You are too good to have a bad CV: 10 tips to improve it!

1. Be clear and concise

Dilbert Book one minute

Of course, you want to include your entire expertise, but this strategy might backfire. Why? Recruiters see hundreds of CVs every day, and they definitely don’t want to spend extra time trying to find the skills or experience they are looking for. In a good CV, you should be able to find them in less than 10 seconds.

This means your layout and focus should be tailored to serve the position you are applying to. If that means cutting some of your experience or putting it somewhere off focus, that’s tough, but the best call to make.

If you have trouble doing that yourself, don’t blame yourself. We would suggest you give the CV to a friend who can proofread it for you and cut out things they don’t find necessary or important.

2. Use keywords.

Using keywords is important when catering to a recruiter or HR department’s personnel, as well as for any ATS (Applicant Tracking System) on the market. These software products can scan through thousands of CVs and applications, spotting words with semantic recognition. There’s a big probability that your CV will go through one of these systems one day, and you should make sure it’s optimized for them.

3. Make your CV easy on the eyes.


It’s not just about the information you want to provide, it’s also about the layout. Even if your CV is matched by an ATS, it’s most likely passed on to a human being at some point. While the machine is keen on easy processable key information, the human being is… exactly the same. But what’s easy to process for an ATS already might still need some upgrades to go easy on human eyes. That’s why we think it’s never a waste of time to:

Put work into the looks and the layout:

  • Look for a nice and readable font.
  • Add spaces to give readers a chance to rest their eyes.

The easier and more enjoyable you make it for a recruiter to follow your résume, the better your chances are that they will remember all vital key information when it comes to decision making. First impressions last, after all!

  • Who is reading this?
  • What are they looking for?
  • What do they NOT want to see?

These are the right questions to ask yourself while writing your CV.

4. Make sure your CV matches your ambitions

A CV should match your profile to what kind of position you are seeking. That doesn’t stop at the content and needs to start with the layout. For example, a CV for a designer position or for a finance position will have to be completely different from each other. Designers will have to show their skills, be creative, starting with their CV, so the layout works as an extension of their portfolio. For example, Jeff Scardino made a name for himself designing an “honest CV”. Accountants, on the other side, should go for something a lot more classical and avoid coming across as too playful or too fancy.

5. Make your CV stand out!

Unique design, catchy line, that one idea that sets you apart from the rest… remember your CV is one among hundreds, make the recruiter remember it.

Need some ideas to spark your creativity? Not sure how far down the ‘special snowflake line’ you wanna push before coming across as too playful or vain?

For example, Jeff Scardino (yes, him again) understood perfectly the importance of having content that stands out. Besides doing a good job on the layout of his CV, he also thought outside the box and came up with a very original way to present his experience. He chose to show his failure as much as his success, and his CV definitely got a lot of attention.

6. Provide leads to more info

links everywhere

Your CV sure is a “résumé” about who you are and what you do, but you can always give a lead to further info. You can also lead to extensions of your CV, with cover letters, portfolios, certificates. A lot of these features are available on websites like LinkedIn, so you can give a link to your page, as mentioned, or any other relevant social media account.

Many members of our network like to redirect to their website, blogs, even personal projects that they’ve been a part of (like the amazing Friday Cat). Even if you were mention on your University’s portal for a group project, why not mention it?

Pro tip: When you create your CV as a word document, you can include hyperlinks to additional online resources that will carry over to the PDF-Version.

7. “Pictures Tell Stories” — What’s yours?

It’s a common statement that the first impression is there to stay. If you choose to put a picture on your CV, consider that it will be the first thing a recruiter lays eyes on when reviewing it. Whether it is unconscious or not, this first-impression-effect should not be underestimated, so make sure you provide a photo that makes you look trustworthy, friendly and will not discourage anyone from wanting to know more about you.

Pro tip: If you are unsure whether a picture adds value to your CV or not, you might as well not insert it at all. It’s not required to add a picture to an international CVand some companies would even prefer you sending your CV without one. In some US American companies, there might even be a non-discrimination policy and they will prefer a CV that doesn’t have a picture or too much personal information about a person that could trigger a situation where the applicant feels discriminated against themselves due to providing such information. In rare cases, the company might even ask for CVs without pictures, specifically. So when in doubt, let it out!

8. How to put yourself in a Nutshell

The summary (or “synopsis”) is a short text that goes right after the title, before your working experience, that sums up your most important and vital work experience. Only three to five sentences to show where you are coming from, and what direction you are heading for, pursuing your career.

It’s a rather simple way to make your CV stand out, as yet not many people do it. From our experience, though, most recruiters are really happy to see it. It makes looking for highlights easier and gives people an idea of who you are and what your most important achievements are within seconds.

9. Back to Basics: Grammar and spelling

Your CV reflects who you are. Don’t give the impression you don’t pay attention to basic things like grammar, spelling and punctuations. It might seem obvious, but especially with international CVs, it might be tougher than anticipated if English is not your native language. We receive a lot of CVs with some minor mistakes, most of them typos that would be avoidable. While it’s absolutely human to make mistakes and everybody understands, that you are probably under a lot of pressure, by spending just a little more time on double-checking these basic things, you will automatically appear more professional and detail-oriented. These are qualities that employers cannot resist!

10. Charts and graphs!


We all know it, internet culture is everywhere and everybody loves pretty pictures. A Meme is a basic joke or reveal that’s wrapped up with an engaging picture, most of the time. And we all know how much engagement they drive. What does that have to do with your CV, a very professional document? It’s always charming to have some visual elements in a CV. It’s easy on the eyes after doing a lot of reading and will always catch a recruiter’s attention more vividly than just words.

11. Your hobbies matter!

While the paragraph with your hobbies shouldn’t eat up your whole CV, don’t underestimate the impact it can have for a recruiter or HR person to make a final call. Don’t stress about this too much, though. You shouldn’t try to adjust to some imaginary code of conduct too much in this paragraph. When the information shared here come into play, your skills have already been successfully matched with the position. So be honest about it and try to have some fun! This is all about giving a more personal touch to the matter and humor is usually appreciated.

12. Make your CV match you LinkedIn profile

In 2015, nobody can ignore the impact of LinkedIn on business and recruitment. If you are looking for a job, it is a great tool to get recruiters to know you, and verify your background. Many professionals add a link to their profile on their CV.

The professional social network offers options to show your skills and give & receive recommendations from your professional acquaintances. So putzing some time and effort into completing your LinkedIn profile is never wasted. It also might help you focus on key skills in your CV, because it provides an easy accessible resource to fit in information that you had to cut from your original layout.

Note that LinkedIn has the option to set profiles in different languages, which is always a great feature for international workers. Having a public English LinkedIn is a great way to reach a maximum of potential employers & contacts.

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