The Basics: CVs

What is a CV?

A curriculum vitae (CV) is a record of your experience, skills, achievements and education, and is an important document which is a crucial part of applying for a job. It’s not simply a list of everything you have ever done, but instead a way of “selling” your skills and experiences to an employer, in relation to a particular role.

CVs for most jobs in the UK should be two sides long, however there are two exceptions to this rule: if you are applying for a job in the financial sector, or for a position in the USA. Check the individual job application in these cases, but unless otherwise stated, your CV should be only one side long for these applications.

The golden rule for writing a CV is that it must be tailored to the role you are applying to, i.e. you write a new CV for each role and demonstrate how you match what an employer is looking for.

What should you include?

Personal details

  • 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 – space is valuable! On the next two lines include your telephone number and email You do not need to include your date of birth.
  • You do not need to write ‘CV’ or ‘Curriculum Vitae’ at the top, as it is clear what the document is.

Profile

  • You may wish to include a short profile (or personal statement). While this is not compulsory, it can make your CV stand out from the crowd by providing employers with a summary of your key skills. It’s also an opportunity to highlight any particularly relevant achievements or experiences you want to draw the recruiter’s attention to. Make sure that this is relevant to the role you are applying for.

Education

  • If you’re a recent graduate, 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 include your grades.
  • Employers are going to be most interested in your university education, so 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, instead provide a brief description as to what you studied/did.

Employment history

  • The next section should focus on your employment history, and again should be written 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 on the skills you gained and what you achieved during your time there, rather than list of your duties. Highlight key projects you worked on, and what you contributed to the organisation.
  • Read through the job description and think about how the skills you have gained through your own work experience relate to those needed in the job you’re applying for (and really highlight these). Always be specific – these are the criteria against which your CV will be assessed. If after a quick name-change you could send the exact same application to another organisation, then you are not being specific enough.

Skills & interests

The next section should focus on other skills or extra-curricular qualifications. This could include proficiency in foreign languages, playing a musical instrument, or sporting ability.

  • Hobbies and interests can demonstrate relevant skills, e.g. being part of a sports team enables you to talk about teamwork and determination. An interest in travel allows you to discuss communication skills and a desire to learn about other cultures. Remember though that you should still be thinking about how these relate to the job you’re applying for. Only include hobbies and extra-curricular activities you are currently involved in (or were until very recently) and ask yourself: does this activity demonstrate a skill listed in the job description?
  • You may also mention positions of responsibility in this section (e.g. society committee member, mentor, sports captain). Sometimes this is presented as a separate section, but it’s up to you.

References

Always ask your referees for permission before you list their details. For most roles, you require at least two references, and it’s common put ‘References available upon request’ rather than include details at this stage. This also saves you some space!

Final tips

  • Include sections with clear headings such as ‘Education’ and ‘Employment’. Keep the formatting consistent to make it easy for an employer to read.
  • Double check your spelling and grammar! Even one mistake could lead to you being rejected, so ask someone else to proof read your CV for you.
  • Never lie on your CV or job application or mention anything that you cannot explain in an interview.
  • You should always include a cover letter unless the employer states otherwise. It will enable you to personalise your application to the job. You can draw attention to a particular part of your CV, disclose a disability or clarify gaps in your work history.
  • Once you’ve created a first draft, contact Careers & Enterprise to make an appointmentmake an appointment where we can provide feedback.

Resources

Careers & Enterprise website: CVs

QM Jobs Blog: Applications & CVs section

 

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