The perfect CV for 2023

Let’s get this right, your CV is a marketing document. It’s not a dry collection of historical facts. It’s one and only job is to create sufficient interest that somebody wants to invite you to interview to learn more. No more, No less.

But, to say that the last few years have changed the job market would be an understatement, and this has made a good CV vital. You’re now part of a wider candidate pool thanks to flexible working, so making a great first impression is vital.

Thank goodness we’re here to help you set the record straight and create a CV that works in 2023.


ATS Isn’t as scary as it sounds:

First things first, let’s address the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) scare. Don’t waste your time fretting over it. The hype is fuelled by CV Writers who love the mystique of persuading you that there is an art form to manipulating these systems. But the truth is, as long as you use a Word document or PDF, you’re good to go.

ATS systems can be useful when used properly, however we don’t use them, as there is no substitute for giving a CV a thorough reading with our experienced beady eyes.

As Martin Ellis, our Executive Search Consultant says:

“ATS systems are designed to find people, not reject them.”

Besides, ATS systems, when used (and we don’t use them), are designed to find people, not reject them. Human eyes are the real champions of CV reading.


Layout – Deliberate, Not Complicated:

Next up, layout. Keep it clean and simple. A single-column format is your best bet to keep the reader’s focus. However, what used to be a printed paper document is now 99.9% of the time, viewed on a screen. This means that the prime real estate of our CV is the top space on the first page (a.k.a. the bit people look at before they’ve had a chance to scroll).

This space should feature a captivating summary paragraph, a concise list of your top skills, and a sprinkle of your career highlights. Make it easy for the reader, whether they’re a fresh-faced recruiter or a seasoned hiring manager, to get a grasp of your awesomeness.


Words & Tone of voice – DO NOT BE DULL:

We suggest you make the tone of your CV language short, sweet, and bright. If the sub-heading didn’t tip you off, nobody wants to hire a dullard that they’re going to have to see every working day for the next few years; so, keep things concise and fluff-free, but do your best to seem interesting.

Use as few words as possible and don’t use generic language nor corporate gobbledegook. Embrace everyday communication. Instead of claiming “great communication skills,” show it through your writing. And please, spare us the overused word “passionate.” Be original. If you’re stuck, consult a thesaurus or even turn to ChatGPT for inspiration. It’s there to assist you, after all.

Seek to get a reaction. If you write something safe and bland, you’ll end up on the “Maybe” pile, and that’s a rotten place to be.


How long should a CV be?

Ignore the babble about CVs needing to be precisely two pages long. The real goal is to spark interest. As a rule of thumb, aim for around 800 words. If you’re just starting out, feel free to expand on education and attitudes. But if you’re a seasoned pro, focus on the past decade’s achievements rather than droning on about “24 years of experience” – let’s not make it sound like one year repeated 24 times.


The Power of a Personal Statement:

Do you need a personal statement? Absolutely! It’s your one chance to get across what makes you a perfect fit because of your personality rather than just your past experiences.

Craft a concise, impactful statement that highlights your unique qualities, touches on your relevant achievements, and puts across your aspirations. Don’t just state generic qualities – demonstrate them through specific examples.

The golden buzzwords for a perfect personal statement = #Memorable #Captivating


Know the job you’re applying for:

To increase your chances of getting that all-important first interview, research the job, research the job spec, research the company, research the hiring manager, research… Well, you get the picture.

Study the job specification and identify keywords and skills that the employer is seeking. When appropriate, tailor your CV to include those keywords, demonstrating that you’re a perfect fit for the role. This extra effort shows you’ve done your homework and are genuinely interested in the position.


Own any career gaps and navigate them like a pro:

Addressing career gaps can be tricky, but honesty is the best policy. Briefly acknowledge the gap and then redirect the focus to your relevant skills and abilities.

Take the initiative to control the narrative around your career gaps. If recruiters have questions or concerns, be prepared to address them confidently. Own your story and demonstrate that you’re the right candidate despite any career breaks.

But, once again, don’t drone on. Time and time again, we’ve seen paragraphs of detail explaining career gaps. At the application stage, it’s just not needed.


Proofread, Spellcheck, and Update Contact Information:

We cannot stress this enough – proofread your CV multiple times and then spellcheck it even more. Mistakes on your CV can have disastrous consequences. Double-check that your contact information is accurate and up to date. You don’t want to miss out on an opportunity because of a typo or outdated email address.

When working with a recruiter – or at least one as good as Recruitment South East – they will often cast an eye over your CV for potential errors such as spelling mistakes or dates that don’t line up. But we don’t know you as well as you know you, so we can’t catch everything. Get your CV in the best possible condition before you send it over and it’ll be smooth sailing from there.

Pro tip: There is a free version of the AI writing assistance tool Grammarly that will help you check your CV for improvements.


Choose the Right File Format and Fonts:

You’ve done so well to craft a standout CV, now don’t ruin all your hard work with a poorly chosen file format. Unless specified otherwise in the job advert, save your CV as a Word Document or PDF to preserve formatting and content.

When naming your file, opt for something identifiable, like: “JessieTruman_MarketingExecutive_CV.pdf.” – obviously with your name and the job you’re applying for… Unless your name is Jessie Truman, applying for a Marketing Exec role. In which case, that’s just a weird coincidence.

Fonts are fonting important too – Use a professional, business-like font such as Times New Roman, Georgia, Arial, Cambria, Calibri, or Helvetica. Avoid casual or artsy fonts like Comic Sans, Courier New, or Papyrus. You’re trying to sell your professional skills, not an afterschool club for infants.


And whilst we’re at it, here are a few more DON’Ts:

  • Don’t list your interests – unless they add relevance
  • Nobody cares about your street address – We’ll just Google it and laugh at your net curtains
  • Marital status doesn’t matter, so leave it out
  • Your date of birth is irrelevant
  • Don’t add “References on request” – it’s a waste of time for us, you, and everyone.
  • No photographs – You’ve got a bigger chance of screwing this up than you have of it improving your chances to interview… Unless you’re a model, then disregard what we’ve just said. Photographs are probably pretty important for modeling jobs.


Enjoy the Process: Remember, if you’re having fun writing your CV, chances are the reader will enjoy reading it too. And that’s when the magic happens, and interview invitations start rolling in.

Other articles we suggest for further reading:


Congratulations, you’re now equipped with the knowledge to craft a winning CV for 2023. Remember, your CV is your chance to sell yourself, so make it shine. Stand out by tailoring it to the job, using captivating language, and embracing a professional format. Proofread diligently, spellcheck relentlessly, and leave no room for mistakes.

Ready to nail your CV? – Contact Recruitment South East today and let’s make your job application a roaring success.