Advice on writing your CV
It’s fair to say, almost any position you apply for will require you to have a CV. Sometimes also known as a résumé, a CV is on the face of it quite simple: it’s a record of your work and education history, along with any other achievements or skills that an employer would value when considering you for a job. In practice though, you have a lot of leeway in how you put yours together, and many people struggle to know where to start.
Whether you’re writing your very first CV, or whether you’re throwing out an old one and starting again, this guide to creating your CV from scratch should give you a great advantage the next time you put yourself forward for a role.
A CV is generally quite a formal document, though if you’re applying for some kind of creative role you might be expected to try something new when putting yours together. Either way, a CV follows a certain structure that you should aim to keep in line with. Check the example afterwards for a better idea of what this looks like.
Octo Tip: Not got much to talk about? If you’re new to the world of work, you’ll have to be creative in making what experience you do have go further. Go into more detail on your roles and companies; use experiences and skills picked up at university or school; lengthen your personal statement and skills section – do this and it won’t matter so much that your work section may be entirely missing.
Important information to include in your CV
This includes your name, address, email address and phone number so that your future boss can get in touch with you. If you have online portfolio or website link to this can be added, also if you have a strong LinkedIn profile it would be worth including the public link to this on here.
This is a short paragraph giving a rough overview of what you’ve done and what you’re looking for. This could be quite valuable if it’s not otherwise obvious from your CV what you have in mind – for example, if you’ve worked many different roles, or, conversely, have no work experience at all.
It’s your decision exactly what should go here, or even whether to include this bit at all – once again, many people prefer not to. Just remember this is the first thing a recruiter will pay attention to, so you should try to grab their interest! Try not to just repeat your work history on here.
If you have any points on your CV that you feel might be seen as an issue for a recruiter it would be a good idea to address this within this section. For example: you live in Leeds but you are applying for a job in London - you could be planning a move to London, so you don’t want to be ruled out for a role because of your location.
Here you’ll list your past jobs, starting with the most recent. You’ll want headings with your job title, the name of the company and the dates when you worked there.
Again, it’s your choice how much detail you want to give for each one, but you should probably give more description if your CV is relatively sparse, at least for the roles that are most relevant to the one you’re applying for. Tell recruiters what the company does and what your role with them involved. Try not to get too carried away, ideally your CV shouldn’t be longer than two sides of A4.
If you have a long work history, don’t list more than about five jobs. If you haven’t yet had your first role, you could take on volunteer work before using a CV to apply for paid work – or you could skip this section of the CV and move on to…
Again, you’ll list your qualification in reverse chronological order, including levels of qualification and dates. For school qualifications, it’s not always necessary to detail every single one, and this especially applies once your CV starts to fill up. You can also list qualifications that you’re working towards, as long as this is made clear. Lastly, if you have any professional qualifications, you can just list them below this.
Interests and skills
Essentially anything that doesn’t belong elsewhere goes in here, as long as it’s relevant! People like to know what else you like to do and what you can bring to the role, even if it wasn’t gained directly through work or formal education. This doesn’t mean add your life history, keep it short and interesting.
That’s quite a lot to take on board, so let’s see how this might look on the page…
Octo Tip: Create multiple versions of your CV for different types of roles, and make sure you always send out one that’s relevant to the vacancy you’re applying for.
CV example with advice
1. Include your contact details here – make sure the email address you use is professional and does not reflect badly on you. That means you lazyboi420.
2. The personal statement is your chance to really sell yourself as a passionate, driven individual… and all that. You should also express what it is you’re looking for in a role.
3. Here, you should encapsulate your main duties in each role and describe how they relate to the one you’re applying for. You can do this in bullet point form if you prefer.
4. When describing your education, you can be more factual. Include grades for university education but take the time detailing grades and subjects for secondary level only if you have not attended university. No need to mention primary education.
5. Here, you should encapsulate your main duties in each role and describe how they relate to the one you’re applying for. You can do this in bullet point form if you prefer.
6. Also known as “other stuff goes here!” Far from being an afterthought however, many hiring managers do care about what you get up to outside of work. Some of this info may come in handy in unexpected ways – for example, if your employer knows you speak another language, they may want you to have contact with an overseas office, and this can give you the edge over other candidates. “Soft” skills like working well with others, and skills not learned through formal education or work can be detailed here too (such as having a driver’s license).
Octo Tip: Double and triple check your contact details…in fact, feel free to quadruple check them. You can have the best CV in the world but it doesn’t count for much if you miss a digit in your phone number.
Of course, every CV is different, but people also have different ways of presenting information and varying views on what should be included or left out. Your best bet is not to take our word for what works well, but to find more CVs out there and take inspiration!
There are plenty of places you can get free CV advice – such as from employers who you’ve interviewed with, friends, family, your university (even after you’ve graduated) or your local jobcentre.
Once you’ve got your CV written up, do check it carefully for spelling and grammatical errors, and read it aloud to make sure there’s no awkward phrasing.
If you send out a poorly proofed CV, you may not get a second chance to make a good impression on that employer. You should also check that your contact details are correct – it’s surprisingly easy to overlook. Remember you only have six seconds to impress an employer.
And finally, make sure you keep the document up to date, filling in new experience as you gain it.