Whether you’re wondering how to write a CV for the first time or updating your current CV as part of a job search, our handy guide will help get your resume noticed for all the right reasons.
A curriculum vitae (CV) is an important part of any job hunt. We’ve highlighted a few simple guidelines on what to include, how to find the best CV format as well as insider tips from our Digital Recruitment teams here at Salt.
What does a great CV look like in 2024?
A standout CV piques the interest of potential employers and accurately captures who you are and what you can do at a glance.
To write a great CV that gets you noticed by recruiters and hiring managers in 2024, follow our basic rules of design and layout to highlight the most essential information.
- Tailor your CV to the job role that you are applying for
- Incorporate keywords from the job description in your CV
- Actively edit to the most relevant info for the job you’re applying for – to save space for important details
- Only cover the last 10 years of employment – or what is relevant to the role you’re applying for.
- Choose a professional layout with clean spacing, concise wording, and a consistent font style and font size – it’s fine to have your headers in a different style but keep that style the same throughout!
- List your skills in simple bullet points that are easy to skim read
- Summarise your qualifications and any personal details concisely and clearly so recruiters can review your info at a glance
Not sure what to include? We have detailed information about every aspect of what your CV should cover below.
One of the most important things to remember is to include up-to-date contact details and keep this section of your CV brief. Include:
- Current personal email address, not your work one!
- Mobile phone number. If this isn’t your preferred contact method include a note to flag this!
- Brief information on hobbies and interests that highlight your personality.
Remember, the aim is to create a one-page CV that stands out to recruiters. Removing any unnecessary details will help to ensure you have enough space to include valuable information.
Try to avoid including any added personal info here such as marital status or religion – that should hold no relevance to your job application.
We suggest including a link to your LinkedIn profile on your CV. Remember to keep your profile up to date and for it to accurately reflect the info that is on your CV. You may also want to include links to your social media handles, website links or an online portfolio which may be key when applying for creative roles.
Want to get your LinkedIn profile noticed? Read our guide featuring 9 top tips to get your LinkedIn profile noticed
While there is no clear-cut rule about displaying a photo on your CV, we suggest only including one if it is relevant to the job you are applying for.
Photos reveal characteristics about us – like age, gender, nationality, and physical appearance. Unconscious bias does exist and one way that businesses and recruitment agencies can safeguard against it is to keep CVs and applications as anonymous as possible, so they are deciding based on the skillset and not the identity of the person.
While this is their responsibility to train against and self-correct including a photo, even if you don’t consider yourself from a minority group, could trigger bias in the person seeing your CV, and could influence a decision to be made in the early stages of screening.
“No Photo – it’s not necessary and is irrelevant to the application and let’s face it – it is out of date as soon as you add it.” – Jacqui Barratt, CEO of Salt APAC
Worried bias is affecting your hiring? Here are 5 top tips to help you hire more inclusively.
Writing a CV profile for the first time or not sure where to start? We suggest keeping the profile section of your CV concise and to the point. Try to write no more than 4-6 sentences in length, so around 200 words.
Follow these steps to help you tailor your CV;
1. Describe who you are by summarising your work experience and what role you’re looking for.
2. Sell your skills by highlighting any relevant experience you’ve had and include evidence to back it up. Try to avoid using buzzwords or including your hobbies and interests, to keep this section simple and concise.
3. Highlight your aspirations and include a small mention of what you’re hoping to get from the role you’re applying for, showing what motivates you and where your ambitions lie.
It’s important to try to highlight your key skills to stand out from the crowd. We suggest avoiding any generic skills such as “written and verbal communication skills” or “proficient at Word” as these never add any real value to your CV.
Most of all, keep the skills relevant to the job you’re applying for.
For example, if you are applying for a new role in design, it would be helpful to mention any design software skills you have such as having experience using Adobe Photoshop or InDesign.
Try to only include relevant skills or unique skills that are key to your application. We suggest creating this section with the job role in mind and using key details from the job role description. This will give you a better idea of what experience and skills the recruiter is looking for allowing you to tailor your CV to reflect.
When thinking about how to write a good CV remember to keep your resume concise and relevant. Try to narrow it down: only include your last 5 or 6 positions in the employment history section of your CV. Format them by listing them in reverse chronological order.
We recommend including a few points of achievement under each job description. For example:
“Developed a social media strategy and increased followers by 20,000” VS. “Managed company X’s social media.”
“My top tip is to focus on actual measurable achievements you have produced in your CV rather than a list of job responsibilities. i.e., What have you changed for your company?”
Richard Smith, Country Director, Salt MENA
Typically, one page is what you should aim for. A one-page CV can help the candidate to stand out – as regardless of how experienced or skilled you are, being concise and specific makes a hiring manager’s job when reading a pile of CVs a lot easier, and this is a desirable skill in itself.
