The 5 golden rules of CV building

In this second episode of “The STEM job seeker checklist”, we will share with you some tips on how to make your CV stand out from the crowd.

Keeping your CV up to date can be a stressful and intimidating task and can feel overwhelming at times. This is even more true for new graduates, career changers or returners who need to get familiar with the codes and expectations of a new working environment, sector, or industry. Luckily, there are a few rules you can follow to ensure your CV best highlights your skills and areas of expertise.


Relevance is always the #1 rule you should follow when building your CV. It will ensure everything you mention is relevant to the role. And yes, it means that you should customise your CV – or at least parts of your CV – to each role you are applying for. The good news is that by doing so you increase your chances to get an interview and progress in the application process. To help you do this, compare the information you have included in your CV with the information provided in the job description. Ask yourself if what you have included is relevant to what the organisation is looking for. If you cannot find any relevance to the role, sector, or company, consider revising. Now, you don’t have to start from scratch every time. There are some areas in your CV that are likely to be customised such as your personal statement and your choice of relevant experiences or training courses.

And remember – order is key when building your CV. Once you’ve identified the most relevant skills and experience you have, ensure they appear first so that recruiters don’t have to look for this information when screening your CV.


This may sound obvious, but it is not always an easy task! This is because it is hard to be self-critical when you have spent so much time working on your CV. We tend to forget that things that are obvious to us may not be obvious to an external audience who has a different background, view, and experience. To ensure that your CV can be well understood try to put yourself in the recruiters’ shoes. They do not know anything about you, your past experiences or your life aspirations. They do not necessarily work in a technical / STEM role and therefore may not have a similar skill set to you, or use the same technical language. This means they may not be able to fully relate to your previous experiences. If you are changing sectors, you also need to consider that they won’t have the same baseline – you will have to be more explicit and highlight your transferrable skills and how they can be applied in a new working or learning environment.


To be able to convince the employer that you can do the job, it is important to provide specific examples that reflect your skills, experience, and knowledge. Being specific does not mean including everything you have done but instead choosing the most relevant examples for the position you are applying for. On top of this, the way you present this information will be critical to attracting the reader’s interest. Employers don’t only want to know that you CAN do the job, but they also want to know HOW you will be doing the job. What makes you different from another candidate? How do you approach challenging situations at work? Are you quite methodical in the way you approach new projects?

To help you build an effective narrative in your CV, we recommend using the CAR or STAR method formula. CAR stands for Challenge, Action, Result while STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Both methods can help you:

  • Explain the context of your example and what the main challenges/requirements were
  • Detail the actions you undertook to complete a task or overcome a difficulty
  • Highlight the main outcomes and your reflections/observations.

The good news is that using this methodology in your CV will also help you save some precious time when preparing for the interview as you will be able to reuse the same structure to answer interview questions.


Being concise is probably one of the most difficult exercises when building a CV. It is easy to fall into the trap of including everything you can without filtering information. But this is counterproductive as it makes your CV less relevant and more difficult to comprehend for recruiters. They have hundreds of CVs to review so if you can make their life easier, you have more chance to be noticed. The structure and length of the final document are both key aspects of any successful and effective CV. Here are some tips you may want to follow:

  • Limit your CV to two pages. To do so review the layout of your document to use the space in the most effective possible way.
  • Use the CAR or STAR techniques to keep your examples short.
  • Use bullet points when structuring your examples. It also has the benefit of improving the readability of your CV.
  • Delete anything that cannot be linked in some way to the job, company, or sector. If you can’t explain why it is mentioned, then it probably isn’t relevant or appropriate to mention.


This is an important rule that is not mentioned enough! When speaking with women in STEM or reviewing CVs we often get asked “what is the best format: chronological or skills-based CV? “Should I mention my career break?”. Often these questions don’t have only one answer, and, in the end, it comes down to your background but most importantly what you are the most comfortable with. A CV is personal and tells the recruiter or manager a bit about yourself. Some helpful questions you can ask yourself are:

  • Am I comfortable submitting it? If not, why?
  • Is there anything in my CV I don’t feel comfortable talking about? Why?
  • Does my CV illustrate my background and my aspirations?

Being able to answer these questions will help you revise some of the sections or get ready for the interview.  And remember: CV building is only one step of the application process. As you know, the main goal of a CV is to generate enough interest and curiosity so that the company wants to invite you for an interview.


About ‘The STEM job seeker checklist’ Series

Looking for your next career move and applying to jobs can be a daunting task and take a lot of your time! To avoid feeling overwhelmed or discouraged by the job-hunting process, we have created a series of articles that aim to provide you with some practical tips to stand out to recruiters, maximise your chances of getting to the next stage of the recruitment process, and save you some valuable time.

To read the first article of the series, follow this link: