How To Write a Good CV

 Write an effective CV and reap the rewards going forward.

A recruiter that doesn’t use an ATS System (applicant tracking software) will take five seconds—to scan a CV before deciding whether they’ll contact you or not for a job you’ve applied for.

So, the pressure is on, in determining if your CV moves forward or if the recruiter moves on.

Bottom line … you want your CV to be as clear and targeted as possible, for the role you’ve applied for.

Recruiters go through dozens and dozens of CV’s and if yours doesn’t stand out, in terms of clear relevant information, they will move on. It’s nothing personal, they have time constraints and delivery deadlines. The will focus on your cv if you write an effective CV.

If an ATS is used

An Applicant Tracking System is an automated process that analyses your cv, such as work history and qualifications. It looks for key words and contact details and sorts it and stores it according to the information provided by you on the Agency database. When a new position comes in the ATS will produce a list of cv’s that match the criteria of the position with cv’s from the database.

Whether or not a recruiter makes use of an ATS, structure your cv to optimize it with an ATS regardless.

CV Essentials:

Use plain text (Arial or Calibri are examples), in MS word or pdf ONLY. Avoid graphics– no information can be pulled from that (charts, graphs etc) as well as tables and heavy formatting.

Headers and footers are not required (important information – such as contact details will not be read and will be lost)

Key words – use them, repeat them in variations they might be known as and do so frequently.(eg. PV Engineer | Solar Engineer | photovoltaic Engineer)

Customise your cv to each specific job you’re applying for.

I cannot stress this enough. Everything that is on the job description that you’ve done before, make sure it’s on you cv in your own words in the applicable place.

Leave out irrelevant information to the job you’re applying for. (doesn’t matter if you were a hurdles champion or worked in a bakery at the beginning of your work history – if you’re applying for an engineering role)

Make sure your format  is correct: font and size is the same throughout, spelling, grammar, tenses and punctuation etc as it creates an impression already of competence and professionalism

Start with contact details, (number and email) and location (for time zones)

Begin with your most recent job when listing them, your most recent experiences and your most recent qualifications

Ensure that you demonstrate / quantify and give examples that you can do the job you’ve applied for, outcomes and achievements are very important. (where have you saved the company money, saved time, put new processes in place etc)

Stick to bullet points (not sentences) it’ll help shorten your cv.


Too long.

A CV can be a couple of pages, but it can’t be a novel. It is unlikely that a recruiter will read from start to finish if it’s that long. The optimum length of a CV is 3-6 pages and absolutely no more than 7 pages. This is the first step to Write an effective CV. If you’ve had a lengthy career provide detail of the last 4-5 jobs and rather list the rest.

Too short.

On the other hand, a Project Manager with 30 years’ experience, cannot provide a brief, one-page summary covering all of his experience.  He needs to elaborate providing sufficient detail. Older, less relevant jobs should also be included, but only listed (dates, designations, and organization).

Chronological Order.

When listing your previous positions always put the most recent job first.  A recruiter will only keep reading if interested, so it is best to put your most recent job first – since it is likely to be the most senior, most relevant and one of most interest.  This keeps the recruiter’s interest and encourages them to keep reading to find out about your other experience.


Jobs listed on a CV should run from most recent to oldest. Jobs ordered in any other way (example: by industry, then by time) can be very confusing to read and digest for a recruiter.

Bad Formatting.

Nothing makes a recruiter pass on your CV quicker than bad formatting or over formatting. Make sure your CV is clearly laid-out in a simple readable style. Do not create a PowerPoint type CV with blocks and columns etc. It might be pleasing to the eye but it’s a nightmare to edit. Unless you are going for a highly creative job, do not be tempted to make your CV stand out. Especially standing out by making it too strange, or flamboyant.

Bright colors, multiple fonts, and a wild layout are unlikely to create the impression that you need.

No dates (or just years).

Some candidates have been known to leave out the number of years they have worked at each job, so the recruiter has no idea how long they were employed in each instance. Just as bad is leaving out the months and only including the years. If someone worked “2008-2011,” did they work three years (January 2008 to December 2011) or less than two years (December 2008 to January 2011)?

