How to write a great CV
If you want to win that dream job, your first move should be to ensure that you have a well-written CV.
A good CV can make all the difference when you are applying for jobs, whatever the sector. Without it, you may not get an interview – even if you’re ideally suited to the job.
Any potential employer will be impressed by a well-written CV with all the relevant information clearly laid out. Equally, a CV that has clearly been put together in a rush and doesn’t include the essentials is probably going to end up filed in the bin.
Here are some frequently asked questions to help you get started.
What is a CV?
A CV or Curriculum Vitae – literally a ‘path of life’ – is a document that lists your work experience and achievements, along with your contact details, education and any other information that might be relevant for employers, such as experienced gained volunteering.
How long should a CV be?
If you’re newly starting out in work, a one-page CV should be sufficient. If you have held several positions or have a lot of relevant experience to list, you can extend this up to two pages.
If your CV is too long, don’t change it to a tiny type size that can’t be read. Instead, look for information you can take out, for example, if you have listed your date of birth, you don’t need to also include your age. Equally, if you have plenty of work experience behind you, you don’t necessarily need to list all the subjects and grades you achieved in your exams at school.
How should my CV be presented?
In most cases, a CV works best with black type on a white background, using the same standard font throughout.
If you want to add some colour there are plenty of templates available online or in your Word document templates, but keep it simple and tasteful
It’s best not to use too many different fonts, but for headings and sub headings, you can use bold or underlined text, capital letters and/or a larger point size of the same font you’ve used throughout, eg:
Education and Qualifications
2001-2008 School name
How do I make my CV stand out?
A clearly laid out CV with short paragraphs and plenty of white space around the text will stand out more than a densely filled page that is hard to read.
Bullet points can be a good way to break up the page and present information so that it’s easier to read, but avoid a long list of bullet points as this can have the opposite effect.
Should I add images or creative flourishes to my CV?
It may depend on the job: for example, if you’re applying for a job in a bank, you should probably keep to a formal, professional look; for a creative job such as a graphic designer, you may want to showcase your creativity. Just make sure that the essential information is included – and easy to read.
Can I use one CV for every employer?
If you are only applying for one kind of job, then one CV will do. However, in most cases it’s a good idea to tailor your CV to suit the job in hand.
Take a good look at the job description, expand your most relevant experience and abilities, and make sure they are prominently displayed. There’s no point in giving over a large chunk of space to your experience as a team leader if the job you are applying for involves working alone.
How important is grammar and spelling on a CV?
If an employer is choosing between two candidates with similar experience, you will not do yourself any favours by presenting them with a CV full of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.
Use your spell check, look up any grammar points you are struggling with and ask a friend, relative or tutor to look over your CV before you send it out.
Don’t forget to check the small but important details – an error in your email address or phone number could lead to you missing out on your dream job.
What do potential employers want to see on a CV?
The million dollar question! As well as the basic information, such as dates, times, contact details, your potential future employer will be looking for your key achievements.
Rather than simply listing your duties at your current or previous employment, explain what you brought to the role, any improvements you instigated or landmark achievements. This can range from winning an award or a contract, to mentoring a junior member of staff, to suggesting changes in procedures that led to efficiencies in your workplace.
In the Skills section of your CV, make sure you list what you can bring to the role that will benefit the company.
While some of these skills might related to specific jobs, for example IT skills, others will be transferrable skills, which can be relevant across many different roles, for example, communication and leadership skills or the ability to use your initiative and problem solve.
If you’re unsure about how to lay out your CV and what to include, try using an online template, which can be adapted to suit the job(s) you are applying for. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice from people you know – even if you feel confident you have written a great CV, they may have an outside perspective on your achievements and abilities that you have overlooked.