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The first impression is the last impression. Your CV must look professional. There are several things you need to consider and all of them are equally important.

Your CV must capture the recruiter’s attention immediately. And it must look professional at first sight!

Why? Because the employer gives your CV about 20 seconds.

At most.

Recruiters, head-hunters, human resource managers receive scores of CVs every day, if not hundreds. This means that you have to capture their attention and make it easy for them to read. If they see you have not bothered to ensure that, they will not bother to read it. Period.

There’s something else: a large proportion of the people who will spend 20 seconds on your CV may not be human resources professionals. What does it mean? It means that you’ll have to write in simple language and make it very easy to read and to understand. Here are some tips on how to do it.

1. Keep it simple. No fancy fonts. 12 point, Times New Roman, Arial or the like. One-inch margins.

This point can be rather controversial. Some of you may even ask:

But what about uniqueness and standing out? I don’t want my CV to look like everyone else’s!

Yes, standing out is important. However, you can make your CV stand out by printing it on thicker paper (it can even be a pale shade of yellow or blue). You can also play with the layout using tabs, bullet points, lines, section dividers, etc. This will also make it easy to read – and you DO want to make your recruiter’s job easy. They appreciate that.

2. Do not write CURRICULUM VITAE at the top. You will  be surprised to find out how many people still make this mistake. Mr John Smith or Ms Jane Smith typed in a larger font (size 16-18, could be bold) is more than enough.

3. Do not provide an autobiography. Focus on what the recruiter needs to know. He/she needs to know if you have the qualities that were specified in the job advertisement. Stick to that and make sure you mention what is required.

4. Divide it into sections. Make it as obvious as possible that THIS section is about your skills and THAT ONE is about your interests.

5. Set up a professional email account. Emails like and do not inspire confidence nor give a sense of professionalism. Use your university email or just set up an account with a professionally-looking address (e.g.

6. Proofread your CV. Have a friend read it, too. Nothing is more repulsive to an employer than spelling and grammar mistakes. Your CV may go into the bin straight away.

Is your CV among those?

7. Do not mix up your tenses. Write what you DID in past tense and what you are DOING NOW in present tense. Sounds obvious, but it is a pretty common mistake.

8. Avoid clichés. Do not use words like ‘think outside the box’, or ‘team player’ etc.

9. Do not include a photo. Unless you are applying for a job as a model, actor (-tress), TV presenter or any other job where your face will be seen by millions.

In short, make it look good.

It has to be love at first sight. After all, your CV is your face. Just as you would not arrive to a job interview in your pyjamas, do not send in a sloppy CV.

This article is a chapter from Vlad Mackevic’s new book ‘How to Write a CV with Little or No Work Experience. A guidebook for students and recent graduates’. You can download this book for FREE by entering your email in the form below!

P.S. This autumn I am issuing two new books for students. One of them is on essay writing and the other one – on surviving university and making the most out of your three years full of opportunities.

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