23+ Top CV Tips & Tricks for 2021 (With Examples)
Looking to impress the recruiter and land your next job?
You’ll have to create a compelling CV.
Not sure how to do that?
Well, we’re here to help!
In this article, we’ll cover the 23 best CV tips & tricks that’ll help you stand out from hundreds of other applicants.
For your convenience, we’ve also ranked each tip by importance with a star rating from one to three.
Ready? Let’s dive right into it.
23+ Top Tips & Tricks to Write Your CV (Examples)
#1: List Your Contact Information Correctly
Nothing about your application matters if the HR manager can’t contact you. That’s why you should always double-check your contact details to make sure they’re correct & updated.
In addition, make sure that your contact information section has the following information:
- Full name, e,g: ‘Jane Doe’
- Professional email, e.g: ‘email@example.com’
- Phone number, e.g: ‘004 562 2020’
- Location, e.g: ‘Oslo, Norway’
#2: Don’t Mention Personal Details
The goal of a CV is to highlight your educational or career achievements and experiences. Talking about things such as your family, religion, or nationality has no relevance to your abilities to succeed in the position.
And regardless of your country’s anti-discriminatory labor laws, we don’t live in a perfect world. Giving out personal details also leaves room for discrimination, whether that’s because of age, race and color, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.
Avoid including the following:
- Headshot in the US, UK, and Ireland (unless you work in the beauty or acting industry, where appearance is relevant to the job).
- Social security number
- Date of birth
- Graduation year
- Marital status
- Sexual orientation
- Religious beliefs
- Political affiliation
#3: Create a Professional Email Address
No recruiter will take you seriously or call you in for an interview if you send them a CV from “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
It’s best to stir away from cutesy, edgy, or artistic handles. Instead, only include your full name, and maybe a few dashes and numbers, if your name is a common one.
Here are some good examples:
#4: Be Specific about Your Work Experiences
Yes, there is a right and wrong way to handle your work experience section.
When writing your past responsibilities or achievements, make sure to include:
- Numbers and data. It’s more impactful to say “improved sales by 20%” than to simply say “improved sales.”
- Timeframe. How long did it take you to get results?
- Your actions. What did you do to make things happen?
Or, to turn this into a practical example:
"Managed to improve the restaurant’s revenue by over 20% in 2021 by improving the menu and driving new customers."
If you want to learn more about how to create a compelling work experience section, check out Laszlo Bock’s XYZ formula.
#5: List the Right Skills
When listing your skills in your CV, make sure to include the skills that are actually relevant for the role you’re applying for.
If you’re looking to be part of an Engineering team, talking about your expertise in accounting & bookkeeping won’t impress the recruiter.
Focus only on the skills required in the job ad, and other ones directly related to the position.
#6: Include Additional Sections
Have some extra space left in your resume?
Add some of the optional resume sections!
These sections are extra-helpful if you’re a recent graduate applying for your first job.
Some possible sections include:
- Hobbies & Interests
- Volunteer Experience
- Certificates & Awards
- Practical projects
#7: Keep the Font Size Between 10-12 pt
Keeping your font size in between 10-12pt allows you to save space, and makes the CV easy to read. Anything smaller than that will have recruiters squinting their eyes to read the text. Anything bigger won’t leave you enough room to list all of your work experience & achievements.
Whatever font size you choose, make sure it’s consistent throughout the entire text.
For headers and titles, you can use a slightly bigger font size, which ranges between 14-16pt. You can also use bold and/or a pop of color to emphasize these words.
#8: Choose a Professional Font
Times New Roman is the most widely used, and classic font option used in CV writing. You can also choose similar professional fonts like Arial, Calibri, or Georgia. Avoid the more unorthodox or unprofessional fonts, though (e.g. Comic Sans).
#9: Avoid Talking About Money
Your CV is not the right place to talk about your salary requirements.
Including your desired salary in the CV makes it seem like you’re mainly in it for the money and don’t really have much interest in the job you’re applying for.
Worry not, though, there will be a time and place to discuss and negotiate the salary on your first or second interview.
#10: Talk in First Person
Never write a CV in the third person, unless you want recruiters to think that somebody else wrote your CV for you. Only use the first person, but leave out the pronoun “I”.
So, rather than saying: “I scheduled and organized client appointments”, say “Scheduled and organized client appointments”. It’s more brief and clear, plus, you avoid repeating “I” throughout your entire CV.
#11: Try to Keep Your CV Under One Page
This one’s a classic - your CV should not be your life story.
Aim for 1-page max, 2 if you have a decade’s worth of work experience.
Having trouble fitting your CV on a single page? Here are some of our tips on how you can do this:
- Skip over jobs you’ve worked 10+ years ago.
- Don’t mention work experience that isn’t directly related to the position you’re applying for. E.g. Don’t mention your summer job as a cashier if you’re applying for a role as a software engineer.
- Use a one-page CV template to make it easier to stick to the limit.
- Stick to only the most relevant skills and experiences. Ask yourself: will this specific experience/skill help me do the job better? If the answer is “no,” you can safely skip it.
#12: Include your LinkedIn
A great way to give recruiters more insight into your networking skills, and offer extra details on who you professionally are, is by adding a link to your LinkedIn profile.
Before doing so, though, make sure that your LinkedIn has a professional profile picture, lists all of your top achievements and unique skills, and contains relevant skills for the position.
#13: Keep it Honest
When you really want a job, it can be tempting to exaggerate or lie about your achievements and experience.
But trust us when we tell you, it’s really not worth the risk.
Lying in your CV is considered fraud. If you get caught, you risk losing your job, damaging your reputation, and could even face legal charges (if you lie about a qualification legally required for a job position).
