Posted: 8th Feb 2021

How to Bring Your CV to Life


An employer will spend about four seconds scanning your CV before making a decision, making it crucial for yours to stand out from the crowd.

With this is mind, this edition of ‘Six Steps to Job Success’ will reveal:

How to Bring Your CV to Life.

Writing your CV can be a daunting task, especially if you have never attempted one before, which is the case for many Service leavers. Remember, an employer or recruiter will spend about four seconds scanning your CV, so you must make it easy for your reader.

Above all, your CV must be relevant and tailored to the sort of job you are applying for. It must make you ‘stand out from the crowd’ and deliver impact to ensure you’re selected for interview.


Style Is as Important as Substance

People often claim that they have ‘excellent communication skills’ yet their CV is very difficult to read. What has gone wrong? Your CV is a ‘living document’ and someone should want to read it, so think carefully about the style.

Keep your writing short and punchy, avoiding military acronyms, abbreviations and over-use of upper case. You are not writing a Service paper! It should be clearly laid out with plenty of white space.


Informal v Formal

The style should be relatively informal so when you write, use an ‘active’ rather than ‘passive’ voice. An example would be to say, ‘managed and led a team’ instead of ‘leadership and management of a team’.

Write as if you are speaking to your reader and ‘own’ what you achieved with ‘doing’ words rather than writing in the abstract. Your job may have required you to have ‘analytical and investigative skills’, so write ‘analysed and investigated data’.


Compelling Content

If possible, your CV should be no more than two pages long, and you only need detail the last eight to ten years. Give your CV some context i.e., do mention that you have served but keep it focused and relevant.

Avoid the use of ‘empty’ adjectives and superlatives which are subjective and cliched. Stick to the facts. If you say that you are ‘flexible and adaptable’ and so do all the other applicants, this will not help you stand out!


Punchy Personal Profile

Include a short profile stating ‘Who or what are you? What is your message?’. Bullet point your key skills to align them to the role you are applying for, then include your career history in a reverse chronological format.

State your job role and focus on the ‘So what?’ i.e., outcomes and value-added of what you did, rather than just listing your tasks and responsibilities. Look at where you have improved something, or reduced costs or time spent. Make it clear what you have achieved.

List relevant and in-date qualifications at the end of your CV and include a short piece about your interests and hobbies. The aim is to have a polished CV that has impact but is also a pleasure to read.



Look out for the final edition of our '6 Steps to Job Success' series next week, when we'll be telling you all you need to know about 'How to Impress at Interview'. In the meantime, don't forget to...

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