What Changes a Good CV into a Great One?

I wrote this post as a result of being asked more times than I can remember –

‘How can I write a CV that gets me to interview?’

Every now and again I receive a CV that really hits this target. Don’t get me wrong, I receive many very good CVs, but just occasionally I receive one that provides more than what is usually expected.  I just know at a glance that it will lead to an interview. 95% of the time CV’s look like they’ve been written by the same person. There is nothing much that sets them apart. After reading most of them you really have no idea about the person except for a history of placements set out by year, many with gaps, many with missing information. What sets one CV apart from the others? What changes a good CV into a great CV?

From my perspective (as a Recruiter & Coach), I want your CV to tell me a story. No, not your life history! By story, I mean something more than a list of places and dates with some achievements thrown in.

 Yes, this information is essential as we need to know these facts… (be sure they are facts by the way!). But these facts alone will not set you apart from the others. All CVs should contain this information as basic and if not included then you’re definitely not hitting the minimal target.


Explain your experience in relation to the job you’re applying for. Take the time to put a CV together that specifically addresses the Job Description for the role. This takes time as each job you apply for will need a different CV. However, your CV will stand out from all those generic CV’s – 90%!

 Include a paragraph on your greatest achievement or success – what was the challenge, how did you approach it and the outcome? Why was it considered a success?

 You may even prefer to approach from a different angle, such as, what has been your greatest challenge and what were your steps to overcome this challenge, and the outcome.

 What’s something that you’re proud of in your career? This will tell more of your values within the workplace and add another dimension to you as an applicant.

 You may like to outline your aspirations or goals for the short and long term. This will demonstrate that you have drive and ambition, of course depending on what they are!

 I want to know more about you than a list of where you’ve been and for how long. This is a one-dimensional approach to CV writing.

I want to know more than WHAT you are, I want to WHO who you are.

 I also want to know, in plain speaking terms, what you will bring to the company if appointed. What value will you add to the company? Why do I need you?

 I want to know why you think you should be selected before others.

 How do you perceive yourself?


 I don’t need to hear:

  •  that you’re hard working because this is just expected!
  •  that you’re a good communicator, without explaining to me why you think so.
  •  that you’ve met & exceeded targets without some brief figures to demonstrate your success
  •  Or any other such statements that mean nothing without evidence.

This may sound harsh, but when hundreds of CV’s arrive in my inbox, it’s only those that stand out that are considered.

Remember that your CV is your professional story and it needs to be treated with the respect that it deserves. Your CV will get your foot in the door for an interview, or not. It represents you until you can meet with them in person. 

Here are some specifics about writing your CV:

  • Please don’t use fancy prints or colours. Keep the print size at 12 to read easily. Use bold headings and please paragraph effectively;
  • Contact details should be shared first – timezone, languages spoken and photo
  • Brief outline of formal qualifications
  • Next outline your most significant achievement so far in your career – choose one that relates to the job you’re applying for. Why significant, what was achieved, how you managed any opposition, why it is relevant to mention;
  • Employment History up to last 5 years – beginning with current employer, your role and responsibilities. A small paragraph for each employer. Include main achievement and your reason for leaving the company.
  • Employment history beyond last 5 years in list form only. Include main achievement at each placement and reason for leaving.
  • Do not omit any years.
  • What you’re most proud of in your life. This relates to your qualities & values as opposed to skills and provides insight to you personally.
  • Closing paragraph – what you can bring to the role, how you will add value to the company;
  • No need for names of referees at this stage – just mention that they will be available on request.
  • Your CV should not be any longer than 3 pages.

The length of CV does not equate to the quality of the candidate.

Career Coaching, Coaching Tips, CV Writing, Job Search