The Spectrum Guide to writing your perfect executive CV

A well crafted CV is the best investment you can ever make. As executive recruiters, we are looking for factual evidence of career relevance, quality, achievement and consistency in a CV.

These are our top tips for preparing your compelling executive CV:

  1. Think of the CV’s purpose: it is simply to secure a meeting. A one-page CV is the preferred choice of top executives; two pages are good, more than two pages and its flabby.
  2. Think of the reader: to stand out you need to grab their attention immediately. Start with three to five brief bullet points of primary achievements in your career, education and life.
  3. Think of the competition: detailing your functional responsibilities won’t differentiate you. Precisely outlining your contribution, consistency and achievements will.
  4. Be objective: your CV must be entirely factual and accurate. No subjective statements, skills summaries or flowery language.
  5. Provide context: the most common CV mistake is not describing what the companies you have worked for do, and where your role fitted into the organisation structure. Don’t make assumptions about the reader – explain clearly and concisely.
  6. Narrative: you should be able to read your CV out loud and it should flow. Give a sense of who you are as a person, but keep it factual and keep it interesting. Adding a recent photo will personalise your CV, but it should be professional or sufficiently neutral for it to be appropriate.
  7. Chronology: start with the most recent and work back. Experience gained 10+ years ago should just be detailed as: employer, job titles and dates. Include university education and professional qualifications (but not employer training courses and school education).
  8. Language: don’t use company or industry jargon, and avoid clichés at all costs.
  9. Be contactable: include an international mobile number and an email address if you access that email account every day. There is no need to include your home address.
  10. Formatting: unformatted Microsoft Word documents are the best for CVs. Your head hunter will thank you.
  11. Covering letter: virtually nobody writes a covering letter these days, which is a great shame. A good covering letter links the CV to the job opportunity, and clearly demonstrates interest. Like the CV: keep it very relevant, brief, factual and punchy.
  12. Finally, remember Chekhov: “Brevity is the sister of talent”. Read every word of your CV, and if a word is not essential, delete it.