How to write a great CV

When writing your CV, consider these pointers to help your CV sell you as effectively as possible.

Structure

There is no right or wrong structure to a CV, but the very basic things to include are the following: - Personal and contact information - Relevant Skills - Work Experience / History - Education and qualifications - Achievements - References - Interests

Personal and contact information - Basic contact details (See the ‘Details to include’ section below) along with a small profile. This profile should be three or four sentences summarising your skills and the benefits of employing you. To help with writing this, see the ‘Aims’ section below.

Relevant Skills - Here you can list the skills you have, ensuring they are relevant to the role. Avoid using skills graphs, they have no tangible scale for the reader. It’s highly recommended to use bullets for your skills, which make it a lot easier to skim. Keep in mind that this list will stand out on your CV, but will take up a lot of space. Therefore use this to highlight the most relevant skills for the role you are applying for.

Work Experience / History - Start with your latest role and go backwards. Provide the company, your title and the dates you worked there (year and month will be fine), along with a description of your role.

List achievements, not just your job duties. Make sure it doesn’t read like a job description and instead proves your impact in the role.

Shorten older roles and provide more detail on your current roles. Also take the opportunity to explain gaps in your CV. With your oldest roles that maybe aren’t relevant to the job your applying for, consider leaving out the description and just providing the company, title and dates.

Education and qualifications - This section can depend on your work experience. Ensure your including any relevant courses and the school you attended. You can keep this section relatively small, with just a line per course/location. Include the year you attained the qualification / result. If you do not have relevant work experience, then in this section go into more detail, for example outline the units you did at university or detail on the subject results you got at school.

Achievements - Use this section as an opportunity to explain some of your achievements. While stronger examples would be those you’ve done during your work career, there’s no reason to leave out the achievements you’ve made outside of work, especially if they help convince the employer of what you can provide.

References - It is more common now to simply use ‘References available on request’. However if you are going to provide references then use someone who has employed you in the past and can vouch for you. If you have not got previous work experience or someone suitable, then use a teacher or tutor from your past. Ensure you ask the person’s permission before including them.

Interests - This section is optional. If you are going to include it, make sure your including hobbies that are relevant to the role you are applying for. Avoid generic interests like watching TV or seeing friends. Try to include interests that show you with positions of responsibility.

Length

The perfect CV should come in at two sides of A4 paper. If you just starting out, then a one page CV is absolutely fine. Definitely no more than three pages. Try to make sure your filling all of the pages you use. If your struggling with the length of your CV, consider using spacing and font size. For example making the older jobs on your CV slightly smaller. This can also help bring attention to the key parts of your CV, while ensuring it fills the pages in use.

Format

A simple format, by this we mean an easy to read font and layout. Keep the format consistent across your CV. Don’t include any photos or company logos. Be careful of your page transition, try to make sure your page doesn’t end in the middle of job description for example. This can be difficult to achieve, but ultimately your just looking for the page change not to break up the flow of your CV. Divide the sections of your CV clearly with titles. More daring visuals are better suited to applications for creative jobs.

Details to include

Your name at the top, don’t forget this. Ensure your providing an up to date email address and phone number at the top of your CV. These are very important. Use a more professional email address, by this we mean using your name. Do not include your age, marital status or nationality on your CV anywhere. Also do not put anything about your salary requirements on your CV. Consider including the job title you would like at the top of your CV, this can be dependant on your industry however.

Aims

It can be difficult to think about what your trying to do with your CV. You are aiming to persuade someone that your suitable for a role and consider you for interview. This can be rather difficult at times, as you need to put modesty aside and show self confidence. Here are some things to think about when considering your application for a role.

Commercial successes, problem resolution or management achievements.

Relevant skills, accomplishments and achievements

Your work and educational experience in the field

Personal qualities - Think about the qualities you have that will help you succeed in this role.

Your effect on your employer or customers - Time saved, costs saved, revenue generated.

Awards and recognition - Awards and recognition you have received that demonstrate the skills you provide.

Work produced - The work you have produced that adds value to the industry your applying within.

Value - Ultimately think about the value that you provide to a company.

Impact - Just like value, think about the impact that you can have in a role. Recruiters and business owners like numbers, so anywhere you can provide details of your impact in a role with numbers is going to be very valuable in your application.

The above are some things to consider thinking about and including when creating your application for a job role. You most likely ca not fulfill every idea above, however just a handful of answers and ideas should help in motivating you through your application and ultimately become better at self promotion.

Language

Here are some key points to consider when writing your CV.

Use assertive and positive language - This helps demonstrate your self confidence.

Break up large chunks of text - Aim for short and crisp sentences that are easy to digest. You can leave out words such as ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’.

Show impact in responsibilities - Providing the responsibility you have along with the results you have from this help show the impact you can have.

Avoid first person language - The pronoun ‘I’ doesn’t really belong in a CV, because your always going to be talking about yourself.

Avoid Typos - This is quite obvious, but make certain you have no mistakes by rereading it multiple times. It’s also worth asking somebody else to look through your CV, as even if you believe you have strong english skills, mistakes can still be made.

There is a lot to think about when considering the language you use in a job application, this applies with your CV and your covering letter. Take a look at our Language tips for more help.

Other Tips

Tailor to the role - Although it can be a pain, ensure you keep your CV up to date and alter it for every role you apply for. You can keep this simple by creating one CV with all of your skills and experience, then edit a copy of this CV every time you apply for a job.

Keep it up to date - Always ensure your CV is kept up to date before using it for a job application. Of course this won’t be an issue if you are tailoring each CV to the application.

Relevance - Ensure everything your including is relevant in providing an overview of what you can provide in the role you are applying for. Don’t include things just to fill out your CV. Are you able to talk about everything on your CV if asked?

Clear, precise and easy to read - Ensure everything is simple to read, try to avoid long sentences. Read through your CV multiple times to ensure its getting the message across.

Always be truthful - a white lie may get you through the interview however you will get caught on the job.

Professional file name - Avoid unknown file formats and use either your name or the job title in the file name.

Take a look at our other details for more help on your job applications.