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Get ahead with a winning CV

ON April 6, 2020

Needless to say, updating/writing a CV is an admin job that we all try to put off for as long as we can. Whilst it may seem a challenge crafting a CV, it’s important to remember that your CV is what gets you an interview with key players in the market; making it even more important to make sure it sells what you can really do.

After speaking to people in the industry I realised a lot of people have planned to use part of their time in isolation to amend or re-write their CVs. However, I know a lot of people will be thinking ‘where do I start?’, ‘how much detail should I include?’ Or ‘how do I make myself stand out?’. In light of this, I’ve decided to team up with some of our clients to hear their thoughts on what makes a CV stand out for them. I’ve started off with a few ideas but would love to hear other people’s thoughts as well! 


The structure is key when crafting your CV. No employer wants to be searching for information and as soon as they have to you will have lost their interest and won’t be noticed amongst the competition. Have a logic to your CV – start with a profile, career history, key skills, projects and finish with qualifications/training. This is just one example but really there is no set structure! Avoid large chunks of text and stick to basics with bullet points – making it clear and easy to follow. Think about the message you are trying to send to your potential employer and the key strengths in your career you want to highlight. 

Logic is the most crucial part to structure, group things together properly and make sure it flows. 

Projects you’ve worked on 

Specialising in the CDM market, I quickly came to realise that many people fall short on highlighting their project experience on their CV. In the market that we’re in it’s not enough to say you’ve worked on large scale commercial, education and infrastructure projects. Give your CV context so that employers have most of their questions answered. I personally recommend having a separate section away from your career history outlining this. An employer isn’t overly bothered about what company you did this project at but more about the project itself.  

Creating a table outlining the project title, when you worked on the project, the value of the project and what you did on the project is a professional and concise way of highlighting your experience. The key part of this table really is what you did on the project, it’s not enough to say you acted as ‘CDM Client Advisor’. What was your input on the project? Where was the benefit for the client? Were their issues on the project where you had to influence and potentially challenge ideas? Showing you are proactive in your approach will make you unique against your competition and help get that first interview request!  

‘Different and better’  

At Shirley Parsons we always strive to be ‘different and better’ and I think this is how people should approach writing their CV. What will make you ‘different and better’? Moving jobs isn’t easy, it can be a tough process and when the market is driven by great candidates it’s that little bit harder. However, take the opportunity to differentiate yourself from others, what qualities do you have that will appeal to that particular organisation? Maybe you enjoy business development, being a mentor or an ambassador in the community. Whatever it is, use it to your advantage and show you are ‘different and better’! 

Have more than one version of your CV

This is something I firmly believe in but know the vast majority of people miss out on. Having one CV to use limits your opportunities as one format won’t be right for every job you apply for. If you’re looking to change industries or step up into a more senior position, it’s important to demonstrate to the employer that you have the potential to be their new recruit.  

There are many different types of CVs out there – skills-based, academic-based (if you’re seeking your first role out of higher education), technical-based etc. 

I would say two CVs is a good amount to have – one may be more general, and another may be focused on skills/technical expertise to show you are adaptable to different industries. This is particularly important if you are starting out in the industry. Showing you have the skills to work in Health and Safety and that you have gone one step further than the next person will make an employer more inclined to give you a chance.  

Cut out the flimsy information 

Traditionally people were advised to add information such as marital status, age, number of children etc. onto their CV. This information is now unnecessary and takes up valuable space on your CV. All you need is your name and personal contact details. If you’ve been in the industry for some time you will have lots of experience to bring to the table. Whilst experience is important it’s not appealing when it’s all crammed into a 10-page-long CV. Be logical, keep it concise and sell yourself in as few words as possible.  

Crafting a CV is no easy job but now is the perfect time to get started (even if you aren’t looking for a new position just yet). Reflect on the things you’ve learnt from each position and how it has made you more adaptable and versatile in your career. Once COVID-19 blows over and we all go back to our busy careers there will be less time to write a CV and you may even find yourself rushing it last minute. Times may difficult for everyone right now but use this opportunity to amend/write your CV so when you’re ready, you can get yourself noticed by the key players in the market. 

Sanah Ali is a recruiter for Shirley Parsons, who are global leaders in HSEQ recruitment, search, and staffing services.

The wider Shirley Parsons team are more than happy to have a look at individual CVs and provide bespoke feedback and advice, so please get in touch with them! 

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