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Home > News > Five things you can do to improve your CV immediately

March 22, 2023

Five things you can do to improve your CV immediately

It would be ungracious of me to add up exactly how many years of experience the Waddington Brown recruitment team have between them. Suffice it to say that, if it’s appeared on a CV the team have likely seen it.

From X-Factor-style stories and ransom-style demands of what someone’s next job MUST give them, through to compelling page-turners created by applicants who know how to draw a hiring manager into their story, they’ve seen it all.

We are often asked if there’s a perfect formula for a CV, to which the answer is no. The right CV will be the one that captures your unique experiences and values and demonstrates how they apply to the role you are applying for.

There are some excellent, and simple, ways to elevate your CV from the crowd however, and we’ve shared five of them here that you can use straight away.

1. Your CV isn’t about you. 

OK, so maybe it’s not quite that blunt, of course your CV is about your experience and achievements, but the reality is a hiring manager or recruiter is thinking about how they can fix their problem – the gap in their team – not thinking about your needs.

This means your CV should be geared towards solving their problem.

Do this by using these two phrases: ‘so that’ and ‘which meant’ regularly through your CV

This turns a factual achievement into a solution.

“I led a project to identify line manager skills gaps in developing their team.’

Turns into:

“I led a project to identify line manager skills gaps so that L&D could target their budget more effectively, saving £XYX over 12 months.


“I led a project to identify line manager skills gaps in developing their team, which meant we could provide support and, over 24 months, we saw a 20% increase in internal promotions.

 Provide the fact, provide the problem it solves – and even better if you can provide the data or results to back it up.

2. Create a scan-friendly document

Not, scanning as in stood by a photocopier, I mean when we are giving a document a quick visual scan.

We all scan. You’ve likely done it with this article to see which of the five points I teased at the top are most relevant to you.

When submitting a text-dense, repetitive CV, you better hope that it’s a quiet day on the recruiter’s desk because otherwise it’s probably not going to get read. At least not properly.

Look at your page of A4 and imagine a big capital F that stretches down and across the page.

That is the reader’s natural eye-scan of a page.

We read across the headline at the top. We read half- way across the next section, and after than we are scanning generally down the left hand edge of the page.

Put the most important information – the content that shows how you are solving the recruiter’s problem – right at the top.

Break up your CV with space, headlines, and key points which illustrate your skills picked out in bold.

CV fatigue is real. Make yours easy on the eye and it will instantly make a difference.

3. Friendly formats

While we are talking design, unless you are applying for a design role, don’t get too hung up on fancy layouts and templates.


And, as readily available as design templates now are, they’re not always compatible with the applicant software that HR and recruitment teams use. We receive lots of lovely PDF CV designs that get – well – a big mangled – during the upload to our candidate software. As clever as our admin team are, there’s only so much they can do to preserve the design.

Keep your CV in both PDF and Word formats

Submitting your CV on a simple Word document means what goes into candidate tracking software, will come out the other end. Have a more designed PDF version, if you wish, for when you apply for a role where you can simply attach it to an email direct to the hiring manager.

A good recruiter can spot style over substance in a heartbeat.

4. Make a statement

Personal statements give people the jitters more than any other CV section. It can feel entirely unnatural to be promoting yourself so overtly, and it can lead to people falling back into cliche.

For example, we see lots of CVs with phrases such as ‘self-motivated’ ‘collaborative’ ‘values-led’ ‘people-focused’ – all of which are no doubt true but, going back to our problem-solving in point 1, how have those attributes helped you add value?

Think instead of what your attributes mean you can do for a new employer.

“My self-motivation means I’m always curious to try new ideas, including one which solved XYZ problem and I would love to be able to expand on this in a new role.”

For many job seekers, this feels a much more comfortable way of promoting yourself.

It also means you can turn those well-worn phrases into something unique to you. 

5. Your CV is a living document, not a monument to your past

You’ve been called by a recruiter about a role, they already have your CV on file and they’ve just sent you the job description.

Always take the opportunity to tweak your CV. 

Spending a short amount of time on your CV to re-prioritise some of the content, add in an example to illustrate your experience in solving one of the needs, or include information you may have gleaned from the conversation with the recruiter.

This demonstrates to the recruiter you are serious about the opportunity, making your working partnership an even stronger one to help you secure that next brilliant role.

Looking for a new HR role? Or are you recruiting for an HR position in the East of England? We can help.