Candidate Tips 1: CVs

Senior Recruitment Advisor, Mike Leeman has pulled together some tips on how to create an excellent CV.

In general

Think of your CV as a sales tool for you and your experience. What you’re aiming to do is attract attention and let the reader think ‘I want to know more’, so throughout the CV you should be adding in hooks of interest which can be expanded on in an interview. The reader of a CV often has a lot to go through at one time, so whatever you can do to power this interest is good. However do try to keep to a standard document (if you are a creative/marketeer/designer this may not be true, but this guidance is intended for more general appraisal). I would always advise to send it in a Word document as well. Whilst recruitment and ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) have got better at recognising PDFs, you are improving your chances of the CV being seen properly by computer and human.


If you need more than two pages then do so, as with photos be aware of local etiquette but in the UK there is not a need to reduce to 1-2 pages. Be aware though that any more than 3 and certainly more than 4 will mean that the CV is not read properly. This can be tricky when it comes to contractors who have had several roles – the best way to work here is to use the main body as a summary of key skills (and perhaps link into which company/role these skills referred to) and make a chronological list of companies worked at.


In the UK this isn’t required. If applying for an international role, check the local etiquette. Ensure you use a professional one (a headshot, perhaps in black and white – glasses of wine and anything remotely glamorous are a definite no).

Personal statement

This is where you need to do the most work. What are your values, how do you demonstrate these, what are your ambitions, how have you achieved what you have so far and what do you want to achieve next etc.

Main body

Concrete examples and evidence based. What does it mean in context (smashed sales records – by how much? what was the bar that you raised?; ER cases, how many, what was ‘success’?) Material examples are what you need, not just a copy and paste of your job spec. What the reader of a CV wants to know is not just the tasks that you were given, but how you achieved the main successes in each role. Think about this part as being less about the spec you were given on your first day and more a summary of the good parts of your appraisals (either ones from your line manager or ones that you gave yourself after each assignment) – when thinking of appraisals you can also think of the ‘room for improvement’ aspect and how you achieved the improvement or if you haven’t yet, think of how you can work this in your personal statement.

Hobbies and interests

A slightly redundant part of the CV unless really relevant to the role you are applying for (eg. it’s based with an outdoors activity firm and you bag Munros every weekend). Sometimes if there is an unusual hobby that might provoke discussion then this might be worth adding in. Things to avoid are generic “going to the gym, eating out” etc); also avoid mentioning specific affiliations (eg. supporting a specific sports team or being a member of a political party) as you never know what unconscious or conscious bias the reader of the CV might have. In most cases the advice is simply to remove this section and use the word count that you had here to add to your experience, as this is what really counts.

References available on request

This is most redundant phrase on a CV. Get rid of it and put something useful in its place. In other words, if your references aren’t available then there are bigger discussions to be had!


Think of LinkedIn as a more dynamic version of your CV. Whilst a CV can be tailored for each application, your LinkedIn profile needs to capture the full range of your experience. Without a long discussion about the back end of LinkedIn, it is worth noting that the way most recruiters or recruitment teams search for people is using keywords that are picked up from the text on your profile, so think of keywords relevant to your industry and their synonyms and make sure that they are somewhere in your text. You also need to be within three degrees of a connection to anyone for you to show up in their search; so the more people you are connected to the better. Make sure these are relevant connections and always make sure you write a quick note with your connection request; engagement is a key element to taking LinkedIn from an online Rolodex to a tool which will be able to help you look for your next role, and also be found by people and organisations who need your skills.