5 useful tips to help you START writing your CV

I have seen a marked increase in requests from my clients and candidates recently to either look over their existing CV, or help them pull one together, and it got me thinking that I haven’t written any blogs on the subject yet.  So, I want to put that right, and to make up for this oversight, I am going to publish a series of 5 blogs to be published one per day throughout this week.  Does that make it up to you?  I thought so- you’re an understanding bunch.

So where to start?


One of the most difficult parts of writing a CV is actually getting started.  You sit in front of your PC/Laptop/Tablet and stare at a blank page thinking of everything and nothing at the same time.  All the advice out there seems to miss out this key stage!

What do you actually do?

How do you summarise your entire career on a piece of paper?

How can you explain how busy and productive you are everyday in a bullet point?

What information should you include?

What should you miss off?

I’ll come on to some of the above points throughout the series including the actual content, but here are my 5 “Useful Tips” to help you get your CV on to paper/screen.  If you like acronyms, then this one easy to remember (and pronounce), I’m sure you’ll agree- RBFSR!

  1. Research– You need to get in the right mindset. Often, you’ll mainly remember what you have been doing over the last 3-6 months or possibly year, but what about the rest of it?  It could all be relevant, so do your research on yourself. Look over old appraisals, JDs, presentations you have done to remind you of what you have done, how you are perceived, what your strengths (and weaknesses) are, what you have achieved etc.
  2. Braindump– Get everything down, don’t worry about anything else yet, just get it down. I would suggest breaking it up into sections- Personal Details, Key Skills, Achievements, Job tasks, Other, but feel free to choose your own.  This will then give you your “working document” to mine when you pull the CV together.
  3. Format– this is a really important thing to get right, and therefore merits serious consideration. Templates are useful, and I’m not telling you not to use them, but as a recruiter who sees tens of CVs every day, I can spot them a mile off now.  Why is that a bad thing?  In a world where there are more people vying for the same job, you need to stand out, and if your CV looks similar to another 5 CVs in the pile, are you likely to stand out?  If you are creating your own format, make sure you consider how easy it is to read.  Make sure there is enough white space to balance out the words- make it easy to find the relevant information, rather than cramming loads of information in.  Also, make sure you are consistent in the format- whatever you choose to do, make sure it is the same throughout.
  4. “Sell” the idea of you– The information you “braindumped” in part 2 of the RBFSR process (I should get it trademarked- it’s catchy isn’t it?) now comes in to play. You need to think about how to position that work in a way to “sell” you as a viable future employee when inputting it in to your chosen format (N.B. you may change the emphasis for various roles).  We’ll touch more on this later in the series.
  5. Review– Please, please, please read over what you have put together. Check for typo’s, check for mistakes, check for inconsistencies in the format.  Look at it as though you were recruiting for your own dream role, and consider whether you would interview you.  Also, get independent opinions on it (from friends, family, recruiters etc) and take a balanced view on the feedback.

So you should hopefully have the semblance of a functional CV, or at least the raw materials for one, but don’t rush off too quickly!  I have another 4 blogs to follow which will cover what to avoid putting on your CV, how to make your CV stand out, how to tailor your CV for roles, and getting your CV to the right people.  When you are fully armed with the above advice, I can release you to put it in to practice!

Barry Forsythe is Manager of Greenacre Midlands Division,  overseeing the Executive/Senior Level candidacy and vacancies across the East & West Midlands region. Barry has worked in recruitment for over 16 years and works alongside organisations to deliver advice, insights and experience to housing and associated industry professionals throughout the UK.

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