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, so while it’s important to get the basics right and to include all the necessary information, your CV 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
It’s important to include your name in the title of your CV. Rather than having only “CV” or “Curriculum Vitae” as the heading, we would recommend opting for “Your name – CV” instead.
The heading is the first thing people will see and should be the largest font used throughout the whole document, so leading with your name is a good way to ensure the employer will remember you. Often candidates are required to submit multiple documents as part of a job application, so including “CV” at the end makes it easier for employers to find the document they are looking for.
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 to the main text. You could do this by putting them in italics, 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. When it comes to the order of a CV, this is the most commonly used format.
If you are currently employed by another company, 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 while writing your CV, 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 are a handy tool when it comes to utilising space on your CV, as they can help you to get a lot of information across in a short and concise manner. For example, you can take the description “My duties included greeting customers, waiting tables, working behind the bar, including making cocktails, and handling cash and card payments”, and turn it into:
- Greeting customers
- Waiting tables
- Working behind the bar
- Making cocktails
- 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?
As mentioned previously, there are some basics that a CV needs 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.
If you are a working professional, include your current or most recent job title. Are you a student or graduate? List the degree you have or are studying towards. This information gives the employer a brief introduction to the knowledge, skills and experience you have.
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 skills or responsibilities that it mentions that you have experience of. 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.
Here is an example of a personal statement for a CV: “A hard-working, motivated and efficient Administration Assistant with demonstrable experience in business administration and project management. Accustomed to working in a fast-paced environment, I excel in handling multiple projects and priorities and always strive to produce high quality work.”
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.
3. Employment history
For a professional CV, we would suggest putting employment before education. Although both are important, an employer will most likely be looking for the practical skills you have developed during your career.
As mentioned before, list your employment history in reverse chronological order and use bullet points to get your responsibilities across quickly and clearly. 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
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.
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.
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 it comes to the employment section of 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, or in a similar one, 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 well 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. You can take advantage of this 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 is by incorporating 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 down one side, at the top or along the bottom of your CV. You could also make your heading and subheadings a different colour to the rest of the text. If you are feeling really creative, include icons next to your subheadings, for example a briefcase next to “Employment history” and a graduation cap or pile of books next to “Education”.
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. If your CV becomes cluttered with colour and images, this will likely be distracting for the person reading it. Visuals should enhance the overall appearance and format of the CV, making it easier to read.
It may not seem like a big deal, but if an interviewer has a large pile of CVs that all look very similar, it could benefit you to be the one who has bucked the trend and submitted something that is a little more striking.
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 25 August 2022Share this article