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After working in recruitment and screening hundreds of CVs, cover letters and portfolios at work, I have picked up a few best practices for CVs that I thought I’d share with you all. Make sure to share too!

The Dos and Don’ts of CVs and Cover Letters!

DO use headings and sub-headings to make your CV clear. Remember, recruiters often glance over your CV quickly, especially with roles they have received a lot of applications for. DON’T make it unclear what, when and where your previous experience was. Dates and locations need to be easily identifiable.

DO briefly outline who you are in your cover letter/CV’s opening paragraph. DON’T write paragraphs and paragraphs about how great you are! Your experience and education should speak for you.

DO outline your education/qualifications, particularly if they are relevant to the role you are going for. DON’T break down every single GCSE and A-Level you got, especially if they aren’t relevant to the job or were achieved a long time ago. If you got a D, E, F or U in any subject, DON’T include it. I would say when talking about any educational qualification before an undergraduate degree, summarise: ‘9A*-C GCSEs including Maths and English, ABB In A-Level subjects Maths, Chemistry and Physics’

DO have your CV ready to attach to jobs you are applying for. DON’T attach a cover letter when applying for a role by email. You can just copy and paste it into the body of the email.

DO concisely talk about your relevant past roles and work experiences, always starting with the most recent or split your experience into ‘relevant experience’ and ‘other experience’. DON’T outline every job you have ever had, especially if it isn’t relevant for the job you are going for, at all impressive or was a million years ago!

DO get someone to look over and check your CV for mistakes. DON’T leave your tutor’s comments/notes on your CV. That is a straight delete.

DO have a nice, smiley, appropriate image on your LinkedIn profile, which you can have a (hyper)link to on your CV (post on LinkedIn dos and don’ts coming soon!). DON’T add your photo to your CV if you are applying for a job in the UK. It’s cringe.

DO use the space on the page well in your CV. This way you can have all the key information you would like the recruiter to know without over/under doing it. DON’T have more than 2 pages for a CV, unless it is a specific technical CV. If you can make it one page without loosing good details do so, but if not, two nice full pages is the way to go.

DO put dates (at least the month and year) to your education and experience. Recruiters want to know how long you were in role for and when. This is especially crucial in early careers where you may or may not qualify for certain roles, internships and placements depending on when you started university or when you graduated. DON’T put your age or date of birth on your CV. Ageism is REAL in the workplace.

DO read the job description, and read it well! DON’T apply for the job when you know you are not suitable for the role. DON’T annoy the recruiter. Three is good number of similar roles within one organisation to apply for. Any more than that – BYE!

DO try and explain any technical/specialist terms on your CV and cover letter as simply as possible. DON’T deliberately try and use fancy terms that confuse the recruiter.

DO save your CV’s file name as your first and last name. DON’T save the document as ‘My CV’, ‘Doc 2’ or ‘fhhjbasbdsbj’. Not helpful.

DO save your CV in pdf form as well as as a word document, especially if it is a creative/art and design CV. This keeps the formatting the way you intended it whereas the format of word docs depends on which year of Microsoft the recruiter has. DO have a visually attractive CV, especially if you are applying for a creative role. DON’T save your CV on any other program other than Word (or as a pdf) such as Adobe InDesign or Sketch as the recruiter may not have these programs and will not be able to open your CV. And you won’t get the job!

Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any points to add and make sure to share with your job-hunting friends!


Paula Melissa xx

Paula Melissa is a digital content creator, portrait photographer and freelance journalist. Since starting a blog in 2012 and graduating from the University of Sheffield with a Journalism Studies with Employment Experience degree in 2019, Paula has gone on to create and grow her own dynamic digital media empire. She loves reading, eating and spending time with her dog, Rolfie.
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