How to write a sparkling cv

Had some time out of work? Wondering how to sell yourself to potential employers? We give you some top tips on how to write a CV.

Career Progression


You’ve been out of the workplace for a little while…okay, maybe a big while, but you’re keen to get back into the swim of things. How then to explain that “career gap”? Should you mention the children on your cv?

If you look at many men’s cvs they appear to chart an inexorable rise upwards, but women’s generally take all sort of circuitous routes. But the circuitous routes can provide career gold if you present them carefully.

What have you been doing during your “time out”? Make sure to describe in full the skills acquired doing any voluntary work, such as time spent on parent teacher associations.

You may have honed networking or fundraising skills. Perhaps you have taken a course, even if it is a correspondence course that you have only been able to do intermittently.

You may have had to submit work to deadlines, developed writing skills or learned how to negotiate the complex information systems that many colleges and universities now operate.

If you have been out of work a long time, it might be a good idea to write your cv in a way that emphasises your skills first rather than the chronological order of the jobs you have done.

Tailor to the job

Don’t have one cv that you send out to all jobs: adapt it to suit the job you have applied for and try to ensure everything is relevant to the job in question.

Most jobs applications these days require you to fill in their own application form in addition or instead of a cv. Read the job specification very carefully, including the person specification.

Ensure you have all or most of the skills specified. Many person specification skills are fairly general such as ability to organise your time [as a mother, you are probably a dab hand at this one, but you need to spell it out and give examples that correspond to a professional setting].

It is important in an application form to go through all the essential skills listed in the job specification and give examples of how you have shown them in a work or voluntary work context.

Additional skills

Make sure to make the most of what you have done. You need to brainstorm and come up with the kind of skills you may have acquired or polished during your time out of the jobs market.

To you it may not seem that you did much when you helped put on the school’s Christmas fayre, but it probably involved a lot of talking to people [communication skills], fundraising, keeping to budget, scheduling, negotiation skills [getting people to donate Christmas puddings], even advertising.

All these are valuable skills in today’s marketplace. And on top of that you have all your previous experience from before you went on maternity leave.

If you have, for instance, worked on a charity event, you could write: ‘Successfully project managed a major fund-raising event, resulting in acquiring over £3,000 for a local charity’ or something similar.

By spending a bit of time brainstorming and listing the skills and achievements you’ve identified, you’ll soon find skills that help fill the “maternity” gap.

Be clear

You might want to, but it is probably not a good idea to make a big feature of your children on your cv. It may look too much like you are pushing being a mother as the most important thing about you [which it might be, but your potential employer will want to feel they are a priority during working hours].

Keep your list of achievements fairly brief. You don’t want your cv to go over two sides of A4. It should emphasise your achievements – for each skill, mention how you have used it successfully.

Keep your descriptions brief and clear. Make sure the cv is laid out carefully. Don’t oversell yourself, but equally don’t hide your light under a bushel. This is your chance to show what you can do.

  • Brainstorm what you’ve been doing during your time out
  • Emphasise new skills acquired
  • Be positive and relevant to the job
  • Have a simple and clear layout
  • Put yourself in the position of your potential employer

Now you’ve perfected your CV, why not improve your chances of getting head-hunted by the best flexible employers on by uploading a CV and completing a profile today.

It’s easy and you can even do it on your mobile! Create your profile here.

Comments [24]

  • Anonymous says:

    having a perfect, well-drafted resume is an important part of getting your dream job. There are various websites providing resume writing tips and it most of the times makes confusion for job seeker about which tips should be followed. So I think every job seeker should read some couple articles about resume tips. Please have a look at the link below, it is also a best source of useful resume writing guidelines,

  • Anonymous says:

    I've had two previous jobs for a short while each haven't worked since. Have no real qualifications due to family moving around so much around them vital years of education and have spent the past 7-8 years raising my children. I have written so many CVs in the past and not had any luck. How would I make my work history and the rest of my cv more inviting for employers? I've tried home study with no luck as so expensive. And resorting to apprenticeships. But they all still require a CV and cover letter. I actually feel like a failure. I have so much to offer and willing to learn anything they throw at me.

    Editor: Can you write via our Advice & Support/Q & A page box with more details eg about what you did beforehand and whether you have been involved in, eg, any voluntary work like parent teacher associations, etc, and I can get our careers adviser to respond to you directly.

  • Anonymous says:

    How do I say I have had ten years off having children? Do I say It was so long as I had 4? My husband is now available to care for them should I relax employers by saying on the CV that they are now taken care of and I'm free full time and wont be rushing home very two minutes?… having a degree, a good career before children, sent out 30 applications and heard nothing but rejections I feel very frustrated and anxious that being a stay at home mum to four has bit ruined my chances of a career again.

    Editor: Rather than a chronological cv which highlights gaps, you could do one focused on your skills. It would be useful to know a bit more about what you did before you had children as each industry is different.

  • Anonymous says:

    Very helpful site indeed

  • Anonymous says:

    Could you please show me how to write a personal profile on myself?

    Editor: I am afraid we cannot provide individual help on writing a cv. You would need to seek professional advice eg from CV and Interview Advisers

  • Anonymous says:

    I am very worried, I am a single mum trying to find work after being out of the market for some time with ill health. I am now recovered but recruitment agencies won’t give me a chance. What to do?

