How to write the perfect CV
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CV Writing Tips

Writing a good CV is the key to securing an interview.  Employers receive hundreds of CVs and often spend only a few seconds scanning them so it’s important to make sure that it’s succinct, relevant and sells your skills.

Below are some hints and tips to writing a successful CV for the professional services sector.  These suggestions are by no means exhaustive.  If you would like further advice or are not sure how to include something in your CV do call us on 020 7822 4352/4355.

Length Layout and Length

  • A CV should be no more than 2 pages of A4 for a junior to mid-level candidate and no more than 3 pages for a senior candidate.
  • It should be in portrait format and a simple black print on white background word or PDF document.  Use a modern font such as Arial rather than Times New Roman.
  • Don’t write reams of prose and large paragraphs. Stick to bullet point format and keep the sentences short.
  • Take the time to make it look presentable.  Use enough white space to make it easy on the eye and easy to read.
  • Don't include a photo of yourself.  Although this is common practice on the continent this isn’t the norm in the UK.  We see many CVs with amateurish photos taken – remember, you are being interviewed for your skills, not your looks!  On this note, make sure your LinkedIn photo is corporate and professional, it’s not Facebook!
  • Don’t use gimmicks to make it stand out such as wacky colours.  For graphic design candidates include examples of your portfolio at the end of your CV but make sure that the file is small enough to be able to email.
  • Contact Details

  • It’s surprising how many people forget to put these on their CV. Make sure that your home address, phone number and email address are on the CV. You may want to include a link to your Linkedin profile or professional Twitter account.
  • Summary/Personal Statement

  • Write a short paragraph at the top of the CV summarising the skills that are unique to you.  Mention your level, sectors and sub-sectors that you have worked in, key skills, geographical regions you have worked across or understanding of international markets.  An example is below:
  • “A senior marketing and business development professional with client facing experience in leading international accountancy and law firms.  A financial services sector specialist with an understanding of the investment banking market and experience of managing large global banking accounts.  Strong knowledge of UK and EMEA markets. Fluent in French and German.”

  • Don’t make a long list of generic attributes such as “team player”, “calm under pressure” etc.  It takes up unnecessary room could relate to virtually anyone.  The employer is really only interested in skills that make you unique.
  • Work History and Experience/Key Skills

  • Don’t write a skills based CV.  This is a recent trend in some sectors and career consultants often advise it.  However, it isn’t the done thing in professional services.  It’s terribly confusing for the person reading the CV to work out what you did in which role and doesn’t put your achievements into context.
  • Always explain what the companies that you have worked for do.  The professional services sector places great emphasis on the sectors in which you have worked and never assume that the person reading your CV has heard of your company, particularly if you are applying for roles across different sectors. There is nothing more annoying for the person reading your CV than having to do a “google search” to work out what your company does.  Example: 
  • “A global law firm with a turnover of £250 million” or “an IT/ software provider to the banking sector with offices in over 20 countries globally”

  • Then, in a short paragraph or a few bullet points list your responsibilities.  These should be succinct – you don’t want a CV that is just a replica of your job description.
  • Then list your key achievements. These should be done in the following way:  Example:
  • Led on a campaign to raise our profile in the SME tech sector.  This involved a survey to find out the challenges facing the sector and a thought leadership report which was launched at a well-attended event. This generated 50 new leads and 20 new client meetings.

  • Wording is everything.  Avoid being generic and use phrases such as “led on X initiative”, “project managed” and “sole responsibility”, particularly if you are applying for a role that is a step up from your current role.
  • Tailor the CV to the role.  It’s surprising how many people don’t and then wonder why they didn’t get an interview.  If you haven't mentioned a key skill to the role you are applying for, the person reading your CV will assume that you haven’t got the relevant experience.  It’s worth having two or even three versions of your CV depending on the types of roles you are applying for.
  • Always explain gaps in your work history, whether it’s time out to travel or care for a sick relative. 
  • If you have spent a number of years as a contractor or freelancer, listing each contract role in detail could make the CV lengthy and your experience jumpy.  Instead treat your time as a freelancer as one role and then list each assignment under the main heading followed by a few bullet points under each contract. Example:
  • Freelance                                                                                 Feb 2010 to date

    Have spent the last 3 years freelancing within the professional services sector.  Key assignments have include:

    Allen & Overy (June 2013 to date)

  • Bullet point
  • Bullet point
  • Cushman & Wakefield (Jan 2012 to May 2013)

  • Bullet point
  • Bullet point
  • Academics

    Professional services firms place great emphasis on your academic background so don’t forget to include your academics and grades.  More junior candidates should include GCSEs too.

    Interests

    It’s important to give a brief summary of your interests and hobbies whether this is in a short paragraph or a list of bullet points.  After all, an employer is not just interested in whether you can do the job but whether they can work with you.  Mentioning your interests gives an insight into your personality and could become a discussion point at interview.

  • Avoid mentioning controversial topics such as membership of political or religious groups.  Unfortunately people can make assumptions, however wrong or inappropriate.  Remember that you want to maximise your chances of securing an interview.
  • Covering Letters

  • You will rarely be asked to send a covering letter with your CV when applying for a role within professional services. If you are asked, keep it very short (no longer than 150 words) and mention key skills, the sector you have worked in and what sort of role you are looking for.
  • Finally and Most Importantly

  • Never lie on your CV. The chances of being found out are high, particularly in a tight knit market such as professional services.  Whilst you want to sell yourself you should never make things up or stretch the truth, particularly in relation to dates of employment, whether the role was permanent or contract and job title.
  • Proof read it, and get someone else to check over it too for mistakes.
  • Keep it up to date.  A CV should be treated as a work in progress so as you work on new projects or gain new skills do add them to the CV.
  • Review it as a whole document don’t just add the most recent role.  Make sure there’s clear progression and cut back on some of the earlier roles if you need to make more space.
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