Writing a CV

What is a CV?

A Curriculum Vitae (CV) is a one to two page document that summarises your education, skills and experience with a view to selling yourself to prospective employers. It is a marketing document to present you in the best possible way and should be regularly reviewed and updated. It is very important to target your CV to the role you are applying for and you need to think how your skills and experience can match the employer’s requirements.

What to include in a CV

Contact details: These should include full name, email address, landline, and mobile phone numbers. Your address and date of birth can also be included but are not essential.
Profile: A concise statement that lists your key attributes and reasons to work in a particular field. Articulate your career aims whilst focusing on the sector you are applying to and keep it relevant.
Education: List in reverse chronological order (most recent first) your educational and professional qualifications.
Work Experience: Again, list this section in reverse chronological order and emphasise any skills and experience that are relevant to the role you are applying for. It is important to include voluntary work as well as paid work as it shows motivation and commitment.
Skills & Achievements: List the most relevant ones first and never, ever exaggerate or lie as you may find yourself in an embarrassing situation in an interview.
Interests: Try to show a range of interests and think about the impression they will give to the person reading your CV. Too many solitary interests indicate a lack of social skills and “going to pubs and concerts” may suggest someone who puts their social life before their work commitments.
References: Names of references do not have to be given at this stage. There is no advantage in doing so and using the space to provide demonstrable evidence of achievements is more likely to convince an employer to interview you.

How to write a good CV

There is no single “correct” way to write and present a CV but the following general rules apply:
• Use active verbs wherever possible to show that you are a person with initiative and avoid stating you are a hardworking, etc. without giving examples of achievement. Good examples of dynamic verbs are: created, developed, achieved, negotiated, presented and assessed. Bad examples are over used clichés such as team player, self-starter, problem solver, multi-tasker. These give the impression of being unoriginal, especially if no examples are given.

• Target your CV to the role or employer for which you are applying. It is a good idea to have two or three customised CVs that refer to specific skills and experience relevant to the type of application you are making. Make sure you research the company and know about any recent developments, as well as company structure, purpose, etc.

• Make your CV look professional by using a sensible email address, proofread for spelling or grammar mistakes, use a classic font and use bullet points to highlight skills and achievements. Make sure each page is single sided and printed on good quality, white paper for maximum impact.

• Keep it logically ordered, using a clear and easy to read format. It should be informative but concise with no dense paragraphs. On average, an employer spends 30 seconds reading a CV so it needs to be easily scanned. Your covering letter and interview can provide more information in detail.

Further Reading

There are plenty of resources available but some of the most useful are:
Bolles, Richard N, and Christen, Carol (2015) What Color Is Your Parachute? For teens. Third edition. Berkley: Random House.


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