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CV's - Catching an Employer's Eye ::

Your CV should not be a comprehensive listing of every single fact about yourself. Rather, it should contain those facts which are likely to interest an employer. Different employers may be interested in different things, particularly if they are recruiting for different types of work. So target your CV on a particular type of work or type of employer, stressing what is most relevant to the job you want. If you intend to apply for completely different types of job, you may need to develop more than one CV, each with its own emphasis. 

There are many different ways to write an effective CV. So don't feel you have to create your CV in any one particular way. Experiment until you are happy that your CV gives the relevant details in a clear and persuasive way. 

Using a word processor makes it easy to try out different layouts. When printing your final copy, make sure you use a good quality printer. 

See below for details about the main sections which most people have in their CV. 

Some tips on content

  • Use positive language and aim for a confident tone.
  • As well as listing facts, consider adding some comments and interpretation. For example, in the section on work experience you could add a few lines at the end saying what skills you acquired from your various jobs. This could take the form of a short paragraph consisting of complete sentences. As an alternative, rather than using complete sentences, you could use short phrases - each on a separate line and introduced by an asterisk or a 'bullet point' (.). This can be a very effective way of conveying information.
  • The amount of space you spend on a topic indicates the weight you want the employer to give to it. Devote more space if the topic is important; if it isn't as relevant, don't dwell on it. For example, don't take a separate line for each of your GCSEs and then take only a couple of lines on your degree.
  • Take care with dates. Make sure every year is accounted for. Employers may think you are hiding something if they see too many gaps.
  • Don't take more than two pages - but you will probably need two, to give enough information to capture an employer's attention. Use two separate sheets of paper, rather than one sheet printed on both sides. Put your name at the top of the second sheet, in case the two become separated.

Some tips on layout

  • Your CV should look neat and tidy, with all the information easy to find.
  • Most employers will expect a CV to be laid out in a conventional way, but others (particularly those in creative areas of work) might like one that looks more unusual.
  • When using a word processor, use CAPITALS and bold print to separate out different sections. Bold print and italics can be useful for highlighting important points. Underlining is probably best avoided, as it can give the CV a rather old fashioned look. Don't go overboard with special effects: use them sparingly.
  • Use the tab key (rather than the space bar) to indent information to create a neat effect. Placing the dates on the left hand side, with the rest of the information 'tabbed' in an inch or so, is often an effective way of setting the information out neatly and where the details are easy to pick out.
  • Use a good quality paper and a printer which produces a clean neat output. White paper is usually best. Sometimes light shades of other colours can be attractive, but avoid bold or fluorescent colours.


  • Compare your CV with a job description for the work you're applying for. Have you shown you have developed the skills the job needs?
  • Remember that a CV should give evidence, from what you have done in the past, that you have the skills to carry out the job to which your CV is targetted.
  • Give your CV a final check.
    • Is it neat and tidy, and pleasant to look at?
    • Is it clear and logical, so that the information is easy to find?
  • Get a friend to look over your CV and give you a second opinion.
  • Remember that your CV will need a covering letter, to introduce yourself and summarise the main points which you hope will attract the employer. Covering letters.

Main sections in a CV

Most CVs have the following six sections: 

Personal details

Usually consists of your: 
  • name
  • address (with dates if more than one)
  • telephone number (and e-mail)
  • date of birth
  • nationality
  • sex.


  • GCSEs & A-levels (or equivalent) with grades
  • details of your university education.
If the work you are applying for will make direct use of your subject, give full details about your degree - for example, an overview of the degree as a whole, a list of courses you took, a description of a final year project or other important feature, etc. 

However, if you are applying for work where the subject is not relevant, you do not need to go into so much detail. Instead, you could concentrate on the general skills you have acquired - for example computing skills, working in a team on a project, coping with a high work load, having to argue a case in class, and so on. 

Work experience

There are various ways you could list the jobs you have done: 
  • date order, or
  • reverse date order (the most recent first), or
  • you could group similar jobs together, even if they happened at different times.
If you decide to group similar jobs together, you might, for example, place together all your work experience which is particularly relevant to the jobs you are applying for, and then follow this with any other work experience you have had. 

Employers are often interested in all of the work experience you have had, particularly if it shows you have general qualities which they value - such as the ability to work in a team, lead a team, be in charge of a project, meet deadlines, work under pressure, take responsibility, etc. 

Consider mentioning exactly what it was about the jobs you did which developed skills such as these, and don't just simply list the tasks you did in your different jobs. 


Employers are often interested in specific skills you have acquired, such as 
  • foreign languages
  • computing languages or packages
  • keyboard skills
  • driving.
Try to give specific details, for example about your level of proficiency in foreign languages, degree of familiarity with computer packages, and so on. 

Leisure interests

  • sports
  • music, drama and other cultural activities
  • membership of clubs and societies
  • positions of responsibility in clubs and societies.
Don't just list your interests, show how they developed qualities the employer will value. 

Leisure activities, particularly organised ones where you took a major part, can often develop the same general qualities as work experience. 

Employers often look at extra-curricular activities in order to find evidence of the personal qualities they seek, particularly when they are assessing new graduates who have not usually had the opportunity to develop these qualities in a work environment. 

Mention the level of achievement you have reached and specific things you have done, in order to indicate your commitment. 


For preference, choose people who can comment on different aspects of you. 

Two referees are usually enough. Only give three if there is another person whose opinion you feel the employer really needs to hear. 

At least one referee should be your tutor or a lecturer who knows your academic work. 

The second could ideally be from a vacation (or other) job; otherwise, it could be someone who knows you well in a personal capacity. 

Seek your referees' permission first. Give them a copy of your CV and covering letter, and an indication of the sort of work you are applying for. This will help your referees to judge the sort of comments which will interest an employer - and hopefully portray you in the best light! 

Further information

  • Applications and Interviews, AGCAS booklet
  • How to Write a Curriculum Vitae, University of London Careers Service


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