A Curriculum Vitae Doesn't Get You a Job

What Makes a Good Curriculum Vitae?

How to Write a Good Curriculum Vitae

How to Research the Curriculum Vitae

Two Big Components of a Curriculum Vitae

Learn to Think Like the Employer

So What are the Employers Needs?

Different Types of Curriculum Vitae

Different Versions of a Digital Curriculum Vitae


A Curriculum Vitae Doesn't Get You a Job

A curriculum vitae (also referred to as a CV) is the main document that will outline what you offer an employer.  It’s a summary of your professional life, whilst also being a marketing document.  Its function is to promote something – YOU!


It's the interview that then leads to a job.

Imagine if you wanted to sell your car.  You might draft an advert where you would try to emphasise the car’s good points.  Include a good photo, make the car as presentable as possible.  You wouldn’t highlight any bad points – obviously it would deter potential buyers.

Remember, the car advert wouldn't make a guaranteed sale, buyers would still want to see and try the car before they buy.


A curriculum vitae works on a similar basis – highlight your good points and achievements but doesn't get you a guaranteed job, only gets you an interview.  There's still a long way to go to land the job.

A job application is the bridge between where you are now and getting a job interview.  Most job applications are made by sending a curriculum vitae with a cover letter.  The CV would form the main core of the job application.

Other times a curriculum vitae maybe used:

When making a speculative application to an employer.  This means an employer is proactively contacted regarding a possible job.  Curriculum vitae’s with speculative letters are posted, emailed or handed in direct to employers even if they are not currently recruiting.

A curriculum vitae maybe posted on jobsites for employers/recruiters to browse.

The other major use of a curriculum vitae is as a memory jogger:

1.    When completing application forms. This will help you to remember all the dates and information each time you have to complete a new form. 

2.    When speaking to an employer over the phone (during a speculative phone call or a telephone interview) it’s useful to have in front of you as a prompt or answer details about past jobs and bring more structure to the call.

3.    Its good practice to take to an interview and go over it whilst waiting to be interviewed. If necessary you can leave a copy with the interviewer if they do not already have one.


A curriculum vitae usually includes:

·         Personal details – name, address and contact details

·         Profile – brief summary of how you will be of use to that employer

·         Education/qualifications – including grades unless they were poor

·         Work experience – paid or unpaid jobs

·         Hobbies/interests – these help an employer build a picture about your personality

·         References – usually to say “References available on request”


Click here for more information on what to include in a CV

For more information about CV layouts and styles click here to see some templates

What Makes a Good Curriculum Vitae?

If someone’s curriculum vitae is a fluorescent piece of paper with random symbols on, and after sending it they are getting the job interviews, that would be viewed as a good CV.

Why? because it’s getting interviews!


If you asked 10 people about your curriculum vitae you would get 10 different recommendations.  There is no single magic ingredient as to what makes a good curriculum vitae – it’s a combination of factors.  

By using attention to detail, common sense, research and thinking about the employer, you can have a CV that gets you interviews most of the time.

There is no middle ground – a job application either gets interviews or it doesn’t.  If it doesn’t, then it needs changing.

Like any good advert, your curriculum vitae needs to appeal to its audience.  Think about adverts that you like.  Those adverts are probably highly tuned to your needs at that time, or were unique/creative compared to other adverts.  

Anything out the ordinary, or “good different” is memorable.  If employers see a job application that is “good different”, they will remember it for the right reasons.


As mentioned in the job market page, competition is intense.  You have less than 20 seconds to make a good impression with your application.  Within that time an employer should know exactly what benefit you bring to his/her firm. 


Recruiters also use software to scan applications.  Known as applicant tracking systems these are mainly used by larger companies.  Smaller companies usually use the human approach.  These software systems look for “keywords”, more prominent words that relate to the job advertised.  Applications deemed not suitable are filtered out.

An application personalised to the employer is key.  Then, whether its a software or human filtering applications, your application should stand up to scrutiny.

Just like no two people are the same, no two employers are the same.  Therefore;


Read the last sentence again and memorise it.

How to Write a Good Curriculum Vitae

It starts by making the commitment to getting a job interview and doing what’s necessary to make that happen.  A good curriculum vitae is built on a strong foundation.  The key to a strong foundation…………


Research done at this stage is priceless and pays dividends later.  Before applying for a job, a good exercise to complete is thinking of answers to the following questions:

·   What would the ideal candidate be like?

·   What qualities and characteristics would they need to do the job well?

·   What value could you bring to that particular employer?