Gaps in employment.

The jobs you have held should be uninterrupted and any gaps should be explained, e.g. in education, in hospital, traveling abroad. Give your “reasons for leaving” previous and current jobs.

No skills.

With technical jobs, in particular, candidates need to include details of their skills. Especially if the job description calls for certain technical competencies and you have them. If not listed the recruiter can only assume you don’t have them and move on.

No project information. 

If you’re an Engineer involved in various projects, ensure you have a project portfolio. The nature of the project (what type, size, duration) what you were personally involved in / responsible for in the project. Any lessons learned and any achievements need to be reflected.

Poor spelling and grammar.

This one so obvious, but so often overlooked. Use Spell Check to check for spelling mistakes in a CV.  It’s vital when applying for a job that your CV contains no mistakes.  I can’t emphasize that enough. No recruiter in their right mind will want to interview a candidate who appears not to be able to spell. Grammar is important as well. If you know you’re not the best when it comes to grammar, then be sure to ask someone to proof read your CV before you send it on to recruiters.

Incorrect contact details

This happens more often than you realize … You’ve spent hours updating your CV and it’s finally ready to send out. Just double-check that your address, email, and phone numbers are up-to-date and correct, arguably some of the most important bits of information on a CV. It’s surprising how many people overlook this and could potentially miss out on a great job opportunity simply because a recruiter or employer cannot get in touch with them.


To embellish/exaggerate or tell white lies is unacceptable. A recruiter or employer may catch you out and it’s not worth the trouble. Finding a job can be a job in itself but honesty is always the best policy.

When writing & describing your story for a potential employer it’s often tempting to exaggerate a little. A bit of extra information here and a bit of extra information there. It all makes you look better, right?

Ensure that the detail in your CV is truthful –  white lies can catch you out, ruining a perfectly good job application is unnecessary.  The reason you’re applying for a job is that you know you could do it well and bring something to that company or organization. Being honest from the get-go will not only shine through it will also make you feel better. Especially when you get the job you want, and you know that it is something you have done or achieved.

No cover letter. 

Many people don’t realize the importance an employer puts on the covering letter you send. But if you think about it, this is the first thing that they see and read and it is the perfect opportunity to draw their attention to just how perfect you are for their job.  So, you should always send a covering letter when sending out a CV. It will give an employer/recruiter a great first impression of you and what kind of employee you might be and help separate your application from that of others. A well put together neat cover letter says a lot about the sender so don’t just think about content but also layout and look.

The only time does not send a cover letter is if the recruiter requests in the job advertisement that you don’t send a covering letter.  In that instance, you should respect their wishes. You’re trying to get a job not impress with your presentational skills and the main thing is to do what they ask you to do. This circumstance aside, you shouldn’t ever send a CV to a potential employer without a covering letter.

The purpose of a covering letter is to introduce yourself through a detailed short summary of where you add value. Highlight the key skill areas which qualify you for the job you’re applying for. It will also show the employer your level of literacy and presentational skills. You may be thinking, how difficult or important can a letter be but the truth is, in the recruitment process, every small bit of detail is magnified as it’s such a competitive field.

When writing your application cover letter, you do need to carefully focus on those elements that the recruiter has illustrated as important. Each cover letter needs individual attention and originality.  In fact, a bland, generic cover letter can be quite damaging and completely off-putting.

If you do not have the time or inclination to create a quality letter you are probably better off saying nothing. Rather say “here is my CV. ”  Let’s look at this in more detail: think about an advert that says they are looking for ABC experience.  Now, this is something that you did the job before last and have a good example to support this.  Your CV makes a mention of it but your cover letter which you use for all applications does not.  Think about the wasted opportunity – and what might have happened if you had taken the time to put in a sentence to say that you not only have ABC experience but a solid example of success to support this.

Your CV along with a covering letter is your first point of contact with your potential future employer. If you Write an effective CV it may not be what gets you the job. It is certainly what gets (or does not get) you the job interview.  And a job interview is the critical step to finding the perfect job.