A good CV is a powerful tool. In less than 30 seconds, it should truthfully sell your professional achievements and secure you an interview. It's also the first point of contact with recruitment agencies or employers for a specific type of job. For us as a recruitment agency, your CV is the only information we have to decide if you're suitable for a position. But for you as an applicant, it's not always easy to know how to choose the right skills for your CV – or how to order a CV.
Based on our expert knowledge, we'll share our tips and advice for crafting a fantastic resume to sell yourself. We also provide industry-specific CV and interview advice if you need it.
how to order a cv – the two main formats
There are two ways you can order a CV. The first is to list the highlights and achievements from your career in chronological order. The second is to take a skills-based approach.
This traditional format is best suited to professionals with a formal history of work experience. It should list your previous employers and job roles in detail. More importantly, all that information should be listed in chronological (date) order – as the name suggests.
functional or skills-based cv
If you've recently started working, you may be unsure about how to order a CV because you lack professional experience. Don't be put off. There is an answer – a functional or skills-based CV. In this type of CV, you'll be more descriptive and focus on your transferable skills.
what are the rules for writing a cv
No matter if you create a chronological CV or a skills-based document, some rules apply to both. All CVs should:
- Be a maximum of two pages (unless you're very senior).
- Have perfect grammar and spelling. It's one of the easiest things to overlook, but even just one spelling error looks unprofessional. We know this all too well as we often receive CVs from candidates who address emails to just 'Randstad'.
- Use a clear font with a minimum size of 11 points.
- Present concise information in bullet points.
- Make no false claims about your education, qualification or work history.
what to include on both types of cv
- Personal details: Name, address, contact numbers, email, languages spoken and visa details (if applicable).
- Your professional qualifications and systems (if applicable).
- School and university qualifications in chronological order, as well as information about any other education or training you've received.
- A line that states references are available on request. Make sure you know who will be your referees and confirm they are happy to be contacted.
what to include on a chronological cv
For a chronological CV, start with your current/last employer and work backwards. You should provide the following information:
- Name of employer, nature of the business and turnover
- Job title and accurate dates of employment
- Responsibilities and duties
- Reason for leaving in one line
If you have extensive experience, you can describe your earlier positions in less detail. It's also essential to explain any gaps in your CV e.g. if you went travelling or took a career break.
what skills to include for a functional or skills cv
Your skills should be listed in four or five bullet points, with a paragraph of supporting evidence underneath. Make sure you always quantify your results too.
A skills-based CV example includes things like:
- "Financially Aware - Increased Law Society ball turnover by 40 per cent by reducing outgoings and increasing profit margins."
In addition to the above, include your recent work experience – job title, name of the company and the date you started. Don't forget to put down any other skills that really make your CV stand out from the rest. Getting a job can be competitive, so make sure you're getting noticed.
how to make a cv stand out
There are many standard CV formats you can download online. Most of these will cover the basic information needs. But what can you do to make yours truly stand out? Well, thankfully it isn't hard to do at all. You just have to make sure your CV promotes you as the right person for the job. And our tips and advice on this page can make that happen.
Many people will just list their responsibilities in the previous roles, for example. But what you should do is show what you accomplished in those past roles. While this seems very similar to listing your skills, it also shows how you've used them to great effect in your work history.
skills-based cv examples
We've provided some helpful skills-based CV examples that will give you a better idea of how to write your own. The examples are designed to show ways to promote your skills for a CV and how you've used them.
In our first example, instead of saying:
"I was responsible for the oversight and review of FSA client money reporting and daily reconciliations."
"Preparing briefs for marketing activities and securing sign off from relevant stakeholders for new initiatives."
"I was successful in suggesting and implementing new controls to help improve the accuracy and efficiency of FSA client money reporting and daily reconciliations."
"After working with line managers, sales teams and other relevant stakeholders, I was able to originate ideas and implement new marketing initiatives that utilised the full marketing mix and increased the ROI."
Anyone can jot down the skills or responsibilities from a previous role. But what's important is to quantify those things as successes or achievements. A recruitment consultant or future employer wants to see tangible results that relate to your previous job/responsibilities.
Remember – your CV will be matched to a specific type of role. So, you need to show a potential employer that your previous work was both productive and impressive.
Above all, make your CV an interesting document to read. It needs to provide clear indications of what you've done and how you did it. These give the reader tangible proof of your skills. Without these identifying qualities, your application may easily (and understandably) get lost in the crowd.
writing a cv: dos and don'ts
- Include your personal information – name, email address, address and a contact number.
- Write a short introductory overview. Use this to highlight your skills, exceptional qualities and future career plans. This will entice an employer or consultant to read on.
- List your (relevant) educational qualifications with the most recent first – plus those skills acquired. Give the name (and dates attended) for each educational institution too.
- Mention any additional training/skills. Always list the databases/systems/programmes you are experienced in using.
- Detail your professional experience and achievements. Split this by role, providing the job title, company, dates and length of time in each position.
- Give details of at least 2 referees.
- Use slang or colloquial language. The content should also be grammatically correct.
- Use block paragraphs. Instead, use bullet points that are easily readable as much as possible.
- Attach a photograph – unless it's specifically requested.
- Exaggerate or falsify your achievements, qualifications or skills. Recruiters will run a background check before finalising your placement. So, you will be caught out.
- Format your CV using tables, borders or hard-to-read fonts. Instead, use fonts that look professional and can be scanned easily e.g. Tahoma, Arial, Calibri or Century Gothic.
- Make your CV much longer than two sides of A4. You don't want a potential employer to discard your CV as they are too bored to read any further.
how far back should a cv go back
There's no set rule as to how far back your CV should go. But the most essential thing to remember is that you must include all the skills, training and experience that are relevant to the job you're applying for. In many cases, this means covering your entire employment history.
If this makes your CV start to run much longer than two sides of A4, however, prioritise the roles with the most relevant experience. If you're applying for an IT job, for example, list a part-time retail job you had when younger – but don't go into any more detail unless it is relevant.
should you leave gaps on your cv
No, you should not leave any gaps on your CV. They make recruiters and employers suspicious. Instead, be honest if you were travelling, studying or on maternity leave. State this in your CV and a potential employer or recruitment consultant will understand.