·   How you will help the employer expand and make profits?

·   What sort of problems can you solve for the employer?

·   What is the employer’s goal or mission statement – how will you help meet that aim?

·   How will your application appeal more than others?

·   How will you will help drive the department/business forward?

You will need the information when you get down to drafting an application.  Any questions you can’t answer can form part of the research for the application.

How to Research for the Curriculum Vitae? 

Visit the company website and get a feel for the company and the type of person normally hired. Read the “about us” or company values/aims page.  

What is the company history?  

Where is the company aiming to be?

How will your job role fit in with the company’s overall aim?

Every job, even entry level/basic jobs serve a very important function, i.e. if premises don’t get cleaned properly, it’s noticeable. 

If you’re looking to work for an employer long term, it is important to see whether you agree with their mission statement.  If your values align with the employer’s, then your time with them is more likely to be productive and happy for both parties.

Social media, especially sites such as Linkedin are a goldmine for research purposes. LinkedIn has over 400 million users worldwide and is aimed at businesses and professionals.  Its main purpose is presenting an online profile of a person or a company.

Once you have your own profile setup you can search for company profiles, then “follow” those companies.  You can also “connect” to people already connected to that company.  

This helps build a picture about the company and the sort of people hired.  Following companies also lets you receive notifications of job opportunities and bookmark jobs you’re interested in.


Other popular recruitment social media sites are Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest. 

If it’s not mentioned in the advert, or if you’re making a speculative approach then social media can be used to find out the name of the person hiring, or HR manager.  A personalised application is always better received than a generic unnamed one.

Think about mail you receive at home.  If it’s addressed “Dear Homeowner” it probably ends up in the bin.  If it’s personally addressed to you, it’s likely to get opened.  Smart direct marketing companies know this and go to great lengths to find out your name before they write to you.

Most companies have a presence on a few different social media outlets.  Combining them all gives a huge amount of available information.  Websites such as glassdoor also have reviews about companies, from past and present employees and are well worth a look.

Sometimes it can be difficult to know who the eventual employer is, a job maybe advertised through a recruitment agency.  The agency will be reluctant to divulge who the employer is to prevent applicants going direct to them.  

In that situation, use websites/social media to research the recruitment agency as to the sort of person hired by them.  

Technically, the recruitment agency is the employer anyway.

Don’t set yourself to fail – don’t apply for jobs you will definitely not get.  For example a job advert might state a particular qualification is essential, if you don’t have that, you’re not likely to get the job.

Be realistic with your job applications.  As long as you meet all the essential criteria – fire away.

You don’t want to promote yourself as something you’re not – an employer will see through you straight away at an interview.  You need to highlight what you can do.

It can be tempting to lie on a job application but think of how many lies you will need to tell to conceal that one lie.


Two Big Components of a Curriculum Vitae

In writing a good curriculum vitae, there is 2 main aspects that need particular attention. These 2 aspects apply to all the documents you send to an employer:

·         The content - the data you use to express and promote yourself

·         The presentation of that data

Both aspects need to be as best possible to impress the employer and establish trust.  Great content will never make an impact if it’s presented poorly.  A great presentation will always be let down by poor content.

The Japanese principal of “Kaizan” can help.  This means “continuous improvement” and when applied in business it relates to improving the business as a whole by making small changes to individual processes/activities and monitoring results.

If the results are desirable a step is taken in the right direction and you keep making improvements/monitoring until you’ve improved the whole business.  Small incremental changes can add up over time and have a major impact.


improve your job applications over time

Set out with the goal of getting an interview, after reading this page, read the CV content and presentation pages. Use the information to review, make changes to your job applications and monitor the results.

As you start to receive positive feedback then you’re making improvements and know you’re moving forward.  No feedback whilst discouraging, means you need to keep making improvements.  Friends and family may say you have a great CV ultimately its feedback from employers that counts.

If employers are ignoring you, that is your feedback!

Learn to Think Like the Employer

Treat the employer as your prospect (potential customer), because the aim is they will pay you for your time.  To be able to promote or sell to a prospect, it’s important to “become” the prospect. This means:

·         building a picture of them

·         finding out their demographics

·         habits

·         concerns

This makes it easier to relate to the prospect.  Once you relate to them, you can think like them. It helps to understand their concerns and frustrations.  That in turn builds trust.  

People do business with those they trust.

So to move ahead put yourself in an employer’s shoes.