We recommend having a look at Canva as they offer free CV templates that can help to determine the format and structure of your CV.
Include the following details on your CV:
- Full name
- Mobile number
- Email address
- Relevant work experience – focusing on skills and results
- A bullet list of the skills, languages, and tools you’re able to use
- A link to your personal website if relevant
- A link to your LinkedIn profile
- A link to your social media handles or online portfolio
- Hobbies and interests – if you have space!
A few years ago, it used to be standard protocol to always include references in your CV but in recent years the thinking on this has changed.
We don’t suggest including references on your CV this early in the recruitment process. The main reason is that as an employer you will only spend around 30 seconds on average reading your CV, so this is an opportunity to highlight your skills and experience in your voice, in a concise and top-line way.
Every applicant will eventually need to supply references during the hiring process, so supplying them earlier isn’t necessarily an advantage. We recommend instead using the limited space you have to supply evidence of skills and achievements to make your application stand out from the rest.
Thinking about including some examples of your work or creating a website instead? The choice will come down to the job role you are applying for and the application process.
In some cases, the company will require applicants to complete answers to set questions through a company job system while others require a Word or PDF version of your CV to be uploaded. There may not be a possibility to upload links, so we recommend checking in advance and being prepared for the application.
If you’re a graphic designer or a copywriter you’re bound to have a few pieces of your work that you would like to include. You could do that by attaching them at the end of your CV as additional documents or using a link that will take the recruiter directly to your online portfolio.
If it’s your first time applying for a job, and you don’t have any work experience – it can be tricky to fill your resume out. While it’s not helpful to say get some work experience, it is a great idea to reach out to companies about a week or 2-week work experience placement, which also provides lots of new contacts to network with. It might surprise you how receptive and understanding people can be – we all remember the hunt for that first job!
There are lots of ways to display your skills outside of internships and work experience.
- Look at the skills they’re asking for in the job spec – you have likely showcased these at school, higher education, or in extra-curricular activities. Try to prove how you’ve still shown the skill they’re looking for when you talk about past experiences, hobbies or interests.
- Volunteer – There are always causes that need volunteers and this is a fantastic way to build up your skills and experience, as well as highlight causes that are important to you in your CV. This also allows you to build evidence of great teamwork, self-motivation and problem-solving!
- Start your own project – You can try building up a portfolio to display your skills by redesigning a website or app or ad on Canva or whatever platform you’re comfortable designing on! You could try starting your own business, selling old clothes or baked goods, and highlighting what you learned.
How to approach a career gap on your CV in 2024:
Do you currently have a career gap on your CV and you’re not sure what to do about it? Fear not as this happens more often than you think and having gaps on your CV is completely understandable.
There are many reasons your CV might have gaps from becoming a stay-at-home parent or caregiver to being laid off due to organizational changes to being away on medical leave.
Here’s how we’d recommend framing your employment gap in an interview situation:
- Try to be as honest and as upfront about your career gap as possible. We suggest briefly acknowledging the gap early on and then drawing the focus back to your employable skills and ability. If the recruiter has any questions or concerns, feel free to address them so that you can be initiative-taking in controlling the narrative during your interview.
- When deciding on how to write a CV, we recommend concentrating your efforts on your key skills and work experience keeping the new role you are applying for in mind. This shows to the recruiter that you are capable of the position and feel confident you would be a great match for it.
Worried about a career gap on your resume? Here’s how to tell your story during the application and interview process.
Proofreading is the final stage of the CV-writing process. It’s essentially the last chance you’ll have to spot any mistakes before a potential employer reads it.
Most recruiters find spelling and grammar mistakes completely avoidable, and this could negatively affect their hiring decision as a result. It makes the CV look rushed, unprofessional and points to a lack of attention to detail.
Here are a few handy tips on how to proofread your CV so you can submit an error-free application:
- If you’re writing in 1st person or 3rd person, it’s important to make sure this remains consistent throughout your CV.
- If you’re writing about your current role, keep it in the present tense.
- When talking about earlier roles, write consistently in the past tense.
- Consider using Grammarly, it’s free to use and offers a great way to help scan your CV for any spelling errors
Do I need to send a cover letter as well as a CV?
Cover letters are an opportunity to really tailor your application to the organization you’re applying to. Where a CV is all about showcasing your skills and experience succinctly, a cover letter allows you to tell your story in your own words and share how you would add value to the specific role you’re applying for.
But do you really need to write a cover letter? Opinions vary! We’ve seen this hotly debated in recent years, so we polled our audience of candidates and hiring managers separately to find out how important a cover letter really is in a job applications. Our results might surprise you!
Thinking about applying for a new job? Salt can help
Why not use our handy guide to spruce up your CV and upload it to Salt – so our recruitment specialists can match you with the perfect Digital role! We have a variety of permanent and contract positions from all around the world across Consulting, Creative, HR, Marketing, Sales, and Technology sectors.