You may have heard this several times while job hunting, but your CV is the first impression an employer will have of you. It’s likely that there will be multiple people applying for the role. While it’s important to get the basics right and to include all the necessary information when you write a CV, it also needs to stand out enough that those reading it will remember you when selecting candidates for interview.
With our guidance, you will learn how to write a CV that grabs the attention of an interviewer and showcases why you would be the perfect fit for a company.
This article will cover:
What is a CV?
A CV is a short document that outlines your career, education and qualifications to date. A good CV is tailored to each vacancy that you apply for, including details of your experience and the skills you have developed that are relevant to the role.
How should I structure a CV?
Lead with your name
When you write a CV, it’s important to include your name in the title. Rather than having only “CV” or “Curriculum Vitae” as the heading, use your name as the heading, followed by “CV” or “Curriculum Vitae” instead.
Use paragraphs and subheadings
Break up your CV into clear paragraphs and introduce each section with subheadings, such as “Personal statement”, “Employment history” and “Education”. To make a distinction between subheadings and the rest of your text, format them differently by putting them in italics or bold, increasing the text size or using a different font. Maintain consistency throughout your CV by ensuring that all your subheadings match one another.
List information in reverse chronological order
Reverse chronological order is when you list your most recent work experience, education and qualifications first.
If you are currently employed, that should be the first role you include as part of your employment history, followed by the role you had before that, and so on. Do the same with your education, for example putting your degree first, then your A-Levels and secondary school qualifications.
Space things out and use bullet points
While it’s important to keep your CV as short as possible, it’s just as vital to use the space on the page to make sure it’s neat and easy to read. If you have a lot of information that you would like to include, it’s better to go onto an extra page rather than squash everything in, as a cramped document can be difficult to read.
Bullet points can help you to get a lot of information across in a short and concise manner. For example, you can take the description “Duties included greeting customers, waiting tables, serving customers at the bar, and handling cash and card payments”, and turn it into:
- Greeting customers
- Waiting tables
- Serving customers at the bar
- Handling cash and card payments
The above list enables a potential employer to quickly scan your work experience and easily pick out the skills you have that they are looking for. It also looks more engaging than a large paragraph of text.
What should my CV include?
When you write a CV, there are some basics that you need to include to have a chance of impressing the interviewer. These are:
1. Personal details
After your name, you’ll need to add a few personal details. Incorporate your email address and phone number so that an interviewer knows how to get in touch with you, as well as your current permanent address.
2. Personal statement
You should follow your personal details with a short statement that introduces who you are, the expertise you have, as well as your ambitions and goals.
It’s essential to tailor each CV to the job you are applying for, and a personal statement is a great way to do that. Take a look at the job description and note down the essential skills or responsibilities for the role. You can then mention a handful of them during your personal statement, so that the company has an understanding of what you would bring to the role.
Try to be as specific as you can when it comes to your CV’s personal statement and avoid generic phrases like “team player” or “positive attitude” that could be applied to any job. The company will be looking for someone who fits closely with the job description, so use your personal statement as a short and clear introduction to the expertise you have.
The education section of your CV should be concise and to the point. Take a look at our graduate CV guide for support on how to write this section of your CV.
5. Other qualifications and skills
Do you have any other qualifications that would be relevant to the role you are applying for? You can include them after your education, detailing the name of the qualification, the organisation that awarded you the qualification and the date it was obtained.
If the job description asks for any particular skills, ensure you add them and include the level that you are at. For example, Excel – Intermediate level. Additionally, detail any systems that you have used. For example, SAP, Sage Line 50a, etc.
6. Employment history
We would suggest putting your academic achievements above your work history. Although both are important, so if you feel the practical skills you have developed during your career are of more relevance to the role, then you can switch the order and list your employment history first.
You should add any internships or placements in this section, if relevant to the position you are applying for.
As mentioned before, list your employment history in reverse chronological order and use bullet points to get your responsibilities across quickly and clearly. Detail any achievements, for example “Employee of the month”, at the top of the list, before going on to describe your duties. Here’s an example:
Research Assistant | University of Edinburgh (June 2017 – present)
• Recruiting participants and conducting interviews
• Analysing and evaluating participant responses
• Working with confidential data
• Administrative duties, including note taking and booking meeting rooms
For a professional CV, the sentence “References available upon request” can be included at the end of the document. This will make space for other sections of your CV that the interviewer will be more interested in, such as your work history.
If you progress to the later stages of the application process, this is when the employer is likely to ask for your references – so make sure you know whose details you are going to submit.
When applying for a job through Unitemps, you will need to include two referees as part of the application process. For more guidance on who you should use as a reference, read our article on submitting a successful Unitemps application.
Any other useful tips
Focus on what’s relevant
When you write a CV, it’s tempting to include every role you’ve had.
If you are applying for a role in a certain sector and you have been working in that industry for several years, then you don’t need to list previous unrelated jobs. For example, unless you are explaining a gap in your CV, there is no need to mention that you once worked as a waiter if you are applying for a job in IT and you have been an IT professional for 10 years.
However, if you are applying for a graduate job or internship, you may not have experience in a specific industry or role. This shouldn’t discourage you from applying, as every job enables you to pick up transferable skills that companies will be on the lookout for.
Focus on the skills you developed in previous roles that will be useful in the job you are applying for. If you are applying for a graduate job in IT and you have experience as a waiter, then discuss skills such as time management, being a clear communicator, working in a fast-paced environment and understanding how to deal with questions or complaints in a professional manner.
Unless you are handing in a printed CV, your CV will probably be looked at on a computer. Take advantage of this when you write a CV by including links to webpages that will further highlight how you would be an asset to the team.
For example, if you are applying for a job in graphic design, you can incorporate a link to your online portfolio. Do you have a LinkedIn profile? Make sure it’s up to date and then include a link to it in the “Personal details” section at the top of your CV. The job market is very competitive, and these added elements could be the difference between you getting called in for an interview or not.
Don’t be afraid of colour and visual elements
Another way to stand out when you write a CV is to incorporate a bit of colour or some graphics in your CV. Not only will this make your CV look more visually engaging, but giving it a unique style is likely to help the interviewer remember it.
A good way to decide whether to use visual elements or not is to take a look at example CVs in your industry or role. If it looks like the standard for your industry is to submit a black and white CV, then we would recommend creating a more ‘traditional’ CV.
If it looks like your industry is accustomed to receiving CVs with visual elements, there are a few ways you can do this. You could include a block of colour somewhere, or make your heading and subheadings a different colour to the rest of the text.
When it comes to visual elements, it’s a good idea to follow the “less is more” rule and only use colour and graphics sparingly. Visuals should enhance the overall appearance and format of the CV, making it easier to read, rather than distract the person reading it.
Read your CV thoroughly before submitting it
One of the most important things to remember when you write a CV is to proofread it. Ensure that there are no grammatical errors or spelling mistakes, and double check that all the dates you have mentioned are correct.
It’s a good idea to get someone else to read your CV and look at the vacancy you are applying for, to make sure you’ve included everything the recruiter is looking for.
Now that you’ve learned how to write a CV, it’s time to take a look at the second element of a job application! Read our advice on how to write a cover letter.
Last updated on 2 February 2024Share this article