Picture the employer’s circumstances; it’s safe to say their time is very valuable.  They can have many job applications to go through.  Often sifting applications is an additional duty nominated to a manager, done outside normal work hours.  They would rather be spending time with family and friends.

A very busy person will want to make a quick decision on an application, whether it’s a yes, a no or a maybe.  There is also a pressure to get it right, choosing the wrong person can damage the credibility of the hirer.  They will also want to feel vindicated that they chose the right person for the job.  Such a person can only come from those chosen for an interview.

So as they’re going through all the average job applications riddled with errors and mass produced, imagine the refreshing change to see a quality job application.  Well presented, free of mistakes and tuned in to what the employer wants.  Such an application stands out from the pack.


Many job applicants don’t understand, they draft a quick curriculum vitae and cover letter hoping they’ll explain things further in a job interview.  Chances are with an ordinary CV they won’t even get an interview.

Most jobseekers don’t really think about the employer.  The same application goes to all employers regardless of what the job is. It becomes obvious the job advert wasn’t even read properly.  You’re then fighting an uphill battle to get credibility.

Therefore an employer’s needs HAVE to come BEFORE an applicants.  Those that understand this, will get the job interviews.


When some people apply for work they emphasise their desperation for money.  However your application cannot be about your need for money as this is not the employers’ problem.

The employer might be sympathetic towards you, but ultimately has to make a decision that’s best for business.  This is crucial for employers.  

The more senior the position advertised, the more important to put a lot of thought into who is interviewed and hired.

Imagine seeing an advert that asked you to purchase goods or services just because the business was struggling.  Unless it was a charity, you probably won’t be persuaded to buy just for the businesses sake.


So What are the Employer's Needs?

The employer has already given a big clue by posting a job advert.  These will outline some of the skills and qualities they are after.  It’s important to read between the lines of job adverts to be able to plan a job application properly.

Look for the hidden skills and requirements the employer is after.  To explain hidden skills, read part of a job advert below:

“required with several years’ secretarial experience in a small,

busy, production company.  Word processing skills essential.

Duties will include typing, compiling records, budgets and

updating records.  The successful applicant should have a good

telephone manner, be adaptable, calm, intelligent

and have plenty of initiative.”

There are clues in the advert of the qualities the ideal person needs to show.  It’s a small, busy company.  A small company has no room to hide for work shy people.  No company can afford to have workers being difficult with each other.

This is even more important in a small company.  Staff would have to be flexible with work duties and willing to put all hands to the deck when needed.  Considering all this, some of the qualities desired could be:

  1. Ability to work with a small team of people.
  2. Ability to work under pressure.
  3. Ability to handle several tasks at one time.
  4. Ability to make quick decisions.
  5. Be self-motivated to know what to do
  6. Good communication skills.

This is not an exhaustive list.  Some of the points can be proven with the right experience.  Anyone can say “I am an excellent communicator” but the proof is in the pudding.  

Only by contacting that person can their communication skills be judged.  Obviously the applicant’s written communication can be assessed from the application itself. 


However, someone who may have worked for a number of years in a customer service job will no doubt have shown some decent level of communication skills to hold the job.

Most of the 6 qualities above are common sense but not many job applicants take the time to sit down and think about them.  By doing that, you’re already ahead of 99% of your competitors.

Different Types of Curriculum Vitae

The vast majority of curriculum vitaes will be either:

·         Chronological (including a performance CV)

·         Skills based (this includes a functional CV) or

·         Academic  

We’ll go through each one below.

Chronological.  This is the most common type of CV.  With this CV every job is listed in reverse chronological order. This means the most recent job is listed first, followed by the next recent until all jobs held are listed.  The first ever job ends up being listed last.  The same principle applies to the educational history. 


Most people have a chronological CV even if they don’t realise it.  When you’ve had lots of different jobs in a short period this type of CV can become unsuitable because it could end up longer than 2 pages.  Age, career gaps and experience not relevant to the job applied for, can also become apparent.


By adding an achievement section this type of CV becomes a performance CV. The achievements section focuses on accomplishments such as when a project was undertaken and completed, awards won etc. Achievements can also be used from non-work related activities. 

Click here for an example of a chronological CV


Skills based – after your contact details and profile, this CV will list different skills (as subheadings). For example with a CV aimed at retail work a skill could be customer service, sales or teamwork. 


Under each of these skills is information about how you demonstrate it, with specific examples.

If space permits you can include an achievements section.  Therefore the first page is usually dominated by your skills (what you can do) and achievements (what you have done).


