Until a potential employer meets you, your CV is the only thing representing you so make sure you give yourself the best chance of a positive outcome. Take a look at our Free CV templates and follow the 7 steps below to ensure your CV stands out from others applying for the same role.

1. Exploit your USP

Getting onto a first round interview list is a big ask, so take it seriously. Consider the CV process as a scenario whereby your potential employer is a customer and you are a business trying to sell them your services. What’s the single most important thing you have to offer? The skill or success story that will put you ahead of the competition? Your CV is one of many, and on average, each CV receives 90 seconds of their attention. You have to make it compelling enough for them to keep reading. Keep your CV to a minimum of two or three pages and use bullet points so that it can be easily read and digested quickly; be clear, be concise, be the best ‘you’ you can be.

2. Focus on measurables, not traits

Companies want a smooth best-fit solution from their new employee. Be clear about measurables, metrics, and quantifiables on your CV so that they can cross-reference their needs with your experience. Don’t overextend your use of competencies such as ‘persuasive’ or ‘reliable’ because at certain levels of seniority these are assumed to be implicit.

In the professional profile at the top of your CV, concisely highlight measures and metrics unique to you: I implemented SAP across 15 sites in four countries across two different time zones, as well as setting up a shared services support function, which brought support back into Ireland in a record nine-month time frame. My budget was €10 million with staff of 15 developers and 18 support (Level 2) staff with multiple vendor management and contract negotiation experience.

This type of extract has far more impact than a list of competencies attributed to a personal profile. The same applies pan-industry: for example in FMCG sales, spell out the market, your target, territory and what you are responsible for selling into what channel: Eight years selling into FMCG multiples with a financial target of €500,000 per annum in the Munster region. Currently 92% on target. Manage own client relationships across procurement and regional management and run a team of three Account Managers. Systems used include Salesforce.com, Baan, Crystal Reports and Excel.

3. Focus on your wins

Every industry is highly competitive. Every organization wants employees who can increase performance because that leads to better revenue.

Take some time to craft a few lines about past achievements that led to a positive output both in terms of company performance and revenue. This should focus on the part you played in the initiative, the positive impact it had on company performance and what level of output was achieved: ‘I identified a gap in the market for the company’s flagship product X. I drafted a campaign strategy to address this niche and executed the campaign on a budget of Y. My campaign delivered Q amount of revenue which in turn yielded a very healthy return of investment to my employer of Z%.’

4. Identify and analyze their requirements and respond like-for-like

Depending on the role advertised, certain requirements can take precedence (a proven track record of delivering results within a particular industry for example; or a third level qualification).

If you really want to know how to write a winning CV, one major tip is to is making it as easy as possible for HR/ Hiring Manager to see you as a fit for their business. Read the job specification and analyze the main requirements the employer is looking for, and then write your CV accordingly. Group your academic achievements, work experience and achievements into defined sections. Decide whether your CV should be in functional or reverse chronological order. Are you changing careers or do you have a gap in your employment history?

In such situations, I advise using functional order because it places the focus on your skills and experience. Use reverse chronological if you have carried out roles within the same key business function over a number of years, and list the companies you worked for as well as your position in each, starting with the most recent and working back.

Organize each section so that your response to the key aspects the employer is seeking is at the forefront. Do achievements within a business context appear to be of vital importance? Then bring all your achievements to the top section of your CV, group them together and quantify them where possible. Tailoring your CV to directly correlate with their requirements makes it easier for a potential employer to assess your strengths and suitability quickly.

A lot of consideration goes into job specifications, and employers are looking for a candidate that meets all/the majority of the requirements. Review the job specification thoroughly and highlight the requirements that best match your CV. For example, if the position is for a Senior Manager to set-up and lead a new team, and this fits perfectly with your experience, then foreground this clearly.

5. Know what else to include “ and exclude!

In the end, including a couple of lines about your hobbies, interests or any voluntary or community work. You’re president of the golf club? Run the amateur landscape photography association? Great. Not only will this give the potential employer a chance to connect with you on a personal level, but it demonstrates your ability to lead and manage a group outside of a business context. Hobbies and interests indicate how creative, communicative and persuasive you can be.

6. Referees

Include a section for referees towards the end. An employer will require at least two references before making an offer. Disclosing the names of your referees on your CV is optional, but if you do, ensure they know you have done so, and that they may hear from a potential employer. If you would prefer not to disclose names, then simply state ‘Referees available on request’.

7. Be factual

A CV is a statement of facts and you must be able to stand behind every claim. Make sure there are no discrepancies.


Before you submit a CV, review it thoroughly for typos, unclear language or formatting errors. Better still, ask a trusted friend to do it. Even small mistakes make a terrible impression.

When your CV secures that interview, the right interview preparation is paramount: get interview-ready with our article How To Prepare For a Job Interview: 6 Top Tips, and find out how to conduct yourself at an interview in How to Ace Your Job Interview: 9 Top Tips