If you’re applying for a job, chances are, there’ll be hundreds of other people applying too. If you want to make your application stand out, the best way is to include a well-written and exciting CV. There isn’t just one way of writing a CV, and depending on the industry and role you’re applying for, your CV may look different. For example, a CV applying for a graduate position at a law firm will probably be much more extensive than one for a part-time summer job at a cafe; though will more or less contain the same type of information.
The important thing is for a CV to be well-written and easy to read, so potential employers can scan it quickly.
It should also be easy to identify your key skills, qualifications and experience, and be relevant to the role you’re applying for. A CV should be tailor-made for the individual industry you’re applying to, and there’s no harm in tailoring it even further for the specific job.
Before you start…
Find out the key skills for the job you’re applying for – these will usually be included in the job advert
List your own skills, and make sure you have the skills required for the job, or are willing to learn them
Write down why you want this job in ten words
What information should be included?
The best CVs aren’t necessarily the longest. Employers might only have a few seconds to scan your CV before making a decision, and long or difficult to read CVs might automatically go into the ‘No’ pile!
Keep your CV short and to-the-point, and make sure its relevant to the role you’re applying for. You can use the following as a guide for layout:
Personal Details: Your name, address, and contact details (usually telephone number, mobile number and email) should be at the top.
As a side note, make sure your email address is professional e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org rather than something silly or offensive! You can always make a second email account just for job applications if you need to.
Personal Statement: A personal statement will tell the employer why you’re suitable for the job. It’s your chance to sell yourself! Keep it short and to-the-point, and be enthusiastic! Explain why you want the job, and why you’d be suitable, plus a little blurb about yourself and your personal qualities. However, be honest, as employers will soon find out if you aren’t as “bubbly” and “outgoing” as you said you were!
Work Experience: This is the part where you show any work experience you’ve already got, be it full-time, part-time or voluntary. Include:
your job title
the name of the company
time in the post,
responsibilities or duties within your role
any skills learned or developed in that job,
the results of any projects you worked on there, if there are any
Most recruiters hate to see gaps in employment, so you can include work experience that isn’t directly related to your field. Make it more relevant by including
transferable skills (skills that are useful in any position, such as time-management and admin skills),
the parts of the job relating to people (such as customer service or teamwork)
any major responsibilities (e.g. supervisory roles or working independently)
Education: This should be a list of qualifications, achievements and training positions you’ve gained. Start with the most recent or advanced (e.g. the highest level of education) and work backwards. Include any relevant modules to the job you’re applying for, any projects which relate directly to the job, and results for at least the most recent and relevant qualifications.
Hobbies and Interests: Include interests which:
show you have relevant skills for the job (e.g. working at a horse riding centre is relevant if you’re applying to work with animals)
show you can work in a team or as a leader (e.g. football or other sports),
show you can adapt to change and learn quickly (e.g. travel or learning a new language).
show any other employability skills (e.g. organising, planning and making decisions), especially those you’ve outlined in your work experience section
An interesting hobby which makes you stand out is also good but be honest and try to show your enthusiasm! For example, “socialising with friends” is quite simple, so expand it by explaining what you do e.g. go to gigs or the cinema.
Any Extra Information: If you’re changing careers, or there are gaps in your work history, include an explanation here. Anything else which could relate to your job application should be included, too.
Many employers won’t require references at this stage, so don’t include them unless you’re asked to. Writing ‘references available on request’ suggests you’re willing provide references but will save you space.
If you do require references, usually two referees are enough: one academic (perhaps your teacher or a college tutor) and one from an employer (perhaps your last job or a work experience placement). Again, the employer will confirm how many and which type of references are required.
How to present your CV
Although the content of your CV is the most important part, the presentation is the first thing an employer will see – and if a CV is not well-presented, some employers won’t even read it. See our top tips to avoid having your CV chucked in the nearest bin!
Use plain, white A4 paper
Use a clear, professional font to make sure your CV can be easily read. If in doubt, use black – it’s cheaper to print, too! – and Arial is a good default font to use.
Your CV should be short and neat enough to read quickly and ideally no more than two sides of A4 long
Lay your sections out in a logical order, well-spaced and with clear headings (e.g. Work Experience, Education, Interests)
Use bullet points to avoid long paragraphs of text
Check, and double check your CV for spelling and grammar mistakes – you can ask a friend to proof read it if you’re in any doubt
Don’t include a photo or references unless you’re asked to.
Now your layout and presentation are sorted, double check your content. Make sure you:
Show an understanding of the job, key skills, and responsibilities.
Include relevant qualifications, experience, skills and personal qualities for the role
Tailor-make the CV to the specific job you’re applying for
Be original, and not just copied words from the advert.
Include contact details – and an appropriate email address
Be honest about your skills, qualities and experience, and accurate about what you’ve written – check your contact details are correct.