Making your CV go from Good to Great

The biggest CV/Resume mistake most people make 

As someone who sees upwards of 100 CVs a day, and most importantly which get picked up for interview by clients, I feel that I am in a position to know what a good CV looks like. Now of course your CV needs to have details of your education and work history in a succinct way, but what’s making your CV ‘meh’ when it could be ‘wow’?  

It’s all about the accomplishments.

Let me explain. Most people either approach the work history section of their CV like they are copying from a job description, and I suspect some people literally are.  Or they simply list their job title and leave it at that. Here’s an example from a recent CV

2015 TO DATE–(Name removed) INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL:    

  • Teach Chemistry to both IBDP and IGCSE students
  • Teach Science to secondary year 3 students
  • Teach Theory of Knowledge (TOK) to IBDP students.

Now there’s nothing wrong with what’s written. This teacher did a good job of listing the subjects and exam levels taught which is important. But the question it begs in the mind of the hiring manager is, so what?  Were you an effective teacher? If so, prove it.

How about this one: 

9/2016 - present    Classroom Teacher  at (name removed) school

  • Taught English, Mathematics and Science using lesson plans
  • Set appropriate assessments and marked them according to agreed standards
  • Attended after school meetings
  • Met with parents

Now, of course all those things are true, but frankly it's just the job description of all teachers everywhere. Don't you think the reader of your CV knows what the tasks of a teacher are?  So why not use this valuable space to describe the difference you made the clubs you ran, the results you got? Don't explain the job of a teacher because anyone from the worst teacher in the world to the best can say that was their job. Question is- how good were you?

Here’s an example of how to do it. Can you spot the difference?

Sept 2014 –Present – (name removed) Primary School, Little Village, England

Class Teacher for Year 2 and Year 4 (Including School Science Co-ordinator from 2014 until 2016 and PE coordinator currently)

Key Skills

  • 5 years of classroom teaching experience in a high percentage English as an Additional Language school (EAL approximately 90%)
  • Leadership in the area of Science and Physical Education – leading and delivering whole school CPD across 3 key stages, monitoring of teaching, learning and outcomes, auditing resources, budgeting, analysis and performance
  • Ran after school and lunchtime chess and cooking clubs
  • Lessons graded as ‘Outstanding’ during recent OFSTED inspection


Using data, external reference points and explaining what you did over and above your normal teaching job is much more effective than listing your daily teaching tasks or worse yet, nothing at all. What you taught can be covered in your job title, but your ‘value add’ to the school is what makes a CV go from good to great.

Things that you can add: 

  • Did you teach EAL students? What percentage?
  • Did you have any positions of responsibility? What was it?
  • Did you improve academic results? Explain how/what. 
  • Did you get recognised by anyone for your work/contributions? 
  • Did you run any clubs or extra curricular activities? 
  • If you are a secondary/high school teacher and you taught to exam level (GCSE, A level, CAPS, Leaving Cert etc) list this and also what were your classes' results? How have you made a difference?


The above example is for teachers but the concept is applied to any CV. If you are a Principal, what were your accomplishments within your school? How much did you raise attainment? What improvements did you oversee?  If you are in industry, what budget did you manage? How many direct reports? What was the value of the projects you were involved in? 

It’s not hard once you understand that employers are looking for value.

Give it a try- I guarantee it will make a difference.

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