Posted by: xeper | October 15, 2008

How To Write A Winning CV?

This article is a summary of a CV-writing workshop that I do for my friends and which I was invited to do for an NGO next month. Writing a good CV may prove of great benefit in many areas of one’s life, including but not limited to finding a job or a business partner, managing one’s career, and building one’s confidence. Indirectly, each of these helps in a different way in your personal development, but that is another discussion.

Anyway, writing a winning CV revolves around a few principles:

  1. Practice and cultivate the science of CV writing.
  2. Focus on what you really want to reach with your CV.
  3. Become acquainted with the art of CV writing.
  4. Know the technical aspects of writing your CV.
  5. Understand the harm and benefit of everything that is present and everything that is lacking from your CV.
  6. Learn to see everything accurately. Become aware of what is not obvious.
  7. Be careful even in small matters.
  8. Have several CVs, each having a distinct purpose, or covering a different professional profile.
  9. Do not do anything useless.

~~ ~~

Now in a bit more detail and explanation:

  1. The “science” of CV writing is what everybody teaches about CV- and résumé-writing and can be easily found by an internet search. This includes what to write in your CV, the most widely accepted CV format in your country and industry, the types of CVs and the difference between chronological, functional, and mixed CVs, when to use each of them, etc.
  2. The main purpose of your CV (and cover letter) is to get you an interview. Remember this well. But not just any interview; an interview for a position you can and would like to fill. Remember this very well.
  3. The “art” of CV writing is everything that can improve a CV in which you have to exercise personal judgment, and where people who may advise you in your writing will start to diverge. Not everybody will agree on these aspects, and this is what will make your CV stand out.
  4. Technical aspects include the use of a Word Processor, transforming your CV into a PDF file, how online CVs are searched and used and the differences you need to make when you use online CV posting, how recruitment managers and recruitment offices operate and how your CV can make them work for you, etc.
  5. About everything in your CV, each word, each sentence structure, each choice of font, everything, ask yourself, and ask someone you trust, whether this is a good way to do it or not, what other ways can be better or worse in writing the CV?
  6. What are they looking for? What information can you find out about your potential employer? About the position for which you are applying? Can you read your own CV with the eyes of the interviewer? What wont he/she like? How can it be fixed?
  7. You learned spelling at school, you learned grammar, you have spell check, you have friends to review you work, you can even get professional help. The time you write your CV is the time to use it all.
  8. If your mornings know you as a full-time employee, and your nights know you as a part-time author (or blogger or radio show host etc), then I suggest you maintain two very separate CVs, one for each profile.
  9. If it wont help you get the interview, it doesnt belong in the CV.

~~ ~~

The principles mentioned above are the mindset you need to have to write the winning CV. I usually am very provocative when working with anyone on their CV. I regret not being able to put that in, but if you wish to share with me any aspect of your CV in the comments, I promise to give you the needed push your CV to at least the top 10% of CVs of your peers. Anyway, you probably already have a preliminary CV, if not, prepare a sheet of paper with your personal data according to, lets say, the description of British CVs in Wikipedia (you will need to adjust to the expected format in your country and industry, based on the advice you can find from your local recruitment offices) then follow the following steps:

Step #1: Proofread your CV for spelling, grammar, logical mistakes, layout problems, etc.. Find at least 10 negative comments and write them down. Get a friend to help you if you cannot reach 10 areas of improvement.

Step #2: Work as much as you can on the areas of improvement you identified in Step #1, above. Repeat until satisfied or bored.

Step #3: After you finish correcting your own CV many times, name two people you trust based on their:

  • Ability to catch details,
  • Ability to understand what CVs are for,
  • Linguistic ability,
  • Trust in you and the respect they have for you and your work.

Ask only one of them to review your CV. They will tell you what they think. Ask clarifying questions and make sure you get all the feedback they have for you, positive or negative, but negative more. Get suggestions to fix that. Also ask this person to think with you about professional achievements you might have not written in the CV. Any achievements are important, no matter how small, if you think others might not have done them.

Step #4: Reviewing the CV in light of the findings from Step #3, above. Do not necessarily implement all the suggestions, but think about them and take them into consideration.

Step #5: Take a break from your CV for an hour then look at the best CV you can find. You have to ask yourself is the owner of this CV is a better worker than you? If your answer is yes, then you are wrong: Noone is better than you so you have to have a CV as good as anybody else’s, or better! Just work at improving yours!!

Step #6: Examine the best CVs you can get your hands on, make a list of why they are better than your own. Take care: more years of experience doesnt make a CV better than yours, anything else you like about their CVs is. This might be the most difficult step and you might need to compare with the help of a friend to see that and mock your own, to see the differences. I want a detailed list, very clearly written, saying exactly what you want to change in your CV, including tasks, format, certificates, whatever.. Compare the best CVs you find vs yours. Yours will not look as good yet, but it will be much better than the one you started with. There will be room for improvement; I will need a list of what you still dont like about your CV so I can tell you what to do about it. This will be the aspects you find in the better CVs you found that you want on yours but don’t have; its format, its language, jobs she had, and why you want them on your CV etc. This is very important to be done really well, and without one untrue word.

Step #7: Implement and come up with action plan to implement findings in list from Step #7.

Step #8: I or someone good in CV writing or editing can help you formulate sentences effectively for high impact, and help you find achievements you didnt consider writing before. (just post in the comments below if you want me to help).

Step #9: Show result to the second person you identified in Step #3, get feedback and see if you would like to implement anything else. New list of improvements and implement them.

Step 11: Send all over the place, writing cover letters for positions that you like.

~~ ~~

This article is under development. Stills needs examples of different formulations of tasks/achievements (get those from anonymous CVs I worked on), needs many links to the best I can find online about writing CVs, though that is really lacking. Another article about strategy to get almost any job in the newspaper!



  1. I’ll have to add – Do not ever get shy of showcasing your achievements (that is if it’s relevant to the post you are applying for). Even better, lay down the methods and ways by which you have achieved your goals.

  2. Thank you for your contribution 🙂
    I would stress the importance of matching this to your style and the position in question.

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