How to write a successful CV

Professional using laptop computer with glasses in her hand preparing to write a successful CV

Your CV is often your first chance to make an impression on your employer.

Standing out from the crowd could make the difference between securing an interview and missing out on your ideal role. 

Understanding what employers look for and how to present your best self through your CV is a vital professional skill that it is well worth taking the time to develop in order to help you achieve your ambitions.

How long should my CV be?

As you progress in your career you will most likely find your CV growing as you gain more experience. However, you should also consider whether you can omit some information regarding your early work history as this happens. 

Generally, keeping you CV to no more than four sides of A4 is a good rule of thumb.

"Providing a full employment history is important, as employers will be likely to ask about any significant gaps,” Sally Martin added. 

“However, once you have been progressing in your career for some time it may be best to remove some of the details of your earliest jobs and focus on your most recent and impressive achievements,"

How much personal information should I include?

Including some personal information such as hobbies and interests is fine, but do so sparingly. Remember that the employer is looking for an overview of your skills so think about what is relevant.

"Consider how your hobbies and interests have equipped you with skills that are relevant to the job you are applying for. By presenting personal information in this way you can increase your appeal to an employer and show your personality simultaneously," said Sally Martin, Director at Robert Walters. 

"These skills don't necessarily need to be directly related to the role in question. Transferable skills or qualities such as being a self-starter or possessing leadership skills are highly valued by employers across a wide range of roles."

Should I put my referees on my CV?

You may choose to include your references on your CV but this isn't essential. 

Before being placed in a role your new employer will need to check your references to confirm your employment history so it is worth having your referees in mind when you begin applying for a new role.

"Be sure to confirm that your planned referees are happy to be contacted before supplying their contact information,” Sally Martin continued. 

“Even if you have a good relationship with your referee it is still best to avoid making any assumptions when sharing their contact information."

Should I put my photo on my CV?

While it is becoming popular among some professionals to include a personal photo on their CV, many employers will be put off by it. 

"Including a personal photo may do more harm than good, as some employers may consider it unprofessional. A better option is to include a professional looking photo on your LinkedIn profile,” Sally Martin advised. 

“Many employers will check your professional social media presence as part of the recruitment process and this is a more appropriate place to have a headshot."

Should I put my work email address on my CV?

You should avoid using your work contact details when applying for other positions unless you have clarified this with your current employer.

If you are going to set up a hotmail address or something similar, be sure it is an appropriate address and avoid using nicknames as this could give a negative impression to a future employer.

Should I include a cover letter?

Cover letters are only useful if they are specifically tailored to the role. A generic letter may seem convenient, but by using one you may be giving the impression that you haven't put in any effort.

If you decide to include a cover letter, use it to clearly outline where your skills and experience match those required in the role and ensure that it is correctly addressed.

Career advice 


Know how much
you’re worth



Sign up to
job alerts 



Get in touch 


CV writing tips