Day 17: How to make your CV work for you?

By Feb.01, 2017

Do you have an up to date CV?

Is it a good one?

These are two questions I often ask students. Even those who answer an emphatic ‘yes’ to the first question often seem less sure about the second. And maybe their CVs are amazing but how would they know? It is also quite natural to feel slightly embarrassed having to write about yourself (and maybe even brag a little). So how can you make your CV as good as it can be? And more importantly how can you make it work for you?

I had a message from an ex-student the other day. He was frustrated because he felt he was being really proactive, sending his CV out to lots of companies he would like to work for. He wasn’t getting anything back, not even an acknowledgement. I asked to see his CV and I could see why straight away. It wasn’t bad. The basic information was all there and it looked neat. BUT it was just a little bit…. Bland. I explained that there was no point spending time and effort sending mediocre CVs. We improved it and within a couple of weeks he had a new job. 

Will your CV or application get you an interview? 

Now I am not going to tell you here how to write a CV or complete a job application, there is already a lot written about that and you can follow the links below. I want to ask you to consider things from the viewpoint of the person who reads it…

Imagine that you are a manager in charge of finding a new graduate to work for your company. It’s a big investment so you really want to find someone who can do the job now and also can adapt to new roles within the organisation in the future. Perhaps you would like
someone who has experience but most of all you want to know that they have POTENTIAL and the right ATTITUDES and VALUES. Your inbox is full of CVs
/application forms

Now answer this question… what would stand out to you? And what would persuade you to invite someone for interview? 

Now look at your own CV or application form as if through the eyes of a recruiting manager (maybe you could ask someone else to do this too?) Would you want to give ‘you’ a job?

An initial sift (by person or computer) will immediately eliminate applications which are poorly presented (scruffy with spelling and grammatical errors) and the ones which don’t seem to mention any relevant skills or ‘essential’ criteria.

‘Pick me!’

The person looking at your CV or application will be making a judgement quite quickly. They want to like you! They are hunting for hidden gems but you need to give them clues. Recruiters are not mind-readers, if you don’t tell them what you can do and why they should employ you then you miss your opportunity. Tell them about your skills and qualities which you know they are looking for (as you will have researched the job and the company. Obviously). Give examples to back-up your claims and make it interesting. Show them your personality. Make it look professional. Tease out their curiosity and persuade them to invite you for an interview to find out more. This is how it works.

What if you don’t have much to say? 

Do you know how to get your point across to employers?

Well, maybe you need to be a little less modest? And look for ‘transferable skills’ in things you have done. And maybe you can use this time while you are still looking for your ‘Proper Job’ to do some other things such as internships, work experience, volunteering or taking up a new interest to enhance your CV? You might even find this leads to a job itself.

Job applications take time and effort to complete but you never know which one might be THE ONE to succeed so keep up your motivation and your standards. Make sure that you are familiar with what they are looking for and give them good examples to demonstrate what you can do and how this meets their needs. See below for advice on job applications.


  1. Download the CV guide available here which has been created by your careers team at Salford. Review the example CVs. Which do you like best?
  2. Read this advice on how to write a CV from
  3. And this about how to write a successful application
  4. Have look at this ‘bad example’ and spot the mistakes. Don’t make them on yours.
  5. If you haven’t got a CV, write one now!
  6. Book a CV review appointment with the Careers team or if you can’t get into see us, email it to us for our comments (

Further information

Check this online presentation about CV writing.


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