While there are no hard and fast rules on how to structure a CV, there are common practices which, if you follow them, will make your CV easier and clearer for your prospective employer to read.
It’s worth mentioning that there are two main templates for CVs in the UK. There is the ‘classic’ chronological CV, which is by far the most common, but there is also the Skills based CV. Because Skills CVs tend to be used for positions in which the applicant already has significant professional experience, we’re going to focus here on the Chronological CV.
It’s also worth mentioning that CVs for most jobs in the UK should be two sides long. Some students have difficulty filling two sides with their experience, but it is usually possible to do this, even for people with limited work experience. Contact the Careers & Enterprise Centre to book an appointment with one of our Application Advisers if you’re struggling to fill two sides.
There are two exceptions to the two-side rule: the first is if you are applying for a job in the financial sector, and the second is if you are applying for a position in the US. Do check the individual job application in these cases, but unless otherwise stated, your CV should be only one side long for these applications.
Now for some general rules: your full name should come at the top of your CV, preferably in bold and in a larger font than the rest of your CV. Next comes your address, but try to fit this on one line if you can – the space in the top half of the first side of your CV is particularly precious; this is where employers will look first! On the next two lines come your telephone number and email address. Don’t waste space putting your date of birth or any other information (such as a photograph or the title ‘CV’) in this section.
Next comes the profile or personal statement or profile. While these are by no means mandatory, they are becoming increasingly common and, if done well, can make your CV stand out from the crowd by providing employers with a succinct summary of your key skills. It is also an opportunity to highlight any particularly relevant achievements or experiences you want to draw the recruiter’s attention to.
After the profile section, it’s most common to begin with your qualifications, usually under the heading ‘Education’. Start with your most recent qualification (this can include an ongoing qualification) and work backwards. By all means state which A levels (or equivalent) you studied, but there’s no need to list your GCSEs, as this takes up valuable space. Just put your grades. The employer is going to be most interested in your university education, and here it’s a good idea to go into more detail about modules or projects which are particularly relevant to the job you’re applying for. Be sure not to just list names of modules/projects, but also provide a brief description as to what you studied/did.
The next section is the ‘Employment’ section. Again, write in reverse chronological order. Include the job title, the organisation you worked for and the dates you worked there. Describe your main duties, but focus this more around the skills and competencies you gained through this position rather than a mere job description. And always think about how the skills you gained relate to those needed in the job you’re applying for. This is the main section where you can back up the claims you’ve made in your profile with hard evidence.
It’s at this point that CV guidelines become a bit hazy, and it’s really up to you how you want to finish your CV. You should be well onto your second side by now. Many people often title their next section ‘Achievements’ and list other relevant educational or extra-curricular activities (for instance, prizes or awards, positions of responsibility in school or college, such as captaining a sports team, being head girl, etc.) But this will vary from person to person.
The next section, or an alternative section, could focus on other skills or extra-curricular qualifications. This can include proficiency in foreign languages, playing a musical instrument, or sporting ability (as you can see, there’s some overlap with the ‘Achievements’ section here, and it’s up to you where you want to draw the line, or if you only want to include one of these sections). Remember though that you should still be thinking about how these relate to the job you’re applying for. Do they show evidence of teamwork or communication skills, for example?
Finally, many people end their CV by listing their referees (under the heading ‘Referees’), but this only needs to be done if you have at least two referees who are willing to support your applications. Don’t put people’s names down without asking them! You can also always put ‘References available upon request’. It certainly won’t harm your application in any way.
If you’re still unsure about any aspect of your CV, feel free to book an appointment with an Application Adviser by contacting the Careers & Enterprise Centre: http://www.careers.qmul.ac.uk/about/book/index.html