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What David Ogilvy Can Teach Us About CV Writing...

Suzie Finch

Considered as one of the best advertising copywriters that ever lived, David Ogilvy was famed throughout the 20th century for his clear and concise copy. In 1982 Ogilvy sent the following internal memo to all employees of his advertising agency, Ogilvy & Mather, titled…

“How to Write.”

The better you write, the higher you go in Ogilvy & Mather. People who think well, write well.

Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.

Good writing is not a natural gift. You have to learn to write well. Here are 10 hints:

1. Read the Roman-Raphaelson book on writing. Read it three times.

2. Write the way you talk. Naturally.

3. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.

4. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.

5. Never write more than two pages on any subject.

6. Check your quotations.

7. Never send a letter or a memo on the day you write it. Read it aloud the next morning—and then edit it.

8. If it is something important, get a colleague to improve it.

9. Before you send your letter or your memo, make sure it is crystal clear what you want the recipient to do.

10. If you want ACTION, don't write. Go and tell the guy what you want.


When writing a CV these points are all highly valid. You see the job market is a highly competitive place where employers are super busy and swamped in applications (trust me I've been there) - It's not uncommon (in-fact it's very common) for application rates to tip over into the hundreds so time poor recruiters will spend just a few seconds reviewing and processing your CV. Seriously, you have an extremely tight window to make an impression!

To make the ultimate impression, listen to David Ogilvy - he talks utter sense! Combine his tips for clear and concise copy with a highly creative CV template download and you're onto a winner!