Getting the tone right can transform your CV

One of the most important tips for writing a CV is to remember that old adage ‘It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it’. Just like body language and voice inflections reveal a deeper, unspoken meaning to a conversation, the tone of how you write your CV is what will really be noticed.


Body language like folded arms and raised eyebrows together with words spoken in a shy or angry high pitched rant can communicate entirely different messages. When we combine body language and intonation in a voice, we create quite different meanings for the same words or phrases. For instance, saying, ‘Get out of it’, with a serious face and clenched fist, could be interpreted to mean, ‘Go away now before I harm you!’

Say it with a disbelieving yet inquisitive face and it could mean ‘really, tell me more?’

It is not surprising that employers read a lot into the tone of a CV, which is seen as a reflection of your personality. You should use these unspoken nuances to your advantage. Frame your personal brand with particular words or phrases, sentence construction, presentation and formatting as a way to communicate your personal qualities.

The 4 Ps to create a pitch perfect tone for your horticultural CV


There should be nothing negative in a CV. It should exude optimism and confidence. Use positive action words. Never refer to anything negative or anything that may even raise an unnecessary question mark in the mind of the reader.


Demonstrate good use of English. Try not to use industry jargon or acronyms where possible. Make sure your CV looks professional with no errors and use consistent formatting throughout. Get someone else to proof read your CV. It is too easy to miss your own mistakes.


Write openly, and give a flavour of your personality. Don’t be fooled into being too corporate. Come across as naturally friendly, approachable and likeable. These traits are as important for a CEO as they are for a volunteer gardener.


Show intent. There should be a clear focus in everything. Each point should deliver a message. Each message should have impact. There should be a logical sequence in how points are presented. Keep a lively pace throughout. Managing the tone in your CV can make a significant difference to your success. When applicants all broadly possess similar technical skills, it will be the CVs that convey the right tone that will get chosen above the rest. Follow the four Ps above and you should be well on your way to getting a pitch perfect tone for your CV.

Neville Rose is the author of this article and is director of CV Writers.

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