After the skills section there tends to be information about previous work experience and educational history.  The work history would have the employer name, job title and dates – work duties aren’t essential for this CV. 


This is a versatile curriculum vitae that can be used in different scenarios: 

·         When you have knowledge/skills relevant to a job but not the appropriate experience

·         This is useful for people newly out of education

·         People looking for a career change

·         If you don’t want to list every job you’ve done including the duties.  For example if you’ve done lots of jobs in a short time a chronological CV could go over 2 pages. 

Click here for an example of a skills based CV


A variation of a skills based CV is the functional CV.  Nowadays recruiters see them as the same thing.  In the past the only difference between the 2 types of CVs was under work history.  With a functional CV the employers were grouped and mentioned together without reference to dates.  

For example under “Work History” or “Experience” a functional CV might say; 

“Employed in a variety of general labouring positions, both PAYE and self-employed.  Employers include J Block & Son Ltd, ABC Contractors and Duckworth & Co. 

Duties include:

·                     Assisting skilled trades people on site in gangs i.e. bricklayers and plasterers

·                     Clearing and preparing the site and keeping it tidy

·                     Digging and laying the footings

·                     Operated mini lift truck – current ticket held

·                     Drove company van”


Because it’s so rare some employers may not be familiar with this type of CV. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing as your CV could stand out for being different to the norm. 


As dates aren’t mentioned this sort of CV can be used when there is a gap in your work history.  On the flip side some employers might be more wary thinking you have something to hide.

Academic – This type of CV is focused on your academic, lecturing, teaching and researching abilities.   This CV is targeted at scientific, research or academic related positions.  It can also be used for grant applications. 


Due to the detailed nature of these CV’s they are usually longer than 2 pages.  Some have been known to be up to 5 pages (remember to number pages to avoid mix-ups).

Click here for an example of an academic CV

The 3 types of CVs above apply to both a hard copy and to an electronic copy. Most CVs are sent electronically and the use of technology in recent years has created more options for applicants. 


Different Versions of a Digital Curriculum Vitae

Below are details about different versions of a digital CV.   Over the next few years these CVs are likely to increase in popularity.

Email CV

The electronic CV is still the most common way for jobseekers to present themselves and it's this format you will need to produce.


Very few successful job hunters have just one CV.  The advantage of electronic CVs means it is quick and easy to create one or more copies and adapt them for different audiences (employer type).  The distribution of a curriculum vitae is also much easier as the click of a button can send it anywhere in the world, for no cost. 

An electronic CV can also have interactive elements such as hyperlinks links to

·         sites

·         blogs

·         social media profiles

·         videos (see Video CV below)


Click on the link below to see more details about the technical aspects of emailing a CV:

Video CV

If a picture says a thousand words, how many does a video say? video CVs on popular video streaming sites such as YouTube, have enabled people to present themselves in person, at any time, to anyone. 


The advantage of these is that someone with lots of personality and/or good communication skills can show this to an employer whereas they might struggle to have the same impact on paper. 


Overtime video CVs are likely to grow in importance and popularity, especially in creative industries.


Generally a CV is emailed to the employer and instead of a cover letter, a link to a video CV sent too.  So the video CV replaces the cover letter.


A video CV must be done right for the maximum effect otherwise it can backfire and once a video is in the public domain it will be impossible to undo the damage.  Like with any CV, its all about the content and presentation.

Video Presentation:

How you hold and present yourself is a key aspect of your video.  Just like a standard CV, small subtle differences can make or break the video CV. 


Think about surroundings – you need decent lighting, avoid a messy background.  Apart from reflecting badly on you a messy background will also distract a viewer. 


Film in a quiet room, put your phone on silent, switch off the TV and other noisy distractions. 


In terms of clothes make sure they’re professional and appropriate for the job/industry


Body language is the majority of your communication, so you must portray confidence


Good posture is very important

Eye contact – look into the camera without staring.  You might have a prompt you’re reading off (see video content below) but make sure it’s well behind the camera and slightly to the left or right of the camera so eye movements aren’t obvious and then you’re looking into the camera.  Just like a newsreader.


You need a steady video throughout, if someone is holding the camcorder/phone then there is still likely to be some shaky movements.  Use a tripod for the recording device.  We recommend the Mpow flexible tripod.  

It comes with a remote to take pictures from a distance. It also has a 45 day refund policy and an 18 month warranty.  Click the image below for more information.

Regardless of whether you buy a tripod or not the video you make must be free from shaking.  A good way to summarise the video CV presentation is to present yourself as you would at an actual job interview.


