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8 December 2015

How to write the perfect CV

Leon Morrison

Leon Morrison

Principal Consultant

Originally from Wellington, New Zealand, Leon has been in the UK since the year 2000. …

CV PicThe CV is one of those things in life that many struggle with, when in fact it is more straight forward than we think.

As an international recruitment consultant, I have seen thousands of CVs from all over the world. The first thing I do is spend 5 or 6 seconds scanning and in that time I instantly know when I’m looking at a good CV. Why?

  • It has an opening profile/summary that gives the reader an excellent overview of the person before leaving the top half of page one!
  • The employment history is clear and in order with the most recent experience first (often the most important part of any CV).
  • I can get a good grasp of the relevant skills either as a separate section (under profile) or under the work history headings.
  • The titles are clear and stand out making scanning the CV a breeze, with the dates clear and running consecutively (i.e not confusing with no explanation for overlapping dates and without long unexplained gaps).
  • The writing is clear and summarises the experience nicely.
  • Key accomplishments are easy to find (don’t take for granted that the person should know what you designed or worked on..list it down)

It’s a competitive world out there so make it clear, concise and powerful! 

TIPS: Look at your CV from the point of view of a company – Is it easy to read? Do your listed skills represent and include your experience? Is the info in the correct order? Are the titles clear with dates that tie in? Will the reader get a feeling for what you are about, what you’re looking for and what you have to offer?!

Buzz words (no matter how obvious) look great i.e. ADCs, DACs, CMOS, 28nm, Cadence tools, SMPS.

Include relevant, accurate terms –  Our advanced software searches within a CV to find exact skills i.e. ADCs, SMPS, Power etc. Having terms in your CV increases ‘hits’ this brings your CV to the top and we can keep you informed of the most relevant opportunities.  

The length

I have heard so many different opinions from candidates about the length of the CV. Usually their impression of the correct length has been given to them by friends and colleagues, or (in most cases) inexperienced recruitment consultants.

A CV does not have to be 1 or 2 pages. It’s simple…

  • Write your CV with all of the relevant info
  • Then look at it and think “does this reflect me and my experience”
  • Then look at the length and be rational about it…if you have 2-3 years of experience 2 pages is fine, if you are a PhD grad with publications and research experience then even up to 4-5 pages is very common. If you have 15-20 years experience then it would of course be expected for this to be around 3-5 pages. As long as it’s not a wall of words (or on the other side) not too brief. One page CVs in my opinion are often too brief to be effective.
  • Rationale and balance are two words that come to mind.

Follow my step by step guide to writing the perfect CV below:

Name and contact details these go at the top

  • Your name, your Home and Mobile numbers as well as an email address and home address (you’d be surprised how many CVs I see where the country is not even stated). Feel free to add in marital status and nationality/visa status also if you feel it’s beneficial.  

Opening profile – the best CVs have an opening profile/summary section

  • A golden opportunity (and the only area) for you to summarise your years experience, expertise, ambitions and personality.
  • It should only be a paragraph or two and a mix of hard and soft skills. (I find that IC Design engineer CVs are primarily hard skills i.e. factual with design blocks, areas of technical expertise, leadership skills, position desired, goals etc where as a sales CV would include more about the persons ‘soft skills’ i.e. dealing with people, communication skills etc.)
  • Summarise your years of experience in the first line. There is nothing better than opening up a CV to see years experience or MSc or PhD qualifications right there in front of you. It also keeps me reading!…

Work experience – my favourite section and often the most relevant

  • My biggest single frustration with badly written CV’s is when I have to solve a puzzle to find a candidates work experience.
  • Clear titles help with this – they should ideally be in bold, a font size larger or in a different colour (i.e. blue for example).
  • Then add the organisations name/location, your job title/position and dates of employment. 
  • The experience can start with a description and/or bullet points, it comes down to how it looks and your own personal style.
  • Writing in the following style works well “Set up systems in 2Ghz frequency” as opposed to writing as “I set up systems” etc

Tips: Stating ‘2010 – present’ rather than ‘2010-2015’ on your most recent role means your CV will be up to date for longer! 

If your job title does not reflect the job you are doing or reflect the job you are applying for then you can be more descriptive i.e. Analog IC Design Engineer is a lot more relevant than Design Engineer.

Skills or Technical Summary

  • Often found under the opening profile, but also often under work experience before Education section. I prefer it under work experience myself but it depends… if your most recent job does not list the skills you want to highlight from a number of years ago, that’s when a skills section on page one could be handy. 
  • Usually in list form and a summary of technical skills, tools/software used. I do find them useful but I’m more interested in the last 5 years experience so if your skills section is taking up the bottom half of page one then you’re pushing the most interesting part of your CV down onto page 2…. CVs that don’t start talking about the current job role until page 2 or 3 are not ideal…


  • If you are a recent graduate then this section is best under the opening profile but if you are an experienced engineer then it would not make sense to have a large education section on the first page to the point where your most recent job and skills don’t appear until a lot further down the CV.
  • For an experienced engineer education looks good summarised in the opening profile (ie PhD qualified with 5 years experience) or even a small section under the profile but in most cases it is best at the end of the work experience section.
  • For a grad, this IS your main experience and should be below the profile listing qualification name, University, (with the thesis topic nice and clear) a tidy list of projects and work done – including buzz words.

Other sections listed at the end include;

  • Languages – very useful to list the languages you speak and the level of proficiency. I often look for this section.
  • Hobbies – a great chance to show a little bit about you. You may be surprised about the power of this section, it can create a talking point between you and the client and/or recruiter. But what do you write? reading, cooking, internet, listening to music don’t say much about you where as travelling, photography, skydiving are more interesting and therefore say much more.
  • Research interests, Publications and Patents are important sections especially for Masters and PhD qualified engineers.
  • Drivers licence – optional.
  • References – best to say they can be obtained upon request. We would always remove any contact details before sending on anyway.

If you’d like further information please visit our CV Advice section or click here to download our CV Template – but no need to copy exactly, your own style is unique!

I hope you found this interesting and helpful, you can contact me on +44 (0)208 400 2483 at for more information or career advice.

Good luck with creating that perfect CV!


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