How to write a CV
First impressions count, especially when applying for jobs. Find out how to write a CV and discover useful tips to help make your CV stand out from the crowd.
What is a CV?
A CV, which stands for curriculum vitae, is a document used when applying for jobs. It allows you to summarise your education, skills and experience enabling you to successfully sell your abilities to potential employers.
In the USA and Canada CVs are known as résumés. These documents tend to be more concise and follow no particular formatting rules.
How long should a CV be?
A standard CV in the UK should be no longer than two sides of A4. Take a look at our example of a chronological CV for inspiration.
To save space only include the main points of your education and experience. Stick to relevant information and don’t repeat what you’ve said in your cover letter.
As a recent graduate your CV may only take up one page and that’s ok. Some medical or academic CVs may be longer depending on your experience.
What to include in a CV
- Contact details – Include your full name, home address, mobile number and email address. Unless you’re applying for an acting or modelling job you don’t need to include your date of birth or a photograph.
- Profile – A CV profile is a concise statement that highlights your key attributes and helps you stand out from the crowd. Usually placed at the beginning of the CV it picks out a few relevant achievements and skills, while expressing your career aims. A good CV profile focuses on the sector you’re applying to, as your cover letter will be job-specific. Keep CV personal statements short and snappy – 100 words is the perfect length. Discover how to write a personal statement for your CV.
- Education – List and date all previous education, including professional qualifications. Place the most recent first. Include specific modules only where relevant.
- Work experience – List your work experience in reverse date order, making sure that anything you mention is relevant to the job you’re applying for. If you have plenty of relevant work experience, this section should come before education.
- Skills and achievements – This is where you talk about the foreign languages you speak and the IT packages you can competently use. The key skills that you list should be relevant to the job. Don’t exaggerate your abilities, as you’ll need to back up your claims at interview. If you’ve got lots of job-specific skills you should do a skills-based CV.
- Interests – ‘Socialising’, ‘going to the cinema’ and ‘reading’ aren’t going to catch a recruiters attention. However, relevant interests can provide a more complete picture of who you are, as well as giving you something to talk about at interview. Examples include writing your own blog if you want to be a journalist, or being part of a drama group if you’re looking to get into sales.
- References – You don’t need to provide the names of referees at this stage. You also don’t need to say ‘references available upon request’ as most employers would assume this to be the case.
For more help and advice on how to write a CV and to find CV templates, see example CVs.