How to make your CV stand out from the crowd

How to make your CV stand out from the crowd

In order to land the job you want, you will need a polished CV that sets you apart from the others and grabs the attention of recruiters and employers. Ian McCartney – Careers, Course and Progression Adviser at Perth College UHI – shares his advice on how to write a useful and professional CV.

Firstly, what is a CV?

Curriculum Vitae means 'course/story of my life’ and is designed to get you an interview, not a job. It is a ‘self-marketing’ document that is subjective and personal to you. It is also an up-to-date portfolio of your skills and experience relevant to a particular post.

What are employers looking for in a good CV?

  • Education – The ability to think clearly, evaluate and assess information, draw conclusions, work independently and carry out research.

  • Work experience – The ability to get on with people, work under pressure and meet deadlines.

  • Leisure interests – The ability to plan and coordinate, co-operate with others, compete, lead and work hard to achieve results.

  • Specific skills - e.g. driving license, computer skills, foreign languages, artistic skills.

  • Skills enhanced from your experiences
    For example: working in a restaurant
    Task: dealing with the public
    Skills gained: customer care, communication and the ability to work flexibly

  • A good personal profile
    A concise and precise 7-8 line summary that:
    Highlights the skills you have that are relevant to the role/sector
    Picks out your key achievements and/or experience that relate to the role/sector (ensure evidence is provided in the rest of your CV)
    Indicates your motivation for the role
    Do not have any sentences starting with ‘I’

    What advice would employers give you?

  • As a general rule, keep your CV to two A4-sized pages as recruiters won't have time to read more. If a job doesn’t require lots of qualifications, or experience, a one-page CV may be fine.

  • Whilst the choice of format is yours, the main thing is to show how you meet the job or course requirements. Focus on relevant information and use the space well. Aim to get the most relevant information early in the CV as the recruiter will not search for it.

  • Consider using bullet points, rather than paragraphs, when describing your experiences and skills. Instead of using "I" every time, start each bullet point with a verb, e.g. "Organised...", "Liaised with...."

  • Sell yourself - provide examples of the skills and qualities required, whether that is through your studies, work experience or interests. Don't just list everything you’ve done - instead, provide a bit of detail.

  • Use common fonts and black text on a white background to make it easy to read. Use font size 10-12 (depending on font style) – e.g. Arial, Calibri

  • Proof read your spelling, grammar and punctuation – then get someone else to check it, and then someone else again. If you are telling potential employers you ‘pay attention to detail’, then if you have a glaring error on your CV, you are not doing yourself any favours. Any mistakes will put your CV into the rejection pile.

  • Use simple language – avoid jargon and acronyms which may not be understood.

  • Ensure you include dates and locations (town/city) for education and work. If there are 'time gaps', explain them in your cover letter.

  • Write in the past tense if it is something you have completed, rather than something current.

  • Emphasise your actions and achievements

  • Don’t think that no experience in the sector you are applying for is a disadvantage – you WILL have useful transferable skills.

    At Perth College UHI, we offer professional and impartial careers guidance to all our students. As a student here, you are entitled to advice and careers education to help you to prepare for your next step - and this includes compilation of a good CV! You can book an appointment to meet Ian McCartney - Careers, Course and Progression Adviser - by:

  • Sending him an e-mail at or

  • Calling him on 01738 877373

  • Making an appointment through reception or in the library

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