By Amanda Tsinonis, Director and Founder of www.sareunited.com and www.yesnomayB.com

I’ve seen many CV’s and I am amazed that even talented people still get it wrong. You have perhaps 30 seconds to grab the attention of your employer, or your CV goes into the bin. This is your own personal “advert” so it is important you get it right. Here is an employer’s top tips on how to better your chances and make it to that shortlist pile.

1. The basic do’s and don’ts


  • Do use clean, white, good quality paper.
  • Do make it easy on the eye by using simple bullet points and aligning your content.
  • Do keep it to just two A4 pages, sometimes less is more – even for senior positions.
  • Do leave something to talk about at the interview stage, leave them wanting more…
  • Do write a short (1/2 page at most) covering letter introducing yourself and why you should be considered for the role, especially when emailing your CV.
  • Don’t ever send a blank email with “CV attached”. Way to lazy and assumptive to think a busy person will wade through and open your file to see why you wrote to them.
  • Don’t make it too wacky or “creative” with zany fonts; and never, ever use any clip art!
  • Don’t include a photo, this is not a beauty contest and winning on merit is better.
  • Don’t write Curriculum Vitae on the top of your document, it is not necessary.

2. Make it factual, not fluffy

Have a 3 line personal profile under your name, otherwise known as the “elevator introduction”. You should be able to sell yourself in the time it takes to take the elevator to the 5th floor. Keep it factual, no cheese, and avoid clichés such as “team player” and “strive for perfection” because hopefully they’ll assume you are not a “loner” or “sloppy” to start with.

3. Keep it orderly

When you are listing your employment history, make sure it’s in reverse chronological order so that the most recent job is at the top. That is the one that matters most – so elaborate a little more here so your recruiter gets an idea of the space you are in now. Forget listing any summer jobs you did in the distant past. Don’t be tempted to sound like a Jack–of-all-trades or it might appear that you get bored easily. When you moved on to a new job, its good to say “reason for leaving” and to explain any big gaps on your CV (i.e. 7 months backpacking through Europe, or “One year off with a new baby”.

4. Quantify if you can

Try to get across a good mix of achievements and responsibilities. How much budget did you control, how many people did you train, or what amount of staff were reporting into you. If you can factually (so no lies!) back up how much business you brought in, then do it as that puts a stake in the ground as to what level you operate at.

5. Education

The further you are into your career path, the less detail you need on your school/college/varsity days. If your marks were good, keep it succinct but if they were not that good, mention the amount of passes, not the failures of the grades itself. If you have a degree or similar, mention what it is and where you got it. Talking about the E you got in Art won’t help you if you are applying for a job in a bank. Do remember to mention any accolades and awards that make you sound like someone people would like to work with.

6. Interests and Hobbies

By now you’ll be running out of space, so keep it snappy. Don’t be tempted to say just “socialising” or “sport” or “charity”. Be more specific and give yourself a little edge over others here, plus it’s a talking point for the interview. “Wine tasting with friends”, “learning to kite-surf” and “ voluntary IT teaching”, sounds a lot more specific and interesting.

7. References

Its okay to say “references available on request” but don’t put references names and contact details in your CV. Rather get into the interview first, then provide this information, but only once your references have received a reminder/request (from you) that they’ll be contacted. Nothing worse than someone calling up to get a reference and that person says “Sorry, Mike who??”.

8. Check and re-check!

Use spellchecker not once, but twice. Then give your CV to someone smart to read over again. There is NO excuse for spelling mistakes, even if you did not finish your schooling, if you are applying for a nanny or bar job, and yes, even if you are not English. Spelling errors says something about you and that is “careless and lazy”. Sorry to be so blunt, use the tools on your computer, especially if it’s your weak point.

9. Address it to the right person

Do a bit of research and send your CV to the right person. Maybe that is someone’s PA, or someone in HR, or the boss but know who that is. Learn a little about them or know their role, so you can address them properly. And oh, please spell their name correctly. If you even wonder how to spell their name, check! Clara is not Klara, Jenni is not Jenny, McKnight is not MacNight. Look it up, do not guess, it says … you got it – “lazy”!

10. Follow up

If you have not heard back within a week or so (after interview or after sending in your CV), write a brief follow-up note reminding them that you do want this job. Do not be ashamed to say “I re-attach my CV for easy access and look forward to hearing if you might consider my application”. If you get turned down, it is brave and wise to get feedback so you learn from the experience. It might have nothing to do with you or your CV, but you having nothing to lose by asking.

Good luck and happy job hunting. Now go get ‘em!