How to write a modern CV

Your CV is usually the first chance a recruiter and potential employer has to assess your suitability for a role. Your CV should reflect the modern business landscape and promote your qualities, but it’s still a professional document, so it’s important to bear this in mind.

In this article, we give you some tips and guidance on how to create a modern CV that will present you as a standout candidate, while retaining the professional qualities employers look for in this type of document.

What is a CV?


A CV, or Curriculum Vitae, documents your skills, qualifications and work experience, along with some personal information.
It’s important for potential employers to know this information so they can make well-informed decisions with regards to your suitability. But this is also your chance to impress your potential employer, so take advantage of the opportunity.

How much personal information should you include?


Ideally this should be little more than your name and contact information, such as address and phone number.
Be mindful of the impression your contact details can give an employer – ‘name@fluffybunny.co.uk’ does not exactly shout “professional”. Set up a new, professional email if you don’t already have an appropriate one.
There is no need to include elements such as your date of birth and marital status.

Maximise your personal statement


This statement should introduce yourself, highlight specific qualities and emphasise the value you offer the potential employer.
Briefly explain your best attributes and goals, but also take the time to research the values, mission and vision of the company that is hiring and consider how you fit in with these. Tailoring your personal statement (and CV) to the company and position you are applying for is ideal.
The biggest challenge with your personal statement is to include all the above elements in around 50 words – it might be tough, but it’s possible!

Experience and employment history


Your CV must include a detailed employment history, dating back a maximum of ten years.
Beginning with your most recent role, outline:
• Your employer
• Job title
• Dates of employment
You should then list your key responsibilities as bullet points, before stating any role-specific hard skills and your achievements, using facts and figures to underpin your statements where possible.
It’s also important to fully explain any employment gaps in your career history. Was it because of a career break, sabbatical, or another reason? It’s wise to be transparent here, as a potential employer will question any gaps unless they are properly explained.

Include your successes and achievements


What are your greatest successes and achievements within each position that you have held?
While it can be useful for employers to understand the responsibilities and duties that were included in your previous roles, including your contributions and achievements puts your commitment into context. This proves that not only did you undertake this role, but you were a valuable and active member of the team.
Providing tangible proof of your greatest successes can be a fantastic asset and set you apart from other candidates. For example, if you are applying for a marketing role, include examples of any campaigns you have looked after, and the results of these campaigns.

List your educational achievements and qualifications


Your education and qualifications should be in the same format as your experience and employment history, in reverse chronological order, beginning with the most recent. The details of your experience should include:
• The institution
• Dates of attendance
• Qualifications achieved

Highlight your soft skills


Soft skills can be difficult to define but refer to personality traits and attributes that allow someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with others. These skills are important to employers because they are transferrable and can be beneficial in a range of roles.
Examples include decision making, creative thinking, strong work ethic, good time management, problem solving and team player.
These differ from hard skills, such as “Photoshop trained” or role-specific skills gained through training and education. Your hard skills should be listed in your employment history, while soft, or transferrable, skills should be highlighted under their own heading on your CV or as part of the description for your other achievements.
We recommend you keep your key soft skills to a maximum of five.
If your hobbies demonstrate the way that you practice your soft skills, we recommend that you include this in your CV also. If you’re the secretary of a running club you’re likely to be well organised; if you’re in an amateur dramatics group, you work well in a team. Again, keep this section brief at around 50 words.

Get the tone right


A useful exercise is to look at firms that are hiring in your industry – what kind of language and tone of voice are they using? You can then use a similar tone in your CV, positioning yourself as relevant and well-aligned with the industry.
This research will also highlight the soft skills and personal attributes that businesses in the industry are looking for. These are often found under ‘key responsibilities and requirements’.

CV aesthetics


While you want your CV to stand out and reflect your personality, it’s important to remember that it is a professional document.

  • Keep it brief: recruiters will be looking to spot your key talents and attributes quickly, so keeping paragraphs short and concise will help them do this. Ideally your CV should be no more than two pages long.
  • Picture this: avoid using a photo – it’s not regular practice in the UK, and you also want employers to judge you on your record, not your picture.
  • Font of knowledge: consider the font you are using. Times New Roman is outdated while Arial and Calibri in a 12pt size are clean, modern and lend themselves to both online and offline reading. Using headers in bold font to break up the text will make the document easier to read.
  • Standing out: as mentioned, a CV is a professional document so it’s important to make sure it looks this way. However, there are some exceptions – for example, the creative industries may be more receptive to different presentation styles and the use of colour, but this is a judgement you’ll need to make for the position you are applying for.
  • Like a bullet: a recruiter will want to be able to pick out key information from the document very quickly – use bullet points to highlight key skills and achievements enables this process. They also help to break up text and keep the document clean and looking professional.
  • Proof is in the pudding: finally, and most importantly, check, check and double check your CV. Consider asking a friend to go through it too, as a fresh pair of eyes can spot errors you might otherwise not have. It’s incredibly important it has been proofread to remove any mistakes or inaccuracies.

For a quick CV checklist and template, check out this handy resource.

About the Author

Emma Plummer

Emma Plummer

Recruitment Partner

Emma blogs for the ACR jobseekers’ blog covering tips on how to stand out, managing the job-hunting process and more.