• CV spotlight

Making your CV stand out

Making your CV stand out

Mark Overend IT manager at Fujitsu looks through CVs all the time. We asked him what makes a Cv stand out to him and here's what he said

''Have you asked yourself “Why am I getting no replies to the jobs I apply for?”

I often hear this when speaking to job seekers and it can so easily become demoralising and almost make you feel like giving up.

In today’s competitive and often challenging job market, I still see lots of CV’s which all look and sound the same so maybe it’s time to take a closer look at your own.

Recruiters will often have hundreds of CVs to scan through but did you know that many will only spend on average 5-7 seconds scanning your CV. This is a ridiculously short period of time. A recruiter may speed read, have a trained eye and know exactly what they are looking for but the reality is, the window of opportunity for your CV to capture an employer’s eye is very short.

Personal profiles, or indeed profiles that aren’t personal at all are probably the things that frustrate me the most. Below is what I would class as a very generic profile and one I see time and time again.

I am an enthusiastic, self-motivated hard working individual who is currently looking for some work. I am adaptable to all challenging situations. I am able to work well both in a team environment as well as using own initiative. I am able to work well under pressure and adhere to strict deadlines and will always give 110% in everything I do. 

It might look like a professional profile that’s about where it ends. Honestly, I would rather you didn’t have a profile on your CV than put something that resembles the above.

It doesn’t tell us what we want to know about the applicant:

  • What experience do they have?
  • What are they doing now?
  • What are their goals and aspirations?

I cannot stress the importance of making your profile "Personal" and about YOU.

A good profile contains a bit of your past, the present and future goals and aspirations whilst highlighting some of your key skills and attributes.

Your objective is to try and make yours the one that stands out from the crowd and becomes a match for what the recruiter is looking for.

A good exercise that I often recommend to job seekers who are applying for a particular industry is getting them to make a list of the key job attributes for the kind of role that they are applying for.

As an example, you are applying for a role to work on a helpdesk then key attributes might be the likes of great communication skills, customer service excellence, troubleshooting, team working, flexible etc. If you can't think what they might be, perhaps go look at some job adverts and then incorporate some of those key skills that hopefully you possess into your personal profile.

Now, to add some reasoning to this, when I start to read a CV, I’ll generally scan the personal profile looking for keywords in relation to the skills I am looking for. Basically, I’m looking for a match!

First Impressions

First impressions do count, no question!

It’s not just content, but the presentation really does matter also. That initial thought as the recruiter picks up and glances at your 2 sheets of paper. The quality of paper your CV is on the font, the colour, the layout.

These factors can actually have a negative impact on the recruiter before they even start to read what you have written so anything which could cause any negative perceptions at all, you should try and be avoided.

Job seeking is really a bit like internet dating. You have a profile, you put it out there, you apply many times and hope that in return for your efforts, someone at least gives you the courtesy of checking out your profile and hopefully making that positive impression which might lead to a conversation, or in this case an Interview.

So, there are of course a few things which are probably recommended against including on your CV. Here are some of the tops ones from some of the top recruitment companies.

  • Quotations from famous people
  • Random lists (like countries visited)
  • Over-used clichés
  • Bigging yourself up with sweeping statements or unproven claims
  • Limit your use of the word "passion" (I have a passion for IT, a passion for customer services)
  • Lies or gross exaggeration (we can all be creative but make lavish claims then expect to be challenged on it)
  • Trying to be funny. Big risk, can occasionally work, but can frequently fail
  • Being negative or excuses. (Focus on the positives of your existence) not the negatives like why you dropped out of university


Do you need one? There is no definitive style to use and is very much down to personal preference but again, please consider the impact on your decision. Standard layouts certainly are safer if not potentially a little dull. You can Google it for ideas and there are hundreds. What about adding colour? If you do decide to add a little colour, be subtle with it.


A question you should ask yourself is do you want to risk being judged on your ability to do the job based on how you look? A lot of organisations will shy away from CV’s with photos through fear of potential discrimination cases should they be interviewed and not successful. In the UK though, it’s far less common having your photo as other parts of Europe. It’s certainly one way of standing out but my view would be don’t unless the role requires it. If you are on LinkedIn (social media for the business community) then that’s a better place to have a picture and encouraged and embraced. Just keep them professional.

Hobbies and interests

It would seem that many employment support services often advise people not to put this section on your CV. I would totally disagree and I think that you should make an effort to think of what goes in here. I would always look to read this section, more so if I wanted to interview the candidate and look at what they do outside of the workplace. If you have something in common with the interviewer, it can be a great icebreaker to the interview.''


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