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 how to refresh your CV

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How to structure and write your CV - with a CV template

Here are some suggestions about (1) how to structure and write your CV, (2) a good CV template structure and then (3) detailed notes against each section of your CV.


Your CV gives your potential employer the first main reason to reject you as an applicant. Clearly you can’t change the basic facts within your working life but if you don’t do a very good job on your CV in terms of visual appeal, appropriate structure, clarity of language, length and the closest match you can manage in terms of the essential experience required in the application pack (if there is one) you are very likely to be rejected at the first stage.


Recruiters quite frequently have to review hundreds of CV’s from applicants for a single role and so your CV has literally a few seconds to do its job – which is to get you through to the next stage which will hopefully be a conversation with the recruiting organisation. This is why we suggest that your first page should be a very succinct and almost self-standing summary of your suitability for the role for which you are applying. In the middle of the first page should be a simple summary of the organisations you have worked for, your role there and the dates of your employment. This information is what research shows recruiters will look for first and you need to make it very easy for them to see it. If they are interested they will turn the page for details, if not, your CV will immediately go into the rejection pile.  


If you talk to a wide range of people about CV’s you will receive a wide range of opinions about an appropriate structure and style. The suggestions I make are based on having worked with several hundred individual clients and helping them achieve their desired role, initially by helping them write their CV. This structure and style has had lots of positive comments from recruiters and the vast majority of my clients have achieved roles that they have pursued.


If possible, especially when networking with friends and colleagues, it is better to be asked to provide your CV rather than providing it unsolicited.


One last thought : recruitment now, especially at the early stages of the process, is sometimes assisted by sophisticated technology. If your CV does not contain the appropriate words, often found in the details of the information provided to applicants, you may be rejected before a human being has even looked at your CV. It is therefore worth taking quite a lot of trouble to make sure that any of the key words in your application information are reflected in your CV.


8 Quick Tips


  1. Check your spelling and language very carefully and ask someone else to have a careful look through it. Two spelling mistakes or unclear language in a CV is likely to result in your immediate rejection even if you are very well suited to the job.

  2. Fine tune your CV depending on who you are sending it to in order to bring out your experience that is close to the “Required Experience” section of the Application Pack, if there is one.

  3. It is not necessary to put your date of birth on your CV.

  4. You should include your nationality but if it is not the country in which you are applying make it clear that you are able to work in terms of your immigration status.

  5. Throughout your CV avoid using abbreviations that are not very widely understood.

  6. The purpose of your CV is only to enable you to have a conversation with a potential employer. It is not a comprehensive story of your working life.

  7. Send your CV as a PDF, not a Word Doc as the format can be changed in an unhelpful way e.g. if composed on a Mac and read on a PC.

  8. You don’t need to add at the end “References will be supplied on request.”  Recruiters will assume that this is the case and you are wasting valuable space.


CV Template - a good generic CV Structure
The numbers in RED in the template below are explained under the template in the NOTES below 

Optional Photo (NOTE 1)


Street Address (NOTE 3)

Mobile : xxxxxxxxx

Email : xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx





  • xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  • xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  • xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


  • xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  • xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  • xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


Organisation                          Role                                                     Date

Organisation                          Role                                                     Date

Organisation                          Role                                                     Date



Organisation                         Qualification                                       Date

Organisation                         Qualification                                       Date

Organisation                         Qualification                                       Date




Main Achievements


Organisation      (NOTE 9)                     Role                         Date


Main Achievements (NOTE 10)

  • Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  • Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


Organisation                           Role                                         Date

Main Achievements

  • Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

  • Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx



NOTE 1: Photo

Including a photo in the top right corner is optional. If you do include one it should be a recent headshot, of high quality and about the same level of formality as the organisation you are interested in working for.  It should look friendly and professional – and not look as if it comes from your Facebook profile.


NOTE 2: Name, Font Choice and Font Size

This line should only be your name i.e. don’t include “Curriculum Vitae” or CV”. You can include qualification abbreviations if they are very relevant e.g. accounting qualifications but not BA / BSc.

If you wish you can add a link here to your profile on LinkedIn. Your LinkedIn profile will not be exactly the same as your CV but it must be entirely consistent with it.


The font throughout should be clear and modern in appearance e.g. Tahoma, Ariel or Calibri. Times New Roman looks old fashioned. Try size 14 for your name, 12 for headings and 10 or 12 for the rest. You can use some colour for main headings to make it visually more interesting but make sure it is dark enough to print well.


NOTE 3: Address, Mobile and Email

It is normal to include your street address, mobile and email address in a smaller font (8) here so that a recruiter does not need to go looking for your contact details. Normally only include your mobile number rather than a landline because you may not be sure your landline will be answered professionally and exact messages always passed on promptly.


NOTE 4: Profile

Several bullet points that sum up who you are and what you could bring to the organisation you are interested in. The language here needs to be relatively factual and not boastful as this would irritate potential employers. Avoid clichés (e.g. “A proven track record in”). You can and probably should fine tune this section depending on the organisation and role you are applying for. The last bullet point could be along the lines “Now looking for….” because your CV may be separated from your covering letter.


NOTE 5: Key Career Achievements

Five to seven bullet points of the main things you have achieved during your career to date. Quantify some of them where possible. Make them as relevant as possible to your application.  This section can be headed “Key Skills” if you prefer with your relevant key or functional skills listed instead.  


NOTE 6: Career Summary

Research shows that what professional recruiters want to see first is the summary of your organisation-role-date in that sequence. You should not include months in your role dates as that clutters the presentation visually. This section should always be in the middle of the front page. Recruiters will look at it for several seconds only in the first instance (so would you if you had a stack of 50 or more CV’s to review).  If they are interested in this section they may look at the following pages for details. They may well decide whether to put you on the list of possible candidates on the basis of what they see in this section. This should be a purely factual summary.  If you have had a long career you can add “Early Career” as a section which summarises the first years of your career. Recruiters will mainly be interested in the last ten years of your career. This section needs to go back to the end of your education with no gaps in years.


NOTE 7: Education, Qualifications and Personal

Usually only include the highest qualifications such as degrees (i.e. not high school qualifications) and professional qualifications with organisation-qualification-date format. If you have relevant training you can include it in summary form.

“Personal” may include something like “Married with two children (Aged: X,X) You can add if you have a clean driving licence.

“Interests” should be one line with a short list. This adds a bit of personal colour and may be something to talk about during the interview.


NOTE 8:  Career History

The second and possibly third page gives the details of your organisations and achievements in each role. Three pages is OK but it is the maximum length. Recruiters don’t have time to look at anything longer than three pages. Perhaps try for five or so achievements in your two most recent roles, three will be OK in earlier roles. You have an option of including a section on Responsibilities in each section before Achievements.


NOTE 9: Organisation Description

Especially if your employer is not very well known you can include a short description in italics immediately under the organisation name (e.g. One of the largest international software companies with sales of  £…… and ….. thousand employees.)


NOTE 10: Achievements

These should be as relevant as possible to the role you are applying for, some qualitative (e.g. “Developed high performing teams” and some quantitative (e.g. “increased sales from X to Y”).

About the Author

After an international business career, Mike Smith

has coached over 300 individual experienced mature

clients during their career transition, is chairman of

OfficePOD Ltd., (a modular office company), a

non-executive director of Global Secure Accreditation Ltd.

(a hotel security  accreditation business),

and a TEDx speaker on work and well-being

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