10 tips to create a CV that stands out from the crowd - IPBS MIM Master
10 tips to create a CV that stands out from the crowd

and that will get you an interview

It would be great if all our endeavours were guaranteed a reward equal to our efforts, but unfortunately reality can be harsh. Writing your CV can be worse.

The truth is, no matter how much time and effort you put into this small document, a recruiter will only look at it for between 20 and 30 seconds before they make a decision about giving you an interview.

You may find yourself wondering how you will stand out from the crowd…

Luckily there are proven hacks to navigating the road that leads to landing your dream job. Organisation and structure is key and this is how you can make the most of the tiny window of opportunity that might change the rest of your life:

  1. Resist the Template Temptation

It is tempting to download that Standard European CV Template and fill in the blanks.

Step. Away. From. Google.

This is the surest way to disappear into the crowd and you will have a document that is utterly impersonal and also has additional information which serves no purpose other than clutter.

  1. Keep it Punchy

A CV is a little more extensive than a résumé – but you still want to keep it all on one page if you are applying for your first job and have no work history. If you have some work experience you can stretch it, but never longer than two pages.

  • Avoid fonts such as Comic Sans. Instead, choose something more professional such as a 10-point Arial or Lucida Sans
  • Start with your name, using a large font (around 18 points is perfect) and resist using any nicknames. Add your personal address and email. If you do not have a sensible personal email address now is the time to create a business-like one
  • Contact details must be personal rather than any from a work address (temporary or permanent) and you must make sure that you are easily reachable
  1. Sell Yourself to Your Friends and Family

Remember that 20 – 30 second window? The recruiter may only read the first 50 words in the body of your CV, so your PERSONAL STATEMENT must be written as if your next year’s salary depends on it. But make it sound as if you were under no pressure.

Use natural language that avoids clichés and tells the employer what you will do for them. Read and re-read the requirements of the advertised position and be very sure of what the recruiter is looking for in a candidate. State your accomplishments and how these will help you make a success of the job you are applying for.

When you have spent a couple of hundred hours honing this down to an elevator pitch (pretend you find yourself in the lift with the big boss and you suddenly have floors 3 to 17 of her/ his uninterrupted time to convince her/ him to hire you) read it out loud to yourself and then, when you are totally happy, read it to your friends and family until you have convinced them to hire you.

  1. About the Meat

When it comes to the main part of your CV we say meat, but we still want you to keep it lean. Use bullet points rather than full sentences and think C.C.C. for Clear, Concise and Complete.

If you have recently completed your education, the first section of your CV following your PERSONAL STATEMENT will be your EDUCATION and QUALIFICATIONS.


Include details such as the academic achievements and awards you have received, any research experience and publications you have. Take care to include the names of institutions and dates attended in reverse order; Ph.D., Masters, Undergraduate. (Do use correct nomenclature and abbreviations eg. BSc not Bsc)

Other facts you may want to include: Scholarships, Study abroad, Dissertations, Theses, Graduate fieldwork, Teaching experience, Publications, Presentations and lectures, Exhibitions, Awards and honours, Grants, Fellowships and assistantships, Technical, Computer, and Language skills.

Professional licenses and certifications as well as any applicable Memberships. Mention that you have a driver’s licence if the position will require driving etc.


If you have work experience or an employment history this section will come before your EDUCATION and QUALIFICATIONS. Your career history is also presented in reverse date order starting with the most recent, with most emphasis on more recent jobs.

Also feel free to add any other qualifications particularly relevant to the position. If you are applying for a managerial position but have never previously worked as manager, emphasise that your previous roles involved considerable responsibility and decision-making duties such as delegation, chairing meetings, training staff or that you have captained a sports team.

If a separate role is more of a sideways step, you may want to focus more on the innovative ways you have achieved success in the role to show your competency.

There are three ways to present the EMPLOYMENT section of your CV

  • Chronological CV

Perfect for candidates applying for positions similar to their current jobs, this CV showcases a gradually advancing career track record.

List each position in reverse date order with the company name, location, your full job title, responsibilities and achievements.

  • Functional CV

Should you want to change careers or have been out of the workforce for a prolonged period of time you might be better served focusing on the experience and skills you have that are relevant to the position you are applying for.

List the most important skills and experience that you have developed through paid employment, voluntary work or general life experience.

Briefly list positions and dates without too many details.

  • Combination CV

This is particularly helpful if many of your employment periods have been short.

Combine your work into batches according to skills that match the job you are applying for. Add the company names and dates at the top of each group and list the achievements and experiences gained below. Include measurable results for every achievement where possible.

There is no need to include your salary or any reason for leaving previous employment. Referees are not necessary unless you have been asked for them – If the request has been made, then list one academic (a tutor or project supervisor) referee and one reference from a previous employer.


You can include any or all of the following:

Transferable skills that are learnt in one field but can be adapted to or applied in another.

Job-related skills that are directly relevant to the position you are applying for.

Adaptive skills that are related to personality traits.

It can be useful to search for similar job titles to understand exactly which skills will best serve the position you are applying for. You want to prove that you have the skills, interests and personal attributes to do the job and fit into the organisation. Popular skills include:

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Initiative
  • Problem solving
  • Flexibility
  • Computers (e.g. good working knowledge of MS Access and Excel, plus basic web page design)
  • Technical
  • Languages (e.g. good conversational French, basic Spanish)


Social and active interests are better than solitary and passive interests and a serious commitment to at least one activity is a plus. Include independent or challenging foreign travel or any team sports involvement. Did you take a lead roll or organise any of your activities and are there any interests that are relevant to your job?

  1. Is it Easy on the Eye?
  • Look at the format of your CV, hold it at arm’s length, and again, ask someone else to take a look
  • Does it have some white spaces?
  • But not too much white space at the bottom of the page – you don’t want to give the impression that you have run out of something to say!
  • Ensure your formatting is consistent throughout
  • Page margins should be at least 1cm
  • Paragraphs should be no longer than 7 lines
  • The structure should be clear with all the information on one topic listed together. Appropriate headings (in a larger font – 14 points is appropriate) and a gap between sections
  • Use proper bullets for all lists (like we have done in this section)
  1. Lights, Camera, Action Verbs

Use active verbs wherever you can. Words like ‘created’, ‘analysed’ and ‘devised’ will present you as a candidate who shows initiative.

You should also make sure that you are highlighting duties and responsibilities rather than achievements. Where previous experience has Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) which can be quantified, give percentage increases. Recruiters love numbers.

  1. Search, Write, Apply, Repeat.

Focus and target every new position you want to apply for. Make sure every CV you send out is tailored and specific.

  1. Never Ever Tell a Lie!
  • You will get caught
  • You won’t get hired
  • Even worse… you will get fired after they decide to hire you
  1. Get some Editors, then keep them Sweet

It is as difficult to catch your own mistakes on paper as it is to tickle yourself and a spell checker might not spot every mistake in your grammar and punctuation.

Still, you need to double-check your CV for typos and grammatical errors. This is where your most honest and direct friends and family members may come in handy once again.

Ask them to read and review every new CV.

  1. Everyone knows a CV is a CV

Never write the term ‘Curriculum Vitae’ at the top of the page. No one will be impressed by your Latin and you don’t want to waste any words. (Also, if you get the spelling wrong it’s pretty much game over)

Do you think your CV includes all these 10 tips?
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