4 Ways To Turn Around A Failing CV

If your CV is not up to scratch then your job search will suffer greatly.

Your CV will usually be the very first chance you have to make an impression on potential employers; so if it doesn’t make an impact, you won’t receive many responses.

Employers and recruiters need to instantly see that you are a great fit for their vacancy and can add lots of value in the role. So if your CV isn’t doing you any justice, try taking the following steps to improve it and boost your interview request rate.


Research your target employers and roles

One of the biggest and most common mistakes that candidates make when writing their CV is not including the qualities that their target employers are looking for.

Most candidates start writing their CV by listing all of their skills and knowledge that they think are valuable and then focus their CV around them. However, unless you’ve researched your target employers and their candidate requirements fully, then you won’t actually know what they want to see on your CV.

So to start your CV overhaul, take the following actions:

i: Look at the last five to ten jobs adverts you responded to and make a note of the candidate requirements that are appearing most frequently in terms of skills, experience and knowledge. It may look something like this for example:

  • Sales experience
  • Cold calling
  • Working to targets
  • Mobile phone product knowledge
  • Complaint handling

ii: Compare your CV to the list of in-demand candidate requirements you have just made and find which skills are missing from your CV.

iii: Add the requirements you are missing to your CV where possible, drawing on your own experience and qualifications . Remember you don’t just have to rely on direct work experience – you can include voluntary work, education, freelancing and transferable skills so be as creative as you need to.

iv: If you are hiding any of the in-demand skills at the bottom of your CV, make them more prominent by adding them to your profile or recent roles. This way employers will instantly be able to see that you are a good fit for the role, as soon as they open your CV.

By researching what requirements your target employers really want to see, and adding them strategically to your CV, you will be in a much better position to create a positive first impression and show your true value.


Adjust your CV’s formatting

Another common reason for a CV to fail is bad formatting. Recruiters and hiring managers tend to be busy people, so if they cannot digest the information on your CV quickly, they may miss important facts or even be discouraged from reading altogether.

Take a look at your CV and assess whether it is easy to skim-read and extract the key points you are trying to communicate.

Your CV should be structured in a way that clearly defines sections and breaks information up for ease of reading. Key mistakes to avoid are large chunks of unbroken text and poorly laid out sections.

Ideally, you should lay your CV out in a similar fashion to the example below with big bold headings for each section; starting with your name and contact details at the top (taking up as little space as possible). Then follow with your profile, work experience in reverse chronological order and then education, with an option for interests at the end.


Roles should start with bold titles and a brief overview sentence, followed by bullet pointed responsibilities and key achievements.

As you can see this type of structure will make your CV easy to read and give you a much greater chance of having it read properly by employers.

Be sure to use a simple clean font throughout your CV; avoid using anything too elaborate as it could make reading difficult.


Get rid of tired CV clichés

Candidates often fill their CVs with clichés and buzzwords in an attempt to appear more professional, but usually they have the reverse effect.

If you are not familiar with clichés and buzzwords, take a look at the list below to see some commonly used examples.

  • Hard-working
  • Dynamic
  • Results driven
  • Team player
  • Strong Communicator

 You’ve probably seen these phrases on example CV templates online or may even have some in your own CV.

The problem with these type of cliché phrases is that they are very generic and don’t actually tell the reader much about you. Instead of using clichés, you should focus on communicating hard facts about yourself such as industry experience, software knowledge, languages spoken, achievements etc.

Another problem with buzzwords is that they can often amount to hollow claims if not backed up with evidence. Instead of writing that you are a Team Player, give examples of your contribution to team efforts and show the results you achieved personally and as part of the team – this way you will demonstrate that you are a team player without having to actually write the phrase itself.


Show your impact

Employers want to hire people who are going to make a positive impact on their organisation. Whilst it’s great to showcase your skills, it’s even better to show how those skills could benefit potential new employers.

When listing your role responsibilities, be sure to show the end result of your actions where possible to show the impact you have made.


For example, instead of just writing,

“Running regular employee appraisal sessions”


“Running regular employee appraisal sessions to identify weaknesses, build improvement plans and strengthen team performance”

By showing the results of your actions, you are demonstrating the potential value you could bring to a new employer and showing a greater understanding of your field.


About the author

Andrew Fennell is an experienced recruiter, founder of London CV writing service StandOut CV and author of the Ultimate CV Writing Guide


Inspiring Interns is a graduate recruitment agency which specialises in sourcing candidates for internship jobs and giving out graduate careers advice. To hire graduates or browse graduate jobs London, visit our website.