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Writing a CV

A CV, or Curriculum Vitae, is the standardised way to advertise yourself to prospective employers when job hunting, with your contact information, work & educational history, and a little about yourself all included. There are various ways to write out a CV between different countries and job type, this description will be focusing on the UK version of the CV.

The CV layout typically goes as follows:

  • Your name, and contact details, such as address, email and telephone; with your name being in larger font and making up the title of the document.
  • A brief personal statement, including your career aims, so that the prospective employer can get a feel for who you and set you apart from other candidates.
  • Your educational background; this should go in reverse order, with your most recent education at the top, as this is usually more relevant to the position you are applying for. Here you should include the dates attended, the institution you attended, qualifications & grades.
  • Your work history; again this should go from most recent at the top, to least recent at the bottom. Give the dates you worked, your position, the company name, and your duties here.
  • Interests/Skills (or both if you feel your interests relate to the job role).
  • References- it is best to state “references available on request” at the end of your CV as the employer will most likely not need them yet, so there is no need to give out others personal details just yet.

Some DO’s & DON’T’s of CV writing:

DO include any relevant experience that adds to your experience.

DO include your nationality with your contact details if you are non-British.

DO make any particular achievements stand out.

DO make the personal statement personalized, so that you stand out from the other applicants.

DO spell check, this is your first contact with prospective employers, spelling mistakes will not look good.

DO NOT put your date of birth or age on the CV; there are laws to stop age discrimination.

DO NOT go over two pages for a CV.

DO NOT include references unless they have previously given permission

DO NOT label/title your CV as “Curriculum Vitae”, it should hopefully be obvious to employers what the document is; similarly do not put unnecessary headings such as “address” above your address.

The CV is crucial to the employment process as it is the link between finding your ideal job and getting an interview. It can be hard to think of things to write if you are not used to writing in a professional manner, or have no experience in the area you are looking to apply for. Do not fill up your CV with any unnecessary experience; for example, if you are applying for an accountancy job it is not necessary to include the job you had as a waitress one summer (unless there were some transferable skills). The same goes for education; if you have recently graduated, briefly give some details of the modules you did that may have be relevant to the job role, and anything you were particularly proud of, such as a particular project. As the CV has to look professional, think of it as you would an assignment, and write in third person. Try to leave out words like “I”; although it must be personalized, do not make your CV into a life story, and remember it is to advertise your skills and experience to a prospective employer. Many people write out one default CV to send to the many different companies they may be applying to, however, it is better to go over your CV after you have found a job you would like to apply for and tailor it to that company. For example, if the prospective employer regards teamwork and cooperation as one of the key points in their organisation’s success, play-up any teamwork projects you have excelled at in university or past work experience.

Some people are unsure about the order in which the headings must go within their CV; they should be laid out as in the bullet-points shown earlier, however, work and educational history should be switched dependent on the experience you have. If you have very little experience in the job you are applying for (i.e. you are a recent university graduate), place your educational history before work experience, as the skills learnt whilst at university will probably be more relevant than the work experience you’ve gained. If you have a lot of work experience relevant to the job you are applying for, place the work history above education, as this will be noticed first and give you the best chance of being seen as suitable. It can also sometimes be difficult to fill in large gaps that you have between periods of work, so try to bridge these as much as possible, as it will be preferential to the employer to know what you have been doing when not working. As mentioned in the DO’s & DON’T’s section, try not to have more than two pages in your CV; two pages is the general rule-of-thumb with CV writing in the UK. It is best to avoid a large gap at the bottom of page, so if possible arrange your CV so that all information can fit onto one page, or try to spread it out to fit onto two pages.


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