Sizzling CVs

With our economy in a state of flux, the CV has become ever more important. Freelance Copywriter and MBA graduate, Babu Basu shares some trade secrets to make your CV sizzle.

Our reality

Widespread redundancies, shrinking budgets and unstable markets mean that many of us are looking for new jobs. However, with more candidates going for fewer posts, we need a specialist piece of equipment to get us to interview. We need – a great CV.

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but

The truth? No one likes writing CVs for themselves.

It’s an onerous task whether you’re a young school leaver at the start of your career, or a high flying MBA graduate looking for the right role.

So what’s the problem?

It’s hard to summarise your expertise, your ability and your life’s work into a two page document.

In the UK we are very poor at singing our own praises – which is unfortunate if you need to write a CV.

The MBA problem

Creating CVs for MBA graduates is a complex task. We are a diverse bunch.

We come from different sectors. We’re all at various stages of our careers and we’re usually chasing positions that are highly desirable, highly paid and immensely difficult to attain. That is, immensely difficult if your CV isn’t up to scratch.

If you’re prepared to be brave, creative, selective and honest (yes honest), then your CV can help you reach interview stage.

Things to consider

Before you grab a pen and launch into CV writing mode, here are a few factors to mull over:

1.  Motivation – who are you writing the CV for?

For yourself surely? Well actually, no. You should be writing it for your potential employer.

Your CV needs to address the central question – are you right for the role?

Too many of us write CVs that are simply a list of everything we’ve ever done. Suitability to the role is never addressed.

Writing a good CV is similar to selling a house – you need to make things clear to the one you’re selling to. Don’t expect the hirers to ‘use their imagination’ or go hunting for the best bits, they simply won’t.

2.  Length – is bigger always better?

In the UK, the standard length of a professional CV is 2 pages.

Only exceed this length if the industry norm is for longer CVs.

The reality is, most employers have about 30 seconds to look over your CV. If you’ve not caught their attention quickly, the CV goes straight in the recycle bin.

3.  Layout and white space – a help or a hindrance?

If a CV is easy to read and is pleasing to the eye, it will get read. A CV that is harder to read, may not get read at all.

The layout of a CV is no longer considered as window dressing. Nowadays, greater competition for fewer jobs means that anything you do to improve your CV can have a huge impact. Or, as Tesco’s says, “Every little helps”.

Text should not be too small, nor should it be densely set out. Make sure there is plenty of ‘white space’.

Professional copywriters use the blank space on the paper to motivate us to keep on reading. White space allows the eye to rest and then draws it down the page.

4.  Use sub headings to catch the eye.

Using a second font helps as does using another colour. Be warned though. Some colours cannot be seen by everybody. People who are colour blind may have trouble reading anything written in red, green or brown. And avoid using fonts or effects that are hard to take in quickly.

5.  Be brave – be conventional when you must and innovative when you can

Certain industries or certain employers may have a set CV layout or convention that you need to follow.

If your industry tends to be conservative in nature (eg Law or Finance) keep your CV smart but conservative. If however, you are looking for a job in the creative industries (eg advertising, design or copywriting) I’d recommend a CV that looks innovative and engaging.

One of the most beautiful looking CVs I have seen was for a graphic designer. It was great for her, but would look very wrong for an accountant.

6.  Never lie – but don’t be too honest

Never ever lie on a CV. You will be found out.

Recently a man lied about his experience to get a job as an NHS Hospital Chief Executive. Once hired, it soon became clear he’d lied. He was very publicly shamed, fired and sent to prison.

But whilst I implore you never to lie, I beg you not to be overly truthful.

I have seen CVs where candidates have actually listed which roles they have been fired from, why they were fired and what they actually thought about their previous employer.

Your CV is an edited version of you. As they say in Big Brother, “Here are your best bits”.

7.  Junk the jargon – keep the language simple

Unless you are going for a specialist job and you know only other specialists will read it, avoid jargon.

Nowadays, your CV is likely to pass through many hands before it reaches the hirer and firer. With this in mind, keep language clear and unfussy.

Never use words that you cannot explain in the interview. It will simply ruin your credibility and erode your confidence. And never make a claim in your covering letter or CV if you can’t show evidence in your work history.

And finally, use action words like ‘managed’, ‘ran’, ‘oversaw’. They suggest that you were good in previous roles and will be great in the job you’re about to get.

Good luck everyone!


About babubasu

Babu Basu is an engaging freelance business writer living and working in the thriving East Midlands. He writes articles, adverts, presentations and web content. You can benefit from Babu's creativity by contacting him. Visit Babu's website: or email him directly at
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2 Responses to Sizzling CVs

  1. This specific post, “Sizzling CVs Babu’s blog” was terrific. I am producing out a clone to clearly show my close friends. Many thanks-Freddy

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