    Editor: Please use the Advice and Support Q & A page box to write in to our careers expert outlining your most recent work experience and what kind of work you are looking for.

  • Anonymous says:

    Great article.! I was made redundant recently from Business Link and I too faced the ordeal of sorting out my CV. Oh how I enjoyed writing the detail; I had NO idea at all that I would gain so much from the experience. Now I’m no longer searching for a job – I run my own CV and cover letter writing service designed to help those, like Karen Vogels, above, who often don’t know where to start with their CVs. I still can’t believe how many people beat a path to my door every week for CV help.

  • Anonymous says:

    I am having a lot of problems at the moment – my feeling is they think I am overqualified or as one employer put it down as maybe a little too old. Should I be scaling down my cv as to what I am applying for?

    Editor’s note: Please send a question about this with more information on your career background via our Advice & Support Q & A page box and our careers expert will respond.

  • Karen Vogels says:

    Don’t know where to begin with my CV. I don’t want to appear too over confident and as it has been a few years since I was at school I cannot remember what grades I got! I am currently working part time but not happy in my current job so I need to act fast! Any suggestions?

  • Anonymous says:

    So how would you recommend putting this on a cv?? 2006-2011 Full time Mother? I was thinking maybe on a cover letter, but would this not be a good idea?

  • Anonymous says:

    A useful post, thank you! It made me reflect upon the evident gap in my CV, (my career previously having been strong and attractive to potential employers) and how to improve on that in my CV presentation. I realised I actually had far more to add inclusive of fund-raising, design work for charities, etc. It may also be worth mentioning that as I could not afford the high costs of certain advanced courses to keep my skill-set up to date, I endeavoured to continue to learn via online publications, tutorials, etc. This ‘self-taught’ learning has been invaluable for future prospects and I hope it will also show potential employers that I am able to use my initiative, time-manage and remain closely informed of changes in technology in my particular industry whilst bringing up my daughter solo.

  • LINDA GOWER says:

    Before I started my current home business, I had a job, however I wasn’t happy with the increased targets and lack of consideration and recognition from my previous employer so I started to look for another job. I found that when I applied for other jobs, because I couldn’t remember the dates from and to of my previous jobs, the employers were not interested in my skills, hence the reason why I started my own business. Now, when applicants apply to my adverts for home based consultants/distributors, I’m not interested in their previous skills or jobs. I’m interested in helping them get back into work which gives them confidence and along they way they are contributing to the household income. They’re happy, I’m happy.
    Linda Gower

  • Anonymous says:

    I don’t believe mums under value their skills at all, I believe employers do. In most cases employers do not look beyond the surface of a ‘great’ CV and nor do the recruitment agencies. The transferability of skills and the work ethic of mums is incredibly valuable and it is the mindset of the employer that needs change and not the mums.

  • Anonymous says:

    Without her help I wouldn’t be at the stage I am now.

  • Anonymous says:

    Without her help I wouldn’t be at the stage I am now.

  • Anonymous says:

    Without her help I wouldn’t be at the stage I am now.

  • Anonymous says:

    Without her help I wouldn’t be at the stage I am now.

  • Anonymous says:

    Now we know who the sensible one is here. Great post!

  • Anonymous says:

    I can’t believe these big global companies cannot provide their employees with childcare vouchers! You would think they would encourage their staff to return to work by providing these. I am struggling to get back to work….with full-time childcare costing over £800 per month and most full-time salaries making it totally unrealistic to be able to even afford to return to work, let alone make it worthwhile financially!! 🙁

  • Anonymous says:

    Large global companies such as the one I work for used to be very flexible, but in the last year, with changes in senior management and leadership squabbling & jostling for position/rank, came an intolerance to my flexible working with the words "we don’t want to be held accountable for child abuse if you can’t work and look after your kids" and "how do we know you are dedicating all of your time to the company". Well – that was trust straight out the window and I stopped working over and above the call of duty and my contracted hours. In fact, it was made so unhappy, miserable and completely untenable for me to stay that I have now found another job, paying more, with the flexibility I require. Shame on them!

  • Lee Templeman says:

    Taking a break from a career to raise children is nothing to be ashamed of, but don’t emphasise it on your CV. However, that doesn’t mean ignoring the skills and attributes learnt from being a mum eg time management, prioritising tasks. The key to a good CV is getting a good strong profile as this is the secttion of your CV which will catch the eye of the reader and make them want to read on. Also remember there are no rules saying a CV should be written in a particular way, it’s your CV so put it in a way that best sells you.

  • Lucy Munro says:

    Mums out there totally under value their transferable skills ie time keeping means getting you kids to school and appointments on time. Be proud, mums, of what you have learned while taking care of your babies.

  • Majella Wilkins says:

    The world of work is changing and flexible working is a much bigger topic than it ever was with an increasing number of businesses offering flexible or job sharing style roles. However, the old job hunting rules still apply – you need to be thorough in your searching, signing up to jobs boards such as WorkingMums as well as using your network of contacts for searching out the unadvertised job opportunities. Majella Wilkins

  • Majella Wilkins says:

    Katie Slater’s comments are spot on – when assessing your career break make sure you also consider unpaid voluntary projects, such as fundraising or charity projects. In my work I consistently see mums who completely undervalue the experience and skills they’ve gained during their career break. Your CV is about demonstrating your versatility as well as experience – make it interesting.

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