Why do I need a CV?

Almost all employers will ask to see your CV when you apply for a new opportunity with them.

Your CV will be a key tool in your job search. It could be the difference between getting an interview and not.

All CVs are unique. There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ option. In fact, many people have more than one CV – and each time they apply for a new role it’s likely to be different.

They do, however, all follow a very similar structure.

We’ve put together this guide to help you build a CV that will give you the edge, whether you’re applying for your first role or making a career change.

1. Personal details

As obvious as it may seem, you need to include your name, location and contact details.

Your full address isn’t necessary, however an indication of where you’re located is important. Employers need to know whether you’re within commuting distance of the position or will need to relocate if successful.

Include your mobile number and email address. If you want to provide your landline number, that’s fine. It’s a good idea to include a mobile number as well, however, as it means recruiters and employers can contact you on the move.

You might also want to add a link to your LinkedIn profile (if you have one) or a portfolio or website. This is the place to do this.

2. Personal Profile

A personal profile is an opportunity to concisely tell the employer who you are, what your career goals are and what you can offer.

Your profile will be a short paragraph of around 2-3 lines. You may want to tailor it differently for each position you apply for to ensure it reflects the key skills, interests and experience the employer is looking for.

3. Work experience

Outline your previous jobs – including any volunteer positions – and relevant responsibilities.

The first job you include in this section of your CV should be your current or most recent position. Then, work back in reverse chronological order.

For each position, include:

  • Job title
  • Employer
  • Date employment commenced (month and year)
  • Date employment ended (month and year)
  • Overview of responsibilities

Generally, the further you go back in your career history, the less information you need to include.

Remember. Tailoring your CV to match the position your applying for can give you an advantage. Ensure you cover any responsibilities particularly relevant to the role.

4. Education

List your most recent and relevant qualifications first. If you’ve just left school, it will likely be your GCSEs or A-Levels, but as a career changer, it might be a professional qualification.

For each qualification, include the name of the institution you obtained it from, the grade you achieved and the date you achieved it.

Unless you’ve recently left school, you don’t need to include details of all your A-Levels or GCSEs. If you’re further on in your career, you might not mention them at all.

5. Key skills

Some people like to include a list of their key skills.

While this section isn’t necessarily essential, it can be a helpful way of showing a recruiter or employer that you match the person specification.

These skills might relate specifically to the job or may be soft skills.

Some people choose to write a simple, bullet-pointed list while others go into more detail on the level of their competency. This is particularly the case where candidates are required to be competent in certain tools or programmes.

6. Interests and hobbies

Work is more enjoyable when we can bring our whole selves to work. This is an opportunity to show who that person is.

You don’t have to include information on your interests outside of work, but it can offer a valuable insight into the kind of person you are.

Make sure whatever interest or hobbies you include here add value to your CV.

If you find you’re describing yourself as someone who ‘enjoys socialising with friends’ and ‘walking the dog’, it could be best not to bother with this section.

7. References

You don’t need to include details of referees at this stage, but you can.

References on a CV used to be a requirement. These tend to be sought at a later stage now, so providing referees on making your application isn’t essential.

There’s no harm in adding those details if you wish to do so, however.

You might even add a short line that states ‘References available on request’.

Formatting your CV

Unless you’re applying for a creative role, you should keep your CV as clean and basic as you can. This will make it easier to read and make changes to in the future, too.

The expectation is that your CV will be two pages long. Depending on where you are in your career, it could be 1-3 pages. Try not to venture outside of this parameter.

Choose a commonly used font, such as Calibri or Arial. This will avoid any instances where the person receiving your CV doesn’t have the required font. It could look a real mess otherwise.

Proofread your CV before you do anything with it. Your spellcheck tool will pick up most things, but it’s never guaranteed to catch everything. Ask someone to proofread for you if you can. A second pair of eyes is always helpful.

You can save your CV as either a Microsoft Word document or a PDF. Most employers will accept them in either format.