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A recruiters guide to CV writing

Joshua Dixon is the Founder and CEO of The YourCode Group, which specialises in recruitment and talent acquisition for businesses operating across the globe. In the latest instalment of his ‘Work Skills’ blog series, Joshua shares his top tips for writing the perfect CV to help you progress on your learning or career path.

So, it’s time to write your CV...

Perhaps you’re applying for a place on a further or higher education course, or trying to secure your first ever job. Whatever the reason, writing a CV can often be a difficult and frustrating task.

Having worked in the recruitment industry for the past five years, and after struggling initially to put my own CV together due to my academic struggles at school, I’ve decided to share some of my top tips to help make yours a success!

Tip 1: Get the basics right.

Your CV is the first thing that any recruiter or potential employer will see from you, so presentation is key. Although it might sound obvious, structuring your CV appropriately is something that any reader will value.

The layout should always be easy to read and concise with key information such as your name and contact details, any relevant qualifications and work experience, easy to find. On average, recruiters only spend 20 seconds reviewing a CV, so it’s crucial that you catch their attention!

Tip 2: The “Perfect” Layout

See below an example of how a basic CV should look:

Personal Details: Name, Address, Email (eg - NOT, Telephone (use the 3-break format so it’s easy to read)

Personal Summary: Give the reader a short summary on who you are and what you’re looking for - remember, be positive and imagine you are in the employers’ shoes!

Skills: What are your strongest skills? Think organisation, communication, reliability, writing / typing, punctuality, experience of using Microsoft Office etc.

Experience: (Professional before educational if applicable)

Job title: eg Kitchen Porter

Place of work: eg McDonalds, Leeds

Dates of employment: July 2018 to Present

Duties include:

  • XYZ
  • ABC
  • 123


Finding a suitable reference is important. An employer may call this person to get confidential thoughts on your experience, skills or even question your CV.

I’d always recommend using two references:

1 – A family member or close friend who can recommend you as a person (choose wisely!) - This is known as a Character Reference.

2 – A previous manager or school teacher who can recommend your skills in a professional setting.

To go one step further, it is an option to share your CV with this person to see if they would make any changes or even add any further positivity! They can then reference back to your CV if they do get called.

Include referees’ contact details (email and telephone) and what type of reference they can provide (character or professional).

Tip 3: Sepelling… WOOPS! Spelling.

Before you hit the button to save and submit your CV, always REMEMBER TO SPELL CHECK!

As somebody who looks through hundreds of CVs each and every day, my biggest bugbear is spelling mistakes on people’s CVs. If you struggle with spelling, you can use online tools such as Spellcheck or Grammarly which will help you to not only check your spelling, but suggest more appropriate words if required.

Tip 4: Tailor your CV to the position

One of my many mistakes when applying for new jobs in my youth was using the same CV for each application. In truth, I had three or four different CVs but I was too lazy to check which one I was sending and often just wanted to get the application completed quickly so I could go out with my friends.

Unfortunately, I learned the hard way. Below is a response from the owner of a business that I applied to work for when I was 15:

“Dear Josh,

Thank you for applying to our Business Administration Level 2 vacancy. Unfortunately, after reviewing your CV, it is clear you are looking for a job as a Chef, therefore you have been declined for this vacancy.

I’d recommend reading the job description next time

All the best,



If I had taken time to tailor my CV based on the job description and sent Neil the right CV, I would never have faced this problem.

Tailoring your CV might seem like a lengthy task, but it actually just requires you to change some key facts and often rearrange your sentences to highlight your skills in relation to the requirements. Don’t forget, recruiters will often only read for 20 seconds, so it is key to highlight these as high up as possible!

Tip 5: Selling your experience, or lack of.

“I didn’t receive good grades at school, how an earth can I write a CV?!”

“I haven’t had a job before, I’ll leave it blank!”

The above are just two statements I have heard while delivering CV writing training. These are quite common thoughts, especially for school leavers, but you don’t need to worry.

Employers understand that not everybody will succeed in education, and they also understand that not everybody will have career experience. This is the important part of your CV where you can demonstrate the skills that you do have, and where you think that these might be transferrable.

No matter whether you’ve had an official job, or secured the best grades, think about...

  • Have you ever cared for a family member or friend?
  • Did you ever do work experience whilst at school?
  • Have you ever sold items of clothing on Facebook or Depop?
  • Baby/pet sitting?
  • Charity work?
  • Scouts / Cubs?

What many people forget is all of the above are examples of when you have worked, or had to operate in a professional manner.

Some of the skills and duties which you might have picked up from the above include:

  • Patience
  • Organisation
  • Time management
  • Hard working
  • Marketing
  • Photography/creativity
  • Working alone

NCFE is committed to ‘Promoting and Advancing Learning’ which is why we offer a range of employability learning programmes to help learners of all ages to acquire the skills and mindset they need to progress in their careers. Discover our skill-building qualifications at:


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