence mentioned. Employers are impressed by metrics, facts, and figures, yet these crucial details are often omitted on CVs.

If you neglect to include statistics when writing a CV, you may miss out on securing a great role. For example, if you’ve saved your employer time or money, quantify these achievements. For instance: “I designed and implemented a new process, saving my employer £100k annually in lost time” or, “I exceeded my 2024 productivity target by 125%”.

To a recruiter or hiring manager, it can be hard to deduce if you have the right level of skills and competencies they need if you do not give understandable metrics to prove your achievements.

Fly your flag

Too often, I see candidates fall into the trap of chalking up achievements to a team effort and not mentioning their own individual achievements.

When you are discussing your previous experiences in your CV, use the word “I” instead of “we”. Begin every sentence with “I” when explaining your own actions. Employers want to read about what YOU have achieved, not your team. You might find that self-promotion doesn’t come naturally, but it is a necessary part of CV writing.

Maintain honesty

Unfortunately, people lie. Some candidates over embellish their CVs—and often get caught. It’s not just highly embarrassing, but it also wastes everyone’s time.

So my final tip might sound obvious, but it’s highly relevant when writing your CV – be truthful! For example, I encountered a case this week where the job seeker claimed on his CV to have worked at Company X for two years. However, his LinkedIn profile revealed a career gap with a short stint at a second company – Company Y.

If you have clear discrepancies like this one – sort it out! You will always be found out if you lie or choose not to disclose something. Be open and honest with your recruiter or hiring managers and they may be fine with it. However, if you choose to omit information, when the truth comes out it will always look bad and could lead to you either being rejected during the recruitment process or even losing your job if you’re hired, depending on the lie.

 

VIQU is an award-winning IT recruitment agency. If you are an IT professional who’s looking for their next opportunity and is ready to send off their now improved CV, check out our latest available roles here or send in your CV to our team.

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