Video Content:

Video shouldn’t be too long, between 1 to 2 minutes should suffice.  Keep it short and to the point.


You need a confident opening, start by your name and then a very brief bit of information about yourself and the type of work you’re after.  Example, John, graphics student, looking for work as an Abode Photoshop assistant. 


HOW you deliver is just as important as WHAT you deliver – you need enthusiasm and purpose. 


How can you make the video interesting? Mention fluency in foreign languages, any blogs or websites you run, experience relevant to the job/industry.  For visual based careers you could also show a brief example of your work.


Mention a passion/interest, talk about the career you’re after. The video is to give a taster of your skills, with the bigger emphasis to show your personality and communication skills. 


End the video by thanking the viewer and remember to smile.


Have a brief script done before you attempt the video then try a practice run.  As mentioned above have the script placed behind the recording device (you might need larger font so you can read it). 

Remember to get feedback from a third party.  Take the feedback on board and have another attempt until you’re happy with the end product.

Social Media CV

A social media CV is a recent phenomenon, similarly to a video CV it is likely to become more popular in the future.  Profiles set up on some social media networks can act as a CV of sorts.  This is especially true on LinkedIn.


According to a 2014 social media survey by Jobvite, 94% of companies use LinkedIn to recruit. 


LinkedIn is all about having a complete profile.  Each profile is given a percentage score according to how complete it is.  The aim is to get to 100%.  Some job applications are only open to profiles with a 100% completion. 


This is a very delicate balance where you don’t want to give too much detail so people are put off from reading, or too little so you don’t get 100% or don’t give a clear picture of yourself. 

Key points in the profile

·    Profile picture – a suitable professional picture

·         Personal summary statement

·         Education

·         Work history

·         Recommendations

·         Personal interests


Personal information isn’t essential to complete a profile and is optional.  Once the profile is complete or near to completion as possible, the next aim is to add connections as this increases the visibility of job opportunities. 

Start by connecting with people you already know who are on LinkedIn.  These are your first degree connections.

Your first degree connections will have their own connections.  These are your second degree connections.

Then your second degree connections will have their own connections.  You’ve guessed it, these are your third degree connections. 

Overtime you build up a network of connections linked to your profile.   This becomes your advert for recruiters to browse and contact you.  LinkedIn will also send details of vacancies that match your profile. 


Three 'recommendations' are required to get a profile to 100% complete. Recommendations are the LinkedIn equivalent of references. 



Pinterest is a social network which lets people 'pin' and 'bookmark' interesting articles, content and sites in one place for ease of reference.  The collection of the pins and bookmarks forms a 'pinboard'.

Pinterest provides a creative space to put an online version of your CV together.  You can create your own 'pinboard' of the schools attended, places you've worked or gained useful experience at.  You can make a note of why each 'pin' is important to you and what you learned or did there.  


You have the option to link your Pinterest CV to other social media accounts and to your email CV.  It adds a new and interesting dimension to a job application.

Other Social Networks


An article on social media is never complete without mentioning the “big two” - Facebook and Twitter.  They are both popular with recruiters however the user profile plays a smaller role in the process than LinkedIn or Pinterest.  The big two are best used to find company profiles to “follow” to keep up to date with news and updates. 


Companies have been known to view applicant’s profiles to find out more about them.  With Facebook and Twitter being the most popular, naturally companies use these to gauge what someone is “really” like.  This means you need to make sure photos are suitable and there is nothing derogatory or inappropriate on your profile. 


It goes without saying this applies to all social networks as a company could use any network you’re using to research you. 


To summarise getting a job interview isn’t always easy. 


Make the commitment to do what it takes to get an interview. 


Put yourself in the employer’s shoes before you draft a job application.  Respect their time.  This will help you relate to them and start to develop a relationship with them. 


The value you have to offer must be obvious to the employer if you want to get a job interview.  Its about the QUALITY of your applications over the QUANTITY.


Do thorough research into an industry and company, be prepared to use all available channels such as social media, websites.  Time spent in research and planning is well worth the effort.


Look for feedback on your job applications, be willing to make changes.   Ultimately its feedback from employers that count.  If employers are ignoring you, take that as your feedback.


Check out these links for:

Cover letters

CV content

CV presentation

for more information on how to take your job applications to the next level.  

If you like this page, thats great - we'd appreciate it if you could help us by sharing it using the buttons below.

If theres something you want us to improve, please let us know by clicking here.  Thank you

› Curriculum Vitae

Back to Top /\