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
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
- 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
- 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
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
- 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
- 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
Main sections in a CV
Most CVs have the following six sections:
Usually consists of your:
- address (with dates if more than one)
- telephone number (and e-mail)
- date of birth
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.
- GCSEs & A-levels (or equivalent)
- details of your university education.
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.
There are various ways you could list
the jobs you have done:
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
- date order, or
- reverse date order (the most recent first),
- you could group similar jobs together,
even if they happened at different times.
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.
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
Try to give specific details, for example
about your level of proficiency in foreign languages, degree
of familiarity with computer packages, and so on.
- foreign languages
- computing languages or packages
- keyboard skills
Don't just list your interests, show how
they developed qualities the employer will value.
- music, drama and other cultural activities
- membership of clubs and societies
- positions of responsibility in clubs
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
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!
- Applications and Interviews, AGCAS booklet
- How to Write a Curriculum Vitae, University
of London Careers Service