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Writing a CV

A CV is a tool which you can use to market yourself to employers and demonstrate your professional competencies. There is no such thing as a perfect CV - there's a wide range of styles and customs which some people prefer over others often resulting in people offering conflicting advice when it comes to writing up your own.

It is important to remember that a CV is not an end in itself it is more often a way for you to advance to the next stage of the recruitment process, most often to an interview. A CV should also never be used instead of an application form if that is what a company has requested. If the company wants an application form that is what you need to give them.

The CV itself should provide the reader with information about your work history, your skills, your education and your outside interests.


Types of CV

There are many differing styles and formats of CV and it is important to choose the style which is best suited to your target employer and accentuates the areas you most want to highlight.

Chronological CV: This type of CV is probably the most common and is the style most people will be familiar with. A chronological CV should list your most recent work or education first and then work backwards documenting your career. Download a copy of an example Chronological CV

Skills Based CV: Skills based CVs concentrate on summing up your experiences into relevant skills sections. This can be useful if you have a lengthy career history or if you are changing direction with your career and need to highlight your skills rather than your experience. Download a copy of an example ?

Academic CV: Academic CVs are used to apply for academic positions, most often roles at universities, but can also be used for applications to postgraduate courses. Academic CVs highlight any research you might have conducted, your teaching experience and often contain a list of your published works.

Targeting Your CV

Effectively targeting your CV is one of the key ways you can make your CV stand out. Many people put together a CV and then send the same version out for every job they apply to. By specifically tailoring your CV you can ensure that it demonstrates you have the skills and competencies each employer wants.

Read all information available about the job to try and assess what qualities the employer is looking for.

If you are sending out a speculative CV to a company research the company and try to find out what qualities the company values in its employees.

Think about the qualities and skills which you have which apply specifically to this job or company and make sure they are displayed prominently on your CV.

Write your personal profile with this specific job or company in mind.

Try to use examples to back up what you are saying. Anyone can say they have good communication skills but when have you demonstrated them?

Things to Cover in Your CV

Contact Details: This often appears at the top of your CV and should include all of your contact details. Try to avoid using unprofessional sounding email addresses and make sure your answerphone messages are polite and professional.

Personal Profile: This section should provide the reader with a succinct idea of who you are and what you are looking for. Try to make this as specific as possible and try and avoid being to general.

Education and Qualifications: Your most recent and highest level qualifications should be given more space. If you are doing a degree or masters you do not need to list all of your GCSE grades for example, but should include relevant modules from your current course.

Employment History: Highlight your most relevant experience first and try and illustrate, not just what you have done in your previous positions but, what you have learned.

Interests and Hobbies: Again avoid being too generic and try and focus on things which cast you in a positive light. Activities which require some responsibility, for example, such as being a team captain at a sport, running a social club or being active on a student council.

Additional Skills: This section should focus on the skills which you have which others may not. Things like being able to speak additional languages and holding a driver's licence.


You will need at least two referees. You don't have to include all their details on your CV if you lack space or do not want to distribute their details to a wide number of people, but you should make clear you can provide them if required.

Top Tips

  • Don't forget to sell your strengths and never undervalue what you have to offer.
  • Always identify what the employer is looking for by using the role description and personal specification.
  • Tailor your CV and Covering Letters to each role and company.
  • Use a font size of 11 or 12 for your main text.
  • Use tables (with the borders made concealed) to line up columns of text.
  • Use bold to highlight section headings, but don’t overdo it or your CV will look busy and confused.
  • Keep your CV plain and simple as this tends to look more professional; avoid including borders or art work unless the position for which you are applying is in an area of design work.
  • Try to avoid repetition on your CV. If, inside of a year you have worked for three bars and two pubs, do they need an entry each? Short term jobs with similar skill sets can be grouped together to save space.
  • Don’t exceed two A4 pages as employers will rarely have time to do more than skim read your CV.
  • Your CV should present you in as positive a light as possible, but never include false information.
  • You can alter the lay out to give yourself more space. If there is a lot of white space on your CV and you still have relevant things to say can you rearrange the structure to make better use of that space?
  • First Person Or Third Person?
  • When writing a CV you need to make the decision whether to write it in the first person (I am a history graduate with……) or in the third person (A history graduate with……). A cursory Google search for advice on this topic will show that generally feelings are very mixed and vary according to individuals.
  • Recruitment consultants tend to favour third person CVs, but many others prefer first person. In the end this comes down to personal preference. Opt for which ever you think works better for you but, whichever you choose, make sure you remain in this style throughout your CV. Consistency in this is very important as using an inconsistent style suggests copying and pasting from different sources!