How to Write a CV – Career Advice & Expert Guidance
We know that writing a CV might seem like a daunting task, however, all you really need to do is provide a polished, professional description of your work experience, education and skills. This alone will give you an edge over the dozens of other qualified applicants and get your foot through the company door.
To ensure your CV makes the cut, we’ll go through the entire process of how to write a CV, step-by-step, so that you don’t miss out on any of the more crucial elements.
Download one of our free CV templates here.
How should I structure my CV?
How can I build my CV?
CV layout and presentation tips
CV writing tips
What information should I include on my CV?
Who will look at my CV?
Do I need a CV?
Here is the basic outline for what to include in a CV:
- Personal Details: Although this might be obvious to many, a handful often forget to include their full name, email address, phone number and address on their CVs. Ensure that these are clearly presented at the top of your CV, so that prospective employers can contact you easily.
- Personal Statement: In short, this is your chance to shine and capture the reader’s attention from the get-go. You’ll be able to shout about your achievements and share your career aspirations. Always ensure that you tailor this to the job role that you’re applying for. For further information check out our How to Write a Personal Statement advice.
- Work Experience: When writing about your work history, be sure to only list experience that is relevant to the job at hand. Your CV should be carefully-curated, that way you’ll position yourself as the strongest candidate for the role. If you have limited experience, think about any transferable skills that you might have – be this previous projects or voluntary work…essentially anything that demonstrated your hard work, diligence and passion.
- Education: Previous education and educational institutions should be listed with dates and any achievements – grades achieved in examinations or qualifications.
- Skills & Qualifications: Once you have reviewed your employment history and education list any further qualifications you have achieved, along with the key skills you gained from both work experience and education. Ensure that you pick out the skills and qualifications that are relevant to the job role.
- Interests & Hobbies: Mentioning interests and hobbies on a CV isn’t a necessity, however, mentioning relevant interests can often give you a bump up from other applicants. Ensure that any interests or hobbies mentioned add value to your CV, don’t mention no matter what that you enjoy seeing friends, or shopping.
- References: We recommend that you don’t include names and contact details for references on a CV. Always seek permission from a reference before passing their details on to a recruiter or potential employer.
Your CV is one of the most important documents that you’ll produce throughout your career, if you’re looking for CV templates and examples to help you create a winning CV, check out our expert templates to guide you:
Generally speaking, Microsoft Word is the best platform for creating a CV. Typically a clean, minimalist, uncluttered CV template is the way to go.
There’s really no restriction on how you go about creating your CV though, so feel free to get creative (where appropriate)! For example, if you’re a graphic designer, you could use tools of the trade to create a CV that shows prospective employers you have the design chops they’re looking for.
For inspiration, look at some of our CV templates here.
Beware of bad formatting! As great a candidate as you might be, if the formatting of your CV is all wrong, you’ll most likely select yourself out of the job pool.
First and foremost, no one wants to be greeted by a wall of text. Try to be clear and concise in what you say – bullet points always help. Utilise headings and short paragraphs to make it easy for recruiters and employers to scan.
In a nutshell:
• Cover no more than two pages of A4
• Create your CV in Word
• Avoid borders, colours, images, novelty paper and cartoon fonts like Comic Sans. Arial, Verdana or Tahoma in font size 10 or 11 works best.
• Open with your best bits and list the most recent educational details and roles first, explaining any gaps.
• Display impeccable spelling and grammar. Don’t miss your big break because of a misspelt word. Check everything meticulously before you click ‘send’.
Read more on how to produce an interview winning CV.
- Keep it real – and keep it succinct. Your CV should fit onto 2 pages of A4.
- Tailor it to specific job roles. Do not use a “one size fits all” mentality, ensure that you tailor each CV to match the job specification.
- Avoid gaps. Employment gaps can raise suspicions, even if reasons are completely legitimate. So you’ve been out of work? Spin it positively to your advantage. Were you taking classes? Volunteering? Travelling?
- Make the most of your experience. Incorporating strong, positive language – “developed”, “organised” or “achieved” that connects your experience and skills to the job specification helps.
- Tell the truth. Embellishing may be tempting, but lying on your CV opens up a can of worms. Stick to the truth!
- Error! Error! Take time to proofread for spelling, grammar or formatting errors.
- Data & specifics. Potential employers like hard numbers, specify improvements in revenue with percentages, or overhead cut costs in pounds. Statistics can help you stand out from the crowd.
- Looks do count. Create an eye-appealing layout for your CV that is organised and neat, with easily digestible content.
- Cater to Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). These systems look for industry keywords and buzzwords, so research the words most commonly used in the job’s that you are applying for. These SEO friendly words help those ATS search engines pull your CV from the pile.
Your personal statement should include a brief overview of who you are, your strengths and any work experience and/or education you’ve undergone. It should also highlight skills that you have gained that are relevant to the application, such as time management, customer service, teamwork, computer skills etc.
Keep it short and snappy at 100- 150 words.
“Recent graduate with a degree in English from Bath University. Practical work experience writing on topics such as human interest, fashion, news and politics as Editor of Bath University student blog and magazine. Looking to start my career in Journalism in a role where I can build on the skilled gained in previous education and work experience.”
Choose relevant work experience that is pertinent to the sector or field you’re hoping to get into. If you have limited experience, think about transferable skills that you hold.
When reviewing the work you’ve undertaken, highlight your responsibilities, along with the skills and experience acquired. This will help to demonstrate how your experience has helped to develop your skills and mould you into the employee you are today.
Accounts Assistant, Goliath National Bank
(June 2011 – Sept 2011)
Three months in the Accounts department of a major high street bank.
• Reconciling invoices and receipts
• Assisting with monthly accounts reporting
• Processing staff expenses
Part-time Shop Assistant, Help the Needy Charity Shop
(June 2010 – Apr 2011)
• Gained experience in cashiering
• Responsible for the provision of in-store customer service
• Assisted with stock replenishment
When highlighting educational achievements, always start with the most recent – as seen in the example below – University followed by the sixth form.
BSc. Physics, Grade 2:2, Central Brookside University, Sept 2009 – July 2012.
A Levels: English (B), Geography (C), Media (B), General Studies (D), Hollyoaks Sixth Form College, Chester, Sept 2007 – July 2009.
Hobbies & Interests
Choose hobbies and interests to highlight that portray a range of transferable skills and that paint you in the best possible light.
Captain of school hockey team (shows leadership)
Voluntary/ Community work (shows you’re proactive)
Visiting Art Galleries & Museums (if relevant to the role)
This can vary from company to company, depending on how they recruit. Typically it would be the hiring manager and line manager, however, this could change.
If you’re going through a recruitment agency then there is a chance that your CV won’t even get as far as the company… candidates tend to be shortlisted for recruiter facing roles, only those deemed fit will make the cut.
YES. Without a CV, you literally have no way to show prospective employers how great you are, and why they should hire you.
So if you’re questioning whether or not writing a CV is worth the effort, we’re here to tell you: IT IS!