#14: Explain Employment Gaps
There’s nothing wrong with having employment gaps in your CV. There are a variety of reasons, both voluntary and involuntary, to take time off of work.
If you don’t give an explanation for such a gap, though, then that’s going to be a red flag for the recruiter reading your CV. They might assume that you’re a job-hopper or that you were fired.
So in between work experience, whenever you have a long employment gap, clear the air by briefly mentioning the reason behind it. Here are 2 practical examples of this:
01/2020 - 01/2021
Took a gap year after graduating to travel & develop my graphic design skills.
06/2019 - 03/2021
Spend time off work to be a stay-at-home parent.
#15: Use Active Voice Instead of Passive Voice
When you use an active voice, you deliver a more impactful and clear message. A passive voice, on the other hand, downplays your accomplishments.
Which of these 2 examples reads better?
- Recognized for proactive decision-making and responsibility.
- Responsibility and proactive decision-making were recognized as my strengths.
Yep, it’s the first!
As you can see, the first sentence is a lot more clear to read and understand. It directly conveys the message - you’re responsible and a good decision-maker. Using passive voice only overcomplicates the sentence and confuses anyone reading your CV.
Need help choosing action verbs to use in your CV? Check out our complete list of 340+ best action verbs for your resume.
#16: Make a Compelling Cover Letter
Alongside your CV, your application should also include a convincing cover letter.
The goal of a cover letter is to briefly summarize your professional background, in around 250 to 400 words, as well as explain how you’re a good fit for the role or company.
Here are the 5 steps you need to take to write a compelling cover letter:
- Greet the hiring manager. Something like “Dear Hiring Manager Name” will do.
- Write an opening paragraph where you mention 2-3 of your best achievements.
- Add a second paragraph where you talk about what makes you the perfect candidate for the position
- Include a last, third paragraph where you explain why you’re a good match for their company.
- End it with a formal salutation, such as “Sincerely, Mike”.
#17: Include White Space
White space refers to exactly what you’re thinking - the white space in between all of your CV sections. It’s your job to optimize white space so that the CV looks neat.
Here are some tips on how to do that:
- Have margins on all sides of the CV
- Aim for 1.0 to 1.15 line spacing in between texts
- Use bulleted points instead of paragraphs, no more than 6 per section.
For more on how to make a simple, easy to scan, and well-organized CV, read our resume layouts guide.
#18: Write for ATS
Larger companies these days use Applicant Tracking Systems (or ATS in short) to filter through hundreds of applicants within minutes and discard those that are not qualified for the role.
Sometimes, though, qualified CVs also fall through the cracks if they’re not written with an ATS in mind.
Want to learn how to optimize your CV so that it passes ATS filters? Check out our complete guide to creating an ATS-friendly resume.
If you’re looking for the cliff notes, though, here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Use an ATS-friendly resume template. First thing’s first - an ATS will automatically discard your CV if it can’t read it. So, it’s important to pick a format that’s built with ATS in mind.
- Look through the job ad and identify the key requirements for the role. Then, go through your CV and make sure that you mention the keywords that meet these requirements. E.g. If the role requires that you know Adobe Illustrator, you should go through your skills section and make sure to include it there.
#19: Use Our Resume Builder
If you’ve ever used a text editor CV template, you’re probably aware that it’s a designer’s worst nightmare.
You make the tiniest design change to the template... and the entire layout falls into pieces or spills over to the 2nd page.
Want to avoid all this and create a compelling CV in minutes?
Try an online resume builder!
With our done-for-you CV templates, all you have to do is pick a design that you like:
And start filling in your contents - zero formatting hassle required!
59% of recruiters will reject an applicant because of typos, bad grammar, and other spelling errors. Though these might seem small, even the tiniest details can make a hiring manager think twice about reaching out to you for the job. Especially if it’s a high-demand position with tons of other candidates competing.
So your final and most important step, after you’ve finished typing out your resume, should be proofreading.
Follow these steps:
- Print your CV and read it out loud. Listening to what you’ve written can help catch spelling mistakes and clutter writing.
- Highlight any mistakes you catch so you can easily make changes when it’s time to edit again.
- Have a friend (preferably one who’s good at reviews) also proofread your CV for you.
#21: Save the File as a PDF
What looks clean and well-organized on your computer, can look completely different on your recruiter’s screen if there are any compatibility issues.
That’s why the safest way to save your CV file is as a PDF. A PDF saves the document as an uneditable image, exactly how you designed it, rather than as a text file. This helps keep the format locked in place, regardless of where the employer is viewing your CV.
#22: Name Your CV Properly
Your CV file name is the very first thing a hiring manager notices before looking inside the document. You should make sure to name it in a way that lets the employer clearly recognize whose file they’re accessing.
Stay away from general document names such as “Resume Update Number 4”, or “Resume.pdf” - your application will immediately get lost in the hundreds of similar file names.
Instead, simply write your name and the word resume at the end. Also always capitalize the letters, and use an underscore symbol to separate each word, just like this: “Jane_Doe_Resume.pdf”.
#23: Avoid Jargon/Cliches
Words such as team player, fast learner, results-driven, and detail-oriented really have no meaning on their own. They’re overused, unimaginative cliches that most recruiters cringe at upon reading.
Then again, these skills are also some of the most desired by employers worldwide, so what should you do?
Well, you have 2 options:
- Remove cliche skills from your CV.
- Back up your cliche skills in the rest of your CV sections. E.g. If you're a skilled team player, in your work experience section, mention a solid example that proves that you’re a good team player.
And we’re at the end of our guide!
We hope you enjoyed our tips & tricks, and that they helped you gain confidence with your CV writing skills.
For more similar, actionable guides and advice, check out our career blog!