How to Write a CV
Daunted about writing a CV? Never fear, All About Careers is here. We present our guide to writing a world-beating CV. You should have a basic CV template, but you should alter the content of your CV for every job you apply for.
That means picking out the skills, abilities, qualifications and experience that you think will most interest them and are most relevant to the role you are applying for. It certainly isn’t a case of one size fits all. It’s all about showing them why you would make a valuable addition to their team.
Always, always think about who is going to be reading your CV. They probably will have read stacks of CVs and will only give your CV a quick once over. So make it easy for them. Break up your CV using clear headings and formatting so they can easily find what they’re looking for. You might need to optimise your CV with some CV buzzwords if you're sending it to large companies, recruitment agencies or job boards. For more information on this read our CV buzzwords article.
No one likes to see flabby bits on a CV. It should be as trim and fit as an Olympic athlete. Make sure your CV is a maximum of two pages and get to the point. Almost every word should be relevant to the role you are applying for. That means going back over your CV with a harsh editing eye and striking out anything superfluous. If you're unsure about how long your CV should be, then read this.
So how should you structure your CV? Really, it depends on the skills you have and your work experience. Fresh out of uni, you might want to use a more traditional chronological CV and put your education first. If you have gained lots of work experience, you might want to create a ‘skills-based CV’, where the order and emphasis depends on what you are applying for and what you have to offer.
On the top of the CV should be your full name, address, telephone number and email. Use a professional sounding email address, e.g. email@example.com, not firstname.lastname@example.org.
You don’t have to include a personal profile, only do so if you have something interesting to say. You might even talk about your career aims here, i.e. where you want to go or what you want to be. Keep it short. Please no generic: “I have great communication skills”, say something unique about yourself that is relevant to the job you are applying for (and not that you can touch your nose with your tongue).
Education & Qualifications…
If you’re still at university or you’re a recent graduate, education will usually come next. You should list your degree subject and university, A-levels, GCSES or equivalent in chronological order with your most recent qualification first. Mention your grades (unless there are some shockers).
How much education you include depends on how much is relevant, i.e. does the job require you to demonstrate certain technical or academic knowledge? Otherwise, steer clear of overkill and be very brief with your GCSE results.
Here you should mention all your work experience and internships. Don’t dismiss jobs such as bar work. They show work experience. Keep them in, unless you did them absolutely ages ago and they are completely irrelevant.
Pick out the skills you learned on the job or during the internship which are relevant to the position you are applying for and always give evidence: e.g. “I was in charge of marketing for the graduate ball. I designed a successful social media-focused campaign, selling 25% more tickets than the previous year.” If you can’t make it relevant, leave it out. You might want to think about using CV buzz words to make a real impact.
Interests & Achievements…
Next you might want to list some of your other interests and achievements; although you can choose to omit this section altogether if you don’t think it adds anything to your application. Again, keep it brief. Pick out interests that make you sound interesting and someone they would like to work with.
Use this section to demonstrate attractive qualities that are relevant to the role (such as keen interest in a variety of things or team leadership). Your achievements shouldn’t be too long either. Don’t dwell on anything pre-sixth form unless it was utterly amazing (e.g. you can put Winner of Young Musician of the Year, not “I won the ‘Smiliest Person’ award in year seven”).
Here you should mention any language skills and computing skills. Tell them if you’re fluent in any languages. If you aren’t, but you can hold a conversation in a foreign language, then say that you’re an intermediate or conversational speaker.
This is also the place to discuss your general and specialist computing skills. Do you have a good working knowledge of Microsoft Office (e.g. Word, Excel or PowerPoint), Adobe Dreamweaver or Photoshop? What is your typing speed? Can you use both PCs and Macs? Whatever you can do, put it down!
For some jobs, they might ask you to include the contact details of your references in your initial application, so, in that case, it’s a good idea to put down the contact details of your references. Otherwise, it’s generally best to say something like: “Excellent references available on request.” It looks tidy, saves space and gives you time to think about what references you want to use for this particular job.
What references should you provide? You’ll probably only need to provide three references, so try and make them relevant for the job you are applying for. Your references should be from previous employers and preferably from someone high up in the company. You can also provide references from people you worked for during internships and work experience placements.
Furthermore, you can always ask for a reference from a teacher, tutor or professor from the last academic institution you attended, particularly if your work experience is thin on the ground. Always contact your referees first to make sure they are happy to give a reference and have their contact details shared.
Don’t just think about what you put in it, but how it looks…
When it comes to picking a font, don’t go smaller than point size 11 in a bid to squeeze everything onto two pages. Don’t go wacky, but maybe try something other than Arial and Times Roman. Since so many CVs are sent via email or online applications, you might want to use a font designed to be read on screen such as Verdana or Helvetica. Never, ever use Comic Sans!
Use bold, italics and bullet points to help make it more readable, but don’t go overboard. Clear and simple is the way forward.
You might want to think about converting your CV into a PDF document if you are emailing it. Word documents sometimes become garbled from one computer to the next and all that careful formatting will be lost. PDFs ensure what you are sending is what they will see. If you don’t want to convert your CV into a PDF, then use very standard margins and fonts.
Finally (turning on the loudspeaker)…
Please, please, please scour every inch of your CV for mistakes. We mean spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and wrong contact details etc. Get someone else to check it through as well. There is nothing, and we mean nothing, worse than a CV riddled with spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
For more advice on how to structure a CV and sample templates, visit CareerAddict.com.