Top 5 Don’ts to Writing a Winning CV

One thing is for sure – everyone has an opinion on what constitutes a good CV! From recruiters to hiring managers, everyone will have different advice, and this, unfortunately, can make it almost overwhelming when preparing your own. There is something we can all agree on though – what makes a poor CV. Trust your instinct, and take due care and time in preparation – and be aware of these all too common mistakes.

Here are our top tips on what to avoid:

#1 Over complicated formatting

It can be tempting to create a highly formatted document in the attempt to stand out. However, in reality, the over-use of colours, unusual fonts, boxes, and complex infographics can actually detract from the content of your CV, and sometimes, won’t be accepted by the company’s applicant tracking system. Of course, tight, neat and clear formatting is important, and should always be considered, but a simple template that opens easily across platforms and devices is critical in this day and age of mobile working. Focus your effort on the content, not the colour.

#2 Death by adjectives

We all do it. In an attempt to glitz up the CV, it’s tempting to use words like ‘dynamic’ and ‘exceptional’ to describe yourself and your work. Even if we don’t like them, and wouldn’t use them in real life, there is an understandable pressure to ‘sell’ yourself on paper. What is important to remember in this situation is that adjectives don’t sell, value propositions do. Dump the descriptive words and don’t be attempted to use filler like ‘hard working’- instead, focus some time on trying to ask yourself what it is that makes you unique. Why have you been successful, and what is it that you ‘do’ well, that maybe others don’t?

#3 Copying and pasting your job description

Another common mistake is a ‘copy and paste’ job. Of course, your job description – with a few exceptions and additions– is what you do, so it makes sense to do this. However, no recruiter or line manager is going to trawl through this, they want to understand the core elements of your role, quickly, and critically, they want access to what you have achieved. Try to identify the core objective of your role and the top four to five priorities – keep it short and concise, link it to your measurables/KPIs and detail in a clear bullet point format.

#4 The attitude that you ‘don’t have any achievements’

There is no such thing as you ‘can’t’! Lots of financial professionals say they can’t think of achievements, but there are lots of ways to show what you have achieved, even indirectly. Sure, you might not have grown sales by 20% this year, as that’s not your role, but you might have contributed to the successful negotiation of a tender supporting that growth by creating and securing approval for a new pricing structure? Think about what benefits you have delivered to the company, or what your part was in supporting a bigger achievement?

#5 Those roles from way back when, and your book club membership

As you go up the ranks, you need to be conscious you’re not just adding roles on to your old CV. Start to look at what you can ‘lose’ to keep your CV short and succinct. For example, if you had internships you might have profiled when applying for your first audit job, now you’re a Financial Controller, you can afford to cut those off and use the white space to showcase your more recent roles and accomplishments. Likewise, with hobbies and interests. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re asked in an interview to talk about hobbies, give them all you’ve got, but in a resume, the reality is they won’t get read. Use this space to profile any committees you belong to, or volunteering or pro-bono work you do instead.

Above all, cross reference it to the job you’re applying for. Pay close attention to the skills and competencies the advertisement asks for and assess your own CV to ensure you are showing your relevant experience. If not, tweak your summary section to ensure you’re echoing some of their key requirements, and using the right key words to create a ‘match.’

At Barden we invest our resources to bring you the very best insights on all things to do with your professional future. Got a topic you would like us to research? Got an insight you would like us to share with our audience? Drop us a note to and we will take it from there!

Sign Up to get new
Insights in your inbox

At Barden we invest our resources to bring you the very best insights on all things to do with your professional future.
Share this articleShare on Facebook
Share on LinkedIn
Tweet about this on Twitter