CV Writing Tips – Part 1 – What to Focus On


CV writing tips – Part 1 – What to focus on

In 2010, an Orange County Resume survey was undertaken by Eric Hilden that found the following aspects were the most important to employers:

  • 45% – Previous related work experience
  • 35% – Qualification & Skills
  • 25% – Easy to Read
  • 16% – Accomplishments
  • 14% – Spelling & Grammar
  • 9% – Education
  • 9% – Intangibles
  • 3% – Clear Objective
  • 2% – Keywords added
  • 1% – Contact information
  • 1% – Personal experiences
  • 1% – Computer skills

So it is important to make sure your CV includes relevant information and is set out correctly (something we also cover in Part 3 of this series).


The Basics

Let’s start at the beginning. Every resume has the same elements: name, contact information, education, experience, and skills. Most entry-level resumes also have a short objective statement and an activities section.

If you don’t have a lot of work experience, you might choose to start with your name and contact information then your education, activities, experience, and skills section.

Organize the information in each section chronologically – normally beginning with the most recent items (reverse chronological).


Tailor your application

Make sure you tailor your resume for each application.

  1. The best starting point is to review job ads for your desired position, and look for skills and qualifications that employers want in their ideal candidates.
  2. Research the organization and the position carefully.

If you have matching qualifications, find ways to weave those key terms into your resume.

A personal profile at the start of the CV can also work, to help tailor your resume and make you stand out from the crowd.

Be Concise

The best CV’s tend to be fairly economical with words, selecting the most important information and leaving a little something for the interview.  A CV is designed to help get your foot in teh door, an appetizer rather than the main course.


Below are some of the recommended key sections of a CV (and in the usual order):


Work Experience

  • Each job listed in your work experience should include the company name, your title, the city and state, and the dates you worked there.
  • Use action words such as developed, planned and organized.
  • Don’t mention the routine non-people tasks unless your prospective job calls for that specific task or similar.
  • Try to relate or emphasize the skills to the prospective job. For instance, if you are trying to get a marketing role, emphasis should be placed on the persuading and negotiating skills you have attained through your job experience.


Your education section should include your college or university name, your major, your degree, and your anticipated graduation date.

Mention grades unless poor.

Include any post graduate qualifications if relevant.



The usual ones to mention are languages (good conversational French, basic Spanish), computing (e.g. “good working knowledge of MS Access and Excel, plus basic web page design skills”) and driving (“full current clean driving licence” – but only include if relevant. You wouldn’t need to include this if applying for a job in finance for instance)

If you are a mature candidate or have lots of relevant skills to offer, a skills-based CV may work for you – something that demonstrates life experiences more effectively. This is also helpful where your career is not directly related to your degree subject.  Click here for an example of a skills-based CV.


Interests and achievements

Some CVs require an interest and achievements section. We suggest leaving this section last and only add if you have space.

Keep this section short and to the point. As your career progresses, your employment record will take precedence and interests will typically diminish in length and importance.

Other tips:

  • Don’t put many passive, solitary hobbies, such as reading, cinema, stamp-collecting etc suggest solitary interests. This may be interpreted by selectors as the individual doesn’t get on with other people and may not be a good team player.
  • Employability skills are important to list, such as team working, organizing, planning, persuading, negotiating etc.
  • List interests relevant to the job – for example participation on community boards and committees if you are looking for a management position.
  • Any evidence of leadership is important – such as being a captain or coahce of a sports team.
  • Hobbies that are a little out of the ordinary can help you stand out from the crowd – for instance skydiving, mountaineering can show a sense of wanting to stretch yourself and ability to rely on yourself in demanding situations.
  • Show a range of interests to avoid coming across as narrow: if everything centres around sport they may wonder if you could hold a conversation with a client who wasn’t interested in sport.



Many employers don’t check references at the application stage – so unless the vacancy specifically requests referees, it’s fine to omit this section completely.


Covering Letters

Don’t forget a covering letter. Applicants with a covering letter were 10% more likely to get a reply.


You can also get help writing your CV. Companies such as The First Phase offer personalised CV writing services by people with experience in the HR & recruitment industry.  This can be a great way to make sure your CV is well written, includes important information and is formatted well by people in the industry. MentorSelector also has people experienced in industries who may be able to guide you on what to focus on in a resume, as well as certified resume writers such as Karen Huller.


Stayed tuned for part two of this series next week, where we look at common pitfalls and what to avoid when creating your CV.

To learn more about MentorSelector or to find your mentor or life coach, please click here. We are always looking for more mentors to join our family – its a great initiative that is mutually rewarding for both mentor and mentee. Register now to become a mentor or a mentee.