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Is Your CV Deadly Dull? Discover How Stephen King Can Help You Create a Winning CV

Stephen King used to impale rejection letters on a spike. Now, his 58th novel, Revival, is being promoted with an interactive cover. Follow his lead and you can create a killer CV.


They say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, but we all know we do. And nowhere is this more evident than the CV.

Recruiters are deluged by applications. Yours is just one of them. You need to make an impression. But present yourself poorly and you could find yourself at a job hunting dead end.

Of course, Stephen King is a world renowned storyteller, author of The Shining, Carrie and Misery, so we’re not suggesting you create a fictional CV. In fact, employment-related fraud, is taken very seriously – carrying a maximum 10 year jail sentence!

What we are saying is, make your CV a page turner.


Stephen King doesn’t plot his novels, he says stories are more like fossils, already formed, waiting to be brought to life with words.

Similarly, your CV requires structure and should include: a profile; your work history; educational background; skills; and outside interests.


Like a book’s back cover blurb a profile highlights the things you want the reader – aka your potential employer – to notice.

Stephen King says “the road to hell is paved with adjectives” and the same is true of profiles, which should be to the point and include:

● Your occupational background and experience

● Your sector experience

● Your specific skills, knowledge and achievements

● Your USPs

● Your next career goal


List positions held, along with places of work, most recent first. Emphasise projects over lists of duties (which should be kept to a maximum of 5) and explain in detail only posts relevant to the position you’re applying for.


Recent graduates should list degrees and their relevance to the role. While professionals and second jobbers should keep educational information to the bare bones.


List any other qualifications or achievements – emphasising employer-friendly abilities like IT and languages. Ideally soft skills – think time-management and team-work – should be included under work experience – see Show Not Tell, below.


Your hobbies and passions can give a recruiter a glimpse into your personality, so avoid the usual, ‘film lover’ or ‘foodie’ and be a little more specific – ‘film noir enthusiast’ or ‘fresh fish fanatic’ perhaps.

That should get them interested, but try not to be too controversial.


King is a big believer in ‘show not tell’ – a useful tip when it comes to CV writing.

An administrator role requires organisational, IT, stock ordering and communication skills. Ideally, all applicants have these abilities, so don’t just ‘tell’ your prospective employer you’ve ‘ordered stock’, show them.

Use clear and concise examples, backing them up with numbers where possible. Google’s Laszlo Bock sums this process up with a simple formula:

“Accomplished [X] as measured by [Y] by doing [Z]”

So, your stock ordering duties might be summed up like this:

“Saved the company 20% on their £1,000 pcm stationery bill, by re-negotiating deals with suppliers and refining orders to maximise cost effectiveness and efficiency.”

This illustrates your budgetary and organisational skills, as well as what the role entailed and the tangible value you brought to it, while revealing your proactive character.

Bock emphasises that while you might find it hard to measure your work in this way the specificity is attractive to recruiters:

“Served 85 customers per day with 100% accuracy” sounds good, even if the customers are people you rang up at a grocery store. It’s even more impressive if you can add, “…compared to an average of 70 customers at 90% accuracy for my peers.”



When the Brazilian publishers of The Shining – the inspiration for the infamous Jack Nicholson horror film – released their version, featuring a Princess Diana look-a-like and bubble-gum pink font, they got noticed, for all the wrong reasons.

Your CV is an opportunity to make your mark and showcase your talents – so get creative in a way appropriate to the role.

Remember your CV format will differ depending on whether you’re a first jobber, looking to take the next step in your career, or changing sectors altogether – for some more ideas on CV templates, take a look at Guardian Careers or download a basic Angel CV Tample to start.

While presenting your CV in a reader-friendly format is paramount, nowadays a clear black font on a crisp white background isn’t necessarily the best way to get noticed.

Stephen King’s novel Revival isn’t just hitting book shelves on the publication date. Publishers, Hodder & Stoughton have revealed the interactive cover bit by bit via Facebook, where each piece was uncovered as enough likes, comments and shares were generated.

While revealing your CV bit by bit probably isn’t advisable, demonstrating your talents in the way you present your CV can be.

Video platform, Vine, has been used by journalists to showcase perfect piece-to-camera personas; while smart infographics can effectively illustrate your CV ‘story’ – one marketing wannabe even turned his CV into a chocolate bar!

Take a peek at Shorlist’s lowdown on some highly creative CVs to get your inspirational juices flowing!