Stand out from the crowd with a killer CV

Article By
James Cumming
James Cumming
Posted On19th January 2019
Posted On19th January 2019

There are lots of differing opinions out there on how to write a CV but given that I have been reading CV’s for the past 17 years I thought I’d share my Headhunters insight into what gets people noticed (positively and negatively!), so you can ensure you stand out from the crowd with a killer CV.


A CV is not a job description. Don’t just copy and paste it in there, people can tell!

Do not write recruitment clichés. No one likes cliches so leave them out of your personal statement i.e. team player/can multitask.

Be conscious of the length of your CV. 2 pages is a myth but any longer than 4 pages is a bit much… if you’ve only been working for a few years it doesn’t need to be very long (remember less is often more) and if you’re an interim with multiple contracts or have a long career history – limit yourself to the past 5 years (and summarise the rest in one-liners).

Don’t add silly template formatting or photographs. It doesn’t get you noticed and can put people off! (All recruitment firms format your CV into a standard format and if you are an independent who does this yourself – like me – it’s annoying to sort out the mess!).

Writing a killer CV is all about selling your experience better than everyone else who sits in that pile on the recruiter’s desk! How do you expect to differentiate between yourself and 20 other applicants who have all likely done a similar role to you?

The past 5 years of experience are typically the most relevant, this is the experience that employers will want to discuss and should form the bulk of the CV:

Focus on outcomes rather than inputs. Every project manager manages key stakeholders, but a great project manager influences them to ensure delivery of the project on time and within budget.

Great people make a difference in their role. Yes, businesses hire people to do a job, but what gives you the edge? What have you done in past roles, that has added value? Use business metrics to quantify the impact and to demonstrate your commercial understanding.

Tailor your CV for the role. Make sure you have read the job description for the role you’re applying for and highlight relevant areas of your experience that match this (yes this is basic stuff, but it often gets missed). You can do this in a cover letter (I don’t think many people read them these days) so my advice is to ensure you put it in the CV (it is okay to have more than one CV that focuses on different aspects of your experience).

Get someone senior to critique your CV. Before you send it anywhere, get someone more senior than you to read your CV, would they hire you based upon it? Make sure you allow them to be critical. If not, why not? What’s missing?

Finally, get yourself out there! There is no point writing a killer CV if no one’s going to see it…


To discuss further or get help with your CV you can email me on

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.

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