how to write a great CV.

How do you write a successful CV which captures the attention of the recruiter? Your CV is your passport to your interview. Its sole objective is to sell you and your skills to a prospective employer enough so that they want to meet you in person.

It is not an autobiography. Stick to clear and concise information about what you have achieved and you'll be on your way to writing a great CV. Employers have to make decisions on whether to invite candidates for interview on what they see.

You will also be judged on the presentation of your CV as well the content.

How to write a CV - the basics.

  • word process your CV. If you print a copy, use good quality paper. Try and stick to one type font throughout the CV and also use the same font in your covering letter.
  • no more than two pages – employers look for enough information to invite you to interview. If you cannot convey relevant information in two pages, they probably won’t take the time to read any further
  • no need to write ‘Curriculum Vitae’ at the top – it will be perfectly obvious what it is.

CV tips: what to include at the top.

  • name
  • address
  • contact telephone numbers (inc. Mobile Numbers)
  • email addresses
  • nationality / UK visa status

You cannot be contacted if there are no contact details on your CV! Simple we know, but you would be amazed at how many people miss this! 

Personal statement.

To start the CV with a short statement about yourself, this gives you the opportunity to sell yourself and highlight why you are the most suitable candidate for the vacancy.

We would recommend you tailor these for each position you are applying for so they can be most relevant to the role. Tailored industry specific CV writing advice can be found following this link.

Employment history.

If you are a graduate or have limited work experience we would recommend you set your CV out with your Education first, highlighting any relevant experience you have gained.

  • set out your employment history in chronological order with the most recent first
  • focus on displaying your career progression through promotion or more challenging work
  • include dates of employment (months and years)
  • include the company’s name and address
  • include your job title. There should always be an accompanying paragraph with a brief description of the role, responsibilities and duties. In particular, highlighting:
  • projects worked on – try and quantify projects by size or cost, it gives the prospective employer an indication of the projects you worked on.
  • skills you developed in your role – always highlight any managerial experience.
  • key achievements – e.g. Projects that you worked on completing ahead of schedule, on budget
  • if you have worked on a contract basis, ensure that this is clearly stated next to the Dates of Employment.

10+ years employment history.

After a long employment history, education qualifications become less important as you have achieved your employment status through experience and hard work. Therefore, include academic and professional qualifications after your employment history.

Focus on the last five years of employment and what you have achieved. If you have management experience, focus on what or who you have managed and any strategies you have implemented.

If you have a long and varied career with many positions, highlight the last key positions and then list all other positions – no need any major detail about your early career.

Education history.

Detail your education and qualifications in a clear format, emphasising your highest qualification.Always include:

  • qualification gained
  • dates of study (only need to state the year)
  • university / college name
  • highlight good grades

You may also want to bullet point any particular areas or modules you studied during the course which will help communicate your areas of knowledge and skills to a prospective employer (especially if you have limited work experience). Always detail your education in chronological order.

References. 

Only list referees and their contact details if they have agreed to provide references for you. If you do not wish prospective employers to contact referees without your permission, state it clearly at the bottom of the CV.

Hobbies and interests.

Whilst outside work interests sometimes gives an employer a better insight into the applicant, an employer will not offer you an interview simply because you both happen to support the same football team!

Only list hobbies / interests if you have enough space, if you do include hobbies or interests, keep them simple and remember, whilst you may find making rabbit hutches out of papier-mâché interesting, others may not share your enthusiasm.

Photographs.

With the increase in digital technology, more and more people are using photographs to accompany their CV’s.

Whilst it is sometimes nice to see what potential employees may look like, you as a candidate never know who will be reading and making a decision on your CV.

You want them to invite you for interview based on your skills and experience, you do not want to be discounted for the position simply because the employer doesn’t like the look of you. Keep the CV simple and ditch the photograph.

Cover letter tips.

A covering letter (or covering email if you are sending your CV by electronic format) introduces you and most importantly states which position you are applying for, quoting a reference number if applicable.

Remember that many employers are recruiting for numerous positions at any one time so you need to make sure that your CV is looked at for the correct position.

Your covering letter needs to be brief. Simply state:

  • what position you are applying for or if it is a speculative approach
  • where you saw the position advertised
  • what you current position is – employers name / job title or recently graduated
  • briefly why you are the candidate for the vacancy
  • include any notice period if you are currently employed
  • include what your availability for interviews would be
  • always put your contact details on the covering letter in case it gets detached from the CV

Finally, before sending your CV cover letter check them for spelling and grammar – don’t rely on the computer spell-check! Make sure your contact details are clear and accurate. 

Once you have sent your CV, contact the prospective employer in a couple of days to check that they have received your CV.

  • ask when they will be making a decision to invite candidates for interview
  • thank them for their time and wait to see the response – no amount of badgering an employer will make them give you an interview

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