CV clinic

November 2008

CV, glasses and a penLast month, a limited number of eBCS Student readers were given the rare chance to have expert recruiters inside two blue chip companies - Microsoft and Accenture respectively - look over their CVs and give valuable feedback on their efforts. In return, the students have generously agreed for their anonymised CVs and the expert's comments to be made available to the rest of the BCS student member community.

We received a strong response from both UK and overseas student members and picked four examples which showed the diverse approaches to crafting a document, which is the first stage for anybody who sets about trying to get a job. We have taken one of these and modified it in light of the comments we have received about it - a kind of 'before and after' - to show the sorts of changes that can be made.

Although each organisation is different in what it requires from potential recruits, a number of common themes emerged from the recruiters. These were: a logical and clear structure for ordering your information that draws attention to key achievements, either academic, work-related, or both. Consistency towards layout and use of fonts also emerged as being important, as did the all-important attention to detail - especially in respect of spelling and grammar.

Maggie Berry, who runs, a recruitment IT portal for women which is helping organise W-Tech 2009 next February, says that keeping the document simple and easy-to-read is the key to writing a successful CV - and getting your foot in the door.

She says: 'Your CV is really important - it's your one chance to show your potential employer who you are and what you can do and to convince them that you're the one they need to interview. So it's vital that you sell yourself as well as you can.'

CV 1

PDF filePDF version of CV 1

Lisa Hyman, from Accenture, says: 'The mix of bold lettering, italics and plain text, as well as Arial and Times New Roman fonts in sizes 10 and 12, is the first thing that stands out about this CV and distracts from the content. On closer inspection there are also spelling mistakes, unclosed brackets and a comma in place of a full stop. I would suggest using a simpler format and paying closer attention to detail to improve this CV. Additionally, there is little need for the majority of the information contained in the 'personal detail' section or the declaration and so I would suggest finishing with the 'honours and social relations' section and displaying the language skills elsewhere. What I do like about this CV however, is the fact the technical skills are clearly laid out and can all be seen at-a-glance.'

CV 2

PDF filePDF version of CV 2

Lisa comments: 'This CV is easy on the eye due to the formatting and so is enticing to read. The education section however, is long and it is not immediately apparent what the key information is. One suggestion may be to experiment with a summary paragraph of educational institutions, course name and grades and follow up with the 'key modules' and 'skills gained' after this. What also struck me was in the 'work experience' section, there appears to be a number of jobs held. I would have liked to have seen the reason for leaving for each as, although some of them can be worked out from the educational calendar, there are some that are unexplained.'

CV 3 

PDF filePDF version of CV 3

Louise Finch, graduate recruitment manager, Microsoft, says of this CV: 'This is a strong CV and well structured. There's a clear sign of academic achievement and it is logically presented. I would recommend that the candidate pull out their key achievements such as the University School Prize for Outstanding Achievement so that they are more obvious to the reader. I would also suggest that they highlight the fact that they have been on the HSBC industrial placement scheme more: it's a prestigious placement and worth drawing attention to.'  

"The candidate may want to trim down the education section on the first page. Perhaps just an overall mark for each would suffice, ie, 1st or a 2:1, etc. If the candidate were applying for a highly specialised role then they could perhaps leave that in."

CV 4

PDF filePDF version of CV 4


Louise says of this CV: 'I like the objective section of this CV, the fact they've included their hobbies, and a substantial section on their work experience. The hobbies section could be moved down to just before the final section on the references.'

'I would suggest that the candidate restructure the work experience section, so that the most up-to-date job is first. I would also suggest moving the dates worked to the start of each section, so it is easier for the reader. The candidate may like to consider the consistent use of fonts and bullet point effects. There are some bullets on the work experience section, but these are not consistent throughout. In addition, there are a variety of fonts used in the work experience section. There's no right or wrong style, but it should be consistent.'

PDF fileReworked version of CV 4 (PDF)


Maggie concludes: 'Keeping it short and sweet but informative and clear is so important - you may have excellent qualities and impressive achievements but if your CV is five pages long with an array of fonts and spelling mistakes, they'll be hidden and the employer will move onto the